Account of Flying with Firearms

Deviant Ollam
A multi-city hop with some incompetent folks at each stage.
MSO --> DEN --> LAS
2015-09-18


LAS --> ORD --> SDF
2015-09-22


SDF --> DEN --> MSO
2015-09-27


MSO to LAS
Check-in with United was super fast. But it turns out that my training case weighed in at a whopping 83 lbs! So much student gear was coming with me to SANS in Vegas. The screeners in Missoula also had some trouble understanding how the luggage should be secured. Whether the internal pistol case had to be locked versus the outer case, etc. Ultimately, four TSA screeners spent almost five minutes clearing alarms and such (but no cases were opened) and I was on my way.

 

LAS to SDF
Things went pretty fast at the Las Vegas check-in kiosk with United. Angie Cordero at the counter was pretty quick processing my cases, then she led me down to the far corner of the check-in counters where there's a door to the TSA screening room. For a few minutes I stood by as the Untied folk argued among themselves about whether various forms needed signatures and eventually Angie took the cases back into the screening room. She wanted me to wait since "my cases weren't locked with TSA locks" (naturally)... but one minute later she came back out saying things were all clear!

 

SDF to MSO
In Kentucky, after DerbyCon, I was heading back to Montana. The kiosk check-in took onl a minute or two and then I was at the counter where Antonio printed and tagged my luggage. (A process which he did rather incompetently, but all went well in the end. He also seemed to not know the firearm travel process very well. Antonio didn't know how to process a firearm and asked his associates "should we call Miss Jean?"

They asked me about ammunition, uncertain as to the policies there, then couldn't figure out the forms, etc. When asked what was in my black Pelican case, I gave my always intentionally vauge answer of "equipment" and that satisfied them, much to my amusement. Antonio took my luggage into the back room after we'd filled out the orange cards and locked everything up. Ten minutes later, after hearing nothing, I approached the counter again and asked for confirmation from the TSA. I was told they were all "very understaffed" and didn't know what to do. Ultimately, after another ten minutes (wherein the counter staff was giving passengers all kinds of pushback about everything) a whole group of us with locked luggage walked with Antonio down to a luggage office. Antonio unlocked that, we proceeded in, and through yet another (unlocked) door to the baggage belt area. Antonio walked further back, took a photo of my luggage on a cart, and assured me that things were all good now. It turns out, their phone up at the check-in counter was inoperable that day and thus they were having many logistical difficulties. At least my luggage was assuredly cleared.

 

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