Account of Flying with Firearms

Deviant Ollam
I might have to dump United forever as my preferred carrier.
PHL --> SFO --> HNL


Luggage & Gear
For this Hawaii trip there was plenty of gear, as always. ShakaCon is always a great appearance for TOOOL, and I had Pelican cases of locks, picks, contest materials, not to mention my presentation demo hardware. Abloy PL330 and PL321 locks were on everything.


Outbound Travel
My check-in was insanely early. Shortly after 5 AM, Namir from Prime Flight was helping me out. My usual fellow, Christopher, was taking a wheelchair up to a gate at the time, I was told. The bags were back 4 minutes after I set foot in the airport and Namir told me 3 minutes after that that the bags had all cleared. I was upgraded all the way to Hawaii and feeling fine.


Homebound Travel
This was the trip that made me almost totally dump United Airlines for good. While checking-in for my flight back to the mainland, Victoria McColumn (who was being assisted by Solomon Huges) stated "I think you're only allowed one box of firearms" upon seeing my luggage. We pushed back and forth at one another until I demanded a supervisor. This took over ten minutes. Eventually, LeAnn the Service Director for HNL appeared. She stated that United's policy had just changed and that multiple cases with firearms were now disallowed. There was more back-and-forth, even with the luggage handlers asking "is he ready to go?" (meaning me) and Victoria replying "not yet, we're still deciding."

24 minutes after the start of this whole mess, LeAnn suggested maybe this was a TSA issue and started to try to get someone from their office to address the matter. She was constantly going to the back room or trying to call people on the phone. Eventually, once the matter broke the half-hour mark, she was on the phone with United's "Dangerous Goods Hotline" who confirmed that in no uncertain terms the carrier now considers firearms "dangerous" and they all must be checked into a single piece of luggage. They even printed out some paperwork to this effect

We sent the cases back for screening, with the usual bullshit one is told in Hawaii: "just wait maybe 10 minutes then leave if you don't hear anything." Uhm, no. That's now how we do things. I stuck around, trying to find anyone who could confirm that the cases cleared properly. We were now past the one-hour mark. I asked about LeAnn and was told she was still on the phone somewhere. Eventually, she came out and confirmed I was good to go. "I just called to make sure," she said.

I later even called United's Premiere Line and spoke to Gail... she also confirmed there was a rule change but couldn't offer any more information than that. After a nearly 15 minute hold time, I was told to just write to Customer Care.


Final Details & Thoughts
This is utterly ridiculous beyond all measure. No other major air carrier treats firearms as "dangerous goods" nor do they seem to artificially restrict how many guns a passenger may have in their luggage. If United cannot provide a reason for this rule or why it was changed, I do not see how I can continue supporting them with my business.

I wrote a letter to United's Customer Care division where I actually spelled out every single flight segment where I flew United with more than one gun case in the past decade or so. I calculated the business they would have lost if I had been prevented from flying with them. We'll have to see if they care. I doubt they will. :-/


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