Account of Flying with Firearms

Deviant Ollam
This trip to the Bay Area went perfectly smoothly for me
PHL --> IAH --> SJC
2014-04-18


SJC --> IAH --> PHL
2014-04-22


Luggage & Gear
This was a small trip for the HacKid conference, so my Pelican case only needed the sample/demo locks for the event and my overnight bag. Not wanting to run afoul of CA law, i only packed a flare gun on this trip. I'm thinking that on such a short stay it would have been legal to have a proper pistol, but I didn't have time to check with Legal before getting in the air. Naturally, Pelican PL330s were on the case.

 

Outbound Travel
Zarif from Prime Flight (the 3rd party subcontractor for helping with check-in at PHL) asked Andy from United to check me in because 3rd party folk cannot handle firearms declarations. Andy was not able to help, so a few minutes later a woman named Mercedes from United came by and handled everything. I showed her the tactic of applying a stubby on the orange tag, but she still wrote everything down manually as well.

My bags were sent back and I watched a Mr. Adams service one of the check-in kiosks while waiting. Eight minutes later Mercedes told me that everything had cleared and I was on my way.

 

Homebound Travel
At San Jose airport, check in was very fast. A little gray-haired lady named Hildi Young helped me. She was very insistant that I have name tags on the case, eventhough the baggage tag itself has that information. I explained that my Pelican case was my hard sided gun case and this was clear to her.

The bags went back and this time I experienced a longer delay than I usually like. After six to seven minutes of no news, Hildi got on the radio with a few people and ultimately determined that a key was needed. Then another eight minutes passed and I was able to get Jean from United on the radio to figure out what was up with the key and the case. Eventually I learned that the TSA was having problems with the padlocks because they were key-retaining.

In the end, an additional 20 minute delay was not welcome but not super oppressive.

 

Final Details & Thoughts
Get to the airport adequately early, people... especially if you're checking firearms! Expect to sometimes add between 10 and 15 minutes to your time in the check-in hall most times!

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