Account of Flying with Firearms

Deviant Ollam
Heading to Vegas for Black Hat, DEF CON, etc etc. All good things, all good flying.
PHL --> ORD --> LAS
2014-07-31


LAS --> ORD --> PHL
2014-08-12


Luggage & Gear
For this trip to Las Vegas, I had gear for our training and the Lockpick Village, not to mention the DEF CON Shoot...

So luggage was bountiful and heavy... with lots of checked Pelican cases full of assorted terrific gear. As far as shooting hardware, I had my Walther PPS (with an external drop-leg holster to be Nevada legal since my PA and FL carry permits are not honored there), my Springfield M1A, a Ruger 10/22, and an old Remington bolt action rifle. Abloy PL321s and PL330s were on the cases which also contained training gear, my laptop, clothes, and all kinds of other camping and con supplies.

 

Outbound Travel
Due to some funny travel routing I had arranged --for reasons that will be explained-- I was slated to fly out of PHL before 8 AM. Margaret Odey of United checked me in super fast this early, early morning. No more than two minutes after my luggage went back a red-shirted Prime Flight employee came out asking for the key. I explained that policy dictates I can only give my key to the TSA, because they are responsible for the safety of all articles during a screening search.

Two minutes later the same man came back and remarked, "The TSA say it's kind of hectic back there and they would have to walk all the way around." Yeah, that's not my problem. After a few more minutes and even more pushback from the TSA, I explained that the issue was one of who is taking responsibility for the guns, etc, if the case is opened. It didn't hurt that I was wearing an FBI shirt, I suppose.

One minute later, Christopher Smith of Prime Flight showed me his ID very clearly, saying he was a supervisor and stating that he personally would take full responsibility for the luggage and the key, etc. This satisfied me at the moment, but in the future I don't plan to make a habit of this. I spoke with the other Prime Flight staff member as Margaret checked in a huge group of students.

Six minutes later, Christopher came back and handed me the key curtly and I was on my way.

The reason for my super early flight, by the way, is due to the fact that the legendary Chicago eatery, Hot Doug's, is closing for good in October... and I had to get back there at least one more time. I intentionally booked a longer than necessary layover in Chicago and coordinated with my friends there to grab a bite. I was wheels-down at ORD around 09:30 and I was immediately scooped up by a friend who works at the USO there. We drove directly to Hot Doug's and got in line with other Chicagoans in order to be in a good spot when the doors opened at 10:30 AM. We had a great time with great food and Doug enjoyed the tale of my travel plans...

... he was skeptical as to whether or not I would successfully make it BACK to the airport in time for my connection, however...

... writing "To Dev - I think you missed your flight!" on the boarding pass when I asked him to sign it. I was pleased to prove him wrong, however, and I made it back to O'Hare just in enough time to breeze through Pre-Check and make my flight to Vegas. I took a couple wrapped up gourmet hot dogs with me, too. ;-)

 

Homebound Travel
Checking in at LAS was pretty smooth due to Do-It-Yourself kiosks being available. Andrea from United helped process our bags once we had printed our boarding passes and luggage tags, etc. She was not certain whether we should go to "oversize" or not, since we were not using TSA locks. Four minutes after starting to work with our luggage, Andrea called down to David, asking whether we should send luggage on the standard belt or wheel it over to the "oversize" area. Five minutes later we were proceeding to the right along the back wall, toward the special screening room. Andrea took all of the bags in, one at a time, and there were CTX machines just on the other side of the doorway through which she was proceeding.

Six minutes after all of the bags had gone back, she reemerged. Everything was all thumbs-up and no bags needed hand-screening to clear. Not having any laptops and carrying very few locks in the Pelican cases was surely a help.

Final Details & Thoughts
This trip was very smooth, although it does blow me away just how much folk like the TSA claim to need privacy or isolation in order to perform their job. If we screened as much luggage as possible right in the main check-in area (if passengers requested it and were using locks) things would run very smoothly and people with high value belongings would have a much easier time of it. Yet, behind little doors so many screening operations are kept... shielded from view for reasons passing understanding.

 

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