Account of Flying with Firearms

Deviant Ollam
To New England, and on to Seattle... a series of quick jumps with simple luggage.
PHL --> IAD --> BOS

BOS --> ORD --> SEA

Luggage & Gear
This trip was super simple, with just one large Pelican case for my belongings and one small case for my laptop. H&K USPc in a range bag in one, and a plain bare receiver in the other. I've been enjoying that and will keep doing so for a while in order to test the limits of what can be declared as a "firearm" in some places. :-D Abloy PL330 locks on everything, as usual.


Outbound Travel
At PHL airport, the contractors know me so well that they often check me in with little to no help from United staff now. Christopher from Prime Flight handled my luggage while Pamela Flythe from United was nearby to assist if needed. Three minutes after I set foot in the airport, the bags were all tagged and sent back to the TSA. Eight minutes later, Christopher came out saying the TSA needed the key for the small laptop case. Normally, I would never give my key to a 3rd party (airport staff) and only present it to TSA, but I know Christopher well and trust him so off he went, my moral dilemma aside.

Five minutes back the key was returned with a handshake and a smile. I was on my way.


Onward Travel
I wasn't sure how Boston would handle firearms, but things went pretty well, all considered. At just after 5 AM I was in the airport, with Aaron Jones helping me tag my luggage. Three minutes after all bags were back, Mr Jones was assuring me, "I think you're alright, they'd have called by now." I explained that this was not the correct procedure, and after waiting for him to finish with another customer, I had him look up the number of the TSA station. He fussed with a large phone sheet, then eventually walked all the way down to the other end of the counter to talk with a supervisor.

Eventually, he asked to see my luggage tag receipts (to check the bag numbers) and was on the phone with "Jeff" at the BOS TSA. It became clear that the TSA thought he was calling to alert them about firearm luggage on its way down (which seems to be their desired procedure) and they were perturbed that no one had done so. The TSA corrected him and Aaron stated that he "now understood" the right way to do things.

At a quarter after five I was all set and went to passenger screening. I was glad for the showers and hot food in the ORD lounge on my way to Seattle.


Final Details & Thoughts
No issues, no major hassles. I still have to instruct some airline staff members on the proper way to process firearms, but it's not a big pain. And all things flow smoothly with United for me during check-in.


Air Travel Ratings
If you don't have the time or the desire to read the full text of someone's account of air travel, you can simply refer to the rating shown at the conclusion of each portion of that person's journey. The following criteria are used in assigning these ratings...

Four Stars

check-in - no hassle, no delay
screening - in full view, lock and unlock yourself
luggage - all on time and intact

Three Stars
check-in - some delay or mild hassle
screening - somewhat obscured, locking and unlocking yourself or it's done directly in front of you
luggage - all on time and intact

Two Stars
check-in - major delay or major hassle
screening - in a room or area that you could not enter and could barely observe
luggage - luggage opened non-destructively

One Star
check-in - flight missed or passenger delayed from flying, properly packed items denied as luggage
screening - luggage unlocked and opened totally in another area fully removed from you
luggage - destructive entry into luggage and/or tampering with firearms

Zero Stars
This is a special category for outright theft, loss, or damage of firearms during air travel
half-star results are possible... naturally, they involve partial or mitigated problems that somehow fall in-between the above categories