Account of Flying with Firearms

Deviant Ollam
Band practice in San Francisco called for me to make a quick trip out west. Expensive luggage leads to good locks, of course.


Luggage & Gear
To keep my laptop safe during this simple flight, just a plain Pelican 1620 case with a Beretta M9 pistol tucked in next to my other bags and things. An Abloy PL321 and PL330 were on the case.


Outbound Travel
I arrived at the United desk at PHL and Russell from Prime Flight. Since 3rd party contractor staff can't check-in firearms for just about any major carrier, I stood by and waited for someone from United as a family with limited flying experience stood by with a mess of booking problems that United sorted out. An older fellow from the airline signed my form and said I have nice taste in pistols when I explained that my M9 was in the luggage. (To stay California legal, technically I wasn't sure of the laws and didn't want to run afoul of things, so the pistol was modded for training purposes only and incapable of firing 9mm ammunition, but he didn't know that. Hah.)

Seven minutes after approaching the counter, my luggage was running through a CTX machine right there in the check-in lobby... nice! I really wish they would use this machine more often as opposed to screening guns in the back room. I stood by in case my key was needed (which is typical with my laptop in the luggage) but it was not. Hooray.


Homebound Travel
When leaving SFO, I knew the procedure at that airport well from many, many previous trips. Mustapha from Airserv (their 3rd party contractor) greeted me and did my preliminary check-in, then James Emers-Hartman from United handled the rest. As James walked away and was distracted a while, I applied the bag tags just to help move the process along. James became very huffy over this, not wanting anyone to ever touch his bag tags... somehow did he fear I could not figure out the miraculous manner in which they function?

There was a bit of confusion over how to contact CAS (who screens luggage way down in the cargo office on a lower level) and alert them to be ready for my luggage's arrival down there. Someone, i think Mustapha, dialed 821-8520 but no one from CAS could be reached. We walked down and waited about five more minutes.

Eventually, two fellows from Covenant Air Services (they are SFO's 3rd party TSA style contractor) showed up and one performed a swab test. Apparently, the younger one was being trained. They were very polite and three minutes later everything was closed and locked up and I was on my way.


Final Details & Thoughts
It was neat getting this all handled in San Fran... a lot of younger staff members were exposed to the process for perhaps the first time. Mustapha had been working at SFO for only four months. The younger, red headed CAS screener (whom I suspected was in training) was on his first month. Let's hope all of the future firearm screenings that they handle go this smoothly.


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