Account of Flying with Firearms

Deviant Ollam
My first time traveling on Alaska Air. It went very well.
PHL --> SEA --> MSO

MSO --> DEN --> PHL

Luggage & Gear
This trip to Montana was super easy, given that so many possessions of mine are out there and I don't have to pack many clothes, etc. One pelican case was all I required for my laptop, a few gifts and odds and ends, my winter coat, and a carry pistol. I've been switching back to the H&K USPc for a while because I like that holster a lot, and also due to my range bag being all packed with those magazines and ammo, etc. Abloy PL330 locks, as always, were on the case.


Outbound Travel
On this journey, due to a ridiculously low fare I found, I opted to fly on Alaska Air through Seattle. It's a remarkably different experience, checking in and traveling with a carrier where I don't have an account or status, etc. Their kiosk process and check-in staff (led by a Mr. Thuan) at PHL were SUPER fast, however, and things went very quickly with the firearm declaration form. It cost me $25 for my checked bag, but that' just life. The TSA is right there in the main hall, near the Alaska counters, and I waited as they screened the luggage.

The case alerted, they opened it up right in front of me, and the inspection inside was very, very fast. (One agent checked things while the other stood by, ah, thinking serious thoughts, heh.) They even re-packed my coat and other items properly, with my feedback and input.

I had to go back to the Alaska counter since my TSA Pre-Check status wasn't on the boarding pass, but ultimately they were able to add it when I rattled off my Global Entry number for input into their system.

The Alaska Air flights were very nice, I have to say, and their craft all seem to have in-seat power and other fine amenities... all within easy reach as opposed to buried way down at the floor level. We could do with more of that on United, I'll say!


Homebound Travel
The airport in Missoula, Montana is smal. Nothing there takes long or is a big hassle, in my experience. I had a wicked fast check-in at the Untied kiosk (they don't have a priority lane or dedicated counter for status folk, but it rarely matters) and within minutes I was over at the TSA luggage screening zone which is in the check-in hall but just around a pillar from United's desk.

Ms. Sipe from the TSA asked to open my case, which I did right in front of her. Three minutes of swabbing for trace chemicals and the she was sorting out and re-folding my long coat. I locked my case and breezed through security.


Final Details & Thoughts
Missoula Airport has only two gates, so there's not much to say about things there. It's always an easy trip and I always enjoy making it. I just wish I didn't have to go through Denver on United. Chicago is a much better airport for connections, in my opinion.


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