The Countertop Chronicles

"Run by a gun zealot who's too blinded by the NRA" - Sam Penney of

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Flying With Firearms

I've got to attend my wife's cousin's wedding in Athens, GA next month and just made travel arrangements with Independence Air. I'm a big Fly-I fan, I like their seats, I like their prices, I like their employees, and I like their service and reliability.

However, for a variety of reasons, I have never carried a handgun on a Fly I flight post 9/11. I intend to this trip.

Fly I's policies seem reasonably clear and not too out of the ordinary oppressive, I was just wondering if anyone has had actual experience with this airline and the TSA goons at either Dulles or Atlanta Hatsfield Airport. Is there any travel advice you can give me? How should I be prepared for the TSA goons to treat me? What kind of tricks will they pull on me? The TSA's policies seem pretty straight forward too (they defer to the airlines as long as the gun isn't in a carry on), but for some reason, I just don't trust them.

Feel free to email me or post your thoughts in the comment section. Appreciate any advice you might offer. Thanks

UPDATE: Reader Ben emails the following, very helpful, information.
I have flown out of Dulles several times on both American Airlines and United with a handgun in my checked luggage without any problem.

Find a hard-sided case with an integral lock. This will hold your handgun. I have heard people catch flack for using a plastic case but metal is a safe bet. I have also heard of people having trouble where the lock was not integral to the case, ie the case had a pair of loops to accept a mini-padlock but the case itself had no lock. To save yourself from worry just get a metal hard-sided case with an integral lock -- either combo or keyed is fine.

According to the TSA, ammunition does not have to be packed in a separate case but American and United both required me to do so. I would advise you to do this. I used another hard-sided, metal locking case but I think that is overkill and a regular non-locking case would have worked just fine. I kept the ammo in the factory box and put all the ammo (in its boxes) into its container.

Allow plenty of time for check-in since you will have to talk to a person and cannot use a machine. Tell the person behind the check-in desk that you have an unloaded firearm as well as ammunition that you need to transport in your checked luggage. In my experience the airline employees generally take this in stride although one did call over a supervisor.

I have the TSA-provided crib sheet printed out in case I need to educate the airline employees as to what the TSA regulations

At this point the airline employee should verify that your firearm is in fact unloaded. I suppose that the airline employee might wish to personally confirm that the firearm is unloaded but I have always offered to demonstrate that it is unloaded and my offer has been taken everytime. Show it is unloaded by pointing out the empty magazine well and showing the empty chamber. Lower the slide carefully. The only time I have had problems at this stage is when I slingshotted the slide -- which makes a very distincting sound -- and a security guard busted over to see what was happening.

You will re-lock the container and let the airline employee put a TSA-approved sticker on it. You can then put the container back into your checked baggage.

Do not let them put another sticker on the outside of your checked bag. This is an invitation for theft and it is also illegal:

Once the airline called over a TSA person and they took my bag over to the X-ray machines to be scanned. Then they took the back back to the check-in counter and put it on the conveyor belt which took the bag into nether regions of the airport on its way to the airplane. I have heard that this is par for the course. Just stick around until you see you bag disappear.

Of course, Independence Air may have its own rules and regulations. If you can get ahold of them (perhaps ask them to fax you the relevant bits) you are ahead of the game.

Lastly, if you can, get a ride to the airport from a friend who can take the gun and ammunition back if you have a problem. You should not have a problem but there are so many bad stories about the implacable nature of some TSA goons that it is worthwhile to have a backup plan.

Great Job Ben!!!


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