Airline Report Cards
How does your favorite carrier measure up when it comes to flying with firearms?

Deviant Ollam

While all domestic airlines, as of the time of this writing, allow passengers on US flights to transport firearms in their baggage (which I believe to be their obligation under common carrier status, although some people disagree with me) the actual manner in which these airlines implement such travel provisions varies a great deal from one carrier to the next.

Airline policies, public statements, and of course actual real-world practices of their employees can differ more than one might expect. This page is a guide that aims to serve as an overall summary of each carrier's stance on flying with firearms. In addition to making special note of any airline policies that differ from or go beyond the federal standard* as mandated by the TSA, i have sought to include any comments that travelers have shared along with any public statements made by the companies themselves.

In the end, for simplicity's sake, a simple and basic letter grade is assigned to each carrier.

If you are planning to travel with firearms via a specific airline in the near future, check their rules summary here. If you have plans to travel with guns in the future but have yet to book your flight, consider voting with your wallet after consulting the facts on this page... expressing ourselves in the marketplace is one of the best ways that we can make our voices heard.

* NOTE - The federal standard is simply packing firearms and no more than eleven pounds of ammunition in hard-sided luggage that is locked in a manner where no one else has the key or combination and declaring the presence of these guns and ammo when checking said bag at the airline counter. For the sake of simplicity, this page does not repeat such text for every airline but instead only makes mention of specific deviations or additional facts that some carriers have included in their written policies.

 
Click any airline logo to jump directly to their section below.

The factors that most typically result in poor markings in this overview are nonsensical policies that are in place as a means to artificially penalize armed citizens with increased baggage fees or those which have the appearance as "rules simply for rules' sake" with no other meaningful purpose. Limitations on how many firearms a passenger may transport are chief among such unnecessary rules that are sometimes seen. Language hostile to firearm ownership and use (either in the text of their rules or in public statements issued by a given air carrier) are also grounds for slightly lowered scores. Very open, welcoming policies and a lack of additional regulations imposed beyond the federal standard yield good marks. Feedback as seen in stories of travel by average citizens similarly affect an airline's score in either a positive or negative way.

Grade: -

Airtran
as specified on their web site...

Airtran no longer exists, having been acquired by Southwest Airlines in 2014

Airtran no longer exists, having been acquired by Southwest Airlines in 2014

 

Grade: A

Alaska
as specified on their web site...

You may transport firearms as checked baggage only.

You must be 18 years of age or over to transport a firearm.

Firearms must be unloaded and carried in a locked, hard-sided container.

Container must be completely secure so that it does not allow for accidental or unauthorized access.

Multiple locks may be required on some cases to ensure the case cannot be opened.
Only the passenger shall have the key or combination to the lock.Passenger may need to supply the key or combination upon request from the TSA when the case is screened.

Container must not hold dangerous goods or prohibited items, such as, but not limited to, loose ammunition, flammable liquids, black powder, primers, or bear spray. You are responsible for knowing and complying with all relevant laws that concern possession of firearms. Those laws vary by local, state, and international governments.

Ammunition is prohibited in carry-on baggage.

You can transport ammunition in checked baggage if it's within weight allotments.

Customer on flight numbers 001-1999 may have up to 50 lbs. of ammunition domestically
Customer on flight numbers 2000-2999 may have up to 50 lbs. of ammunition domestically
Customer on flight numbers 3300-3499 may have up to 11 lbs. of ammunition domestically

Ammunition must be securely packed in the original manufacturer packaging or in a container designed for ammunition.

We will not accept loose ammunition in a box, bucket or manufacturer packaging.

The projectile must be no larger than 11/16" in diameter—the size of a dime.

You may check ammunition with or separately from the firearm.

We'll allow shell casings in checked baggage provided they meet the same acceptance criteria as live ammunition (i.e. packed in a crush-proof container designed for ammunition.)

We may accept ammunition inside a magazine or clip that is enclosed in its own secure casing within the larger crush-proof firearm case.

Firearms baggage allowances

The following items may be included in your normal baggage allowance. Excess charges will apply for additional pieces of baggage. All items must be suitably packaged for transport.

One rifle case with rifles, scopes, one shooting mat, noise suppressors and small tools, or
One shotgun case with shotguns, or
One pistol case with pistols, noise suppressors, one pistol telescope and small pistol tools

There is no limit to the number or type of firearms (e.g. rifles, shotguns, pistols) per case.
Different firearm types may be in the same case as long as each type is properly packed.

You must present photo ID or claim checks at the baggage office to retrieve your shotgun or rifle case/box.

Alaska appears to be one of the best carriers for firearm transport. They allow much more ammunition than many other carriers on a large number of their flights and they have no limit to the number of firearms one can pack.

The only element that prevents them from a perfect A+ grade appears to be their prohibition against flare guns. While flares themselves are generally always prohibited in checked luggage, most other carriers allow empty flare guns.

I am willing to bet that Alaska Airlines would often still allow flare launchers if they were designated as "starter pistols" or something else and if you were clear that no ammunition was present. I like that Alaska Airlines specifically allows ammunition in with your guns and also specifically allows magazines to be used for ammo storage during transport.

 

Grade: B+

American
as specified on their web site...

Firearms must be:

Unloaded
In a locked hard-sided container where the firearm is totally inaccessible
Rifle cases require locks on each end

Ammunition must be:

In the original packaging from the manufacturer or in packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition (made of fiber, wood or metal), with a maximum of 11 pounds (5 kgs) per container or customer. Ammunition is not accepted loose or in magazines or clips.

Allowance

There is no limit to the number of items you can carry in your rifle, shotgun or pistol case, but bag and oversize / overweight charges may apply.

American Airlines (I refuse to use their new logo because absolutely nothing will ever top the classic Massimo Vignelli design) is respectably minimalist and straightforward with their rules concerning firearms.

In addition to the usual stipulations, they note that long cases require locks on both ends. That's typical of many long cases, honestly, even if airlines do not always say so.

It's nice that American Airlines specifically states that there are no limits on the number of firearms you can transport.

The only negative point against them is that they explicitly state that ammunition cannot be stored in clips or magazines, even if they are covered.

 

Grade: -

Continental
as specified on their web site...

Continental no longer exists, having merged with United Airlines in 2012

Continental no longer exists, having merged with United Airlines in 2012

 

Grade: B-

Delta
as specified on their web site...

Shooting equipment is allowed as checked baggage only. It must fit within the very specific criteria that we outline below.

Declare to the Delta representative that you are checking a firearm
Declare the existence of a firearm to security personnel if there's a security checkpoint before the Delta counter
All firearms must be declared by the passenger to a Delta representative at the main ticket counter
Present firearm(s) unloaded and sign a "Firearms Unloaded" declaration
Firearms must be packed in a locked manufacturer's hard-sided container specifically designed for the firearm, a locked hard–sided gun case or a locked hard-sided piece of luggage. Handguns may be packed in a locked hard-sided gun case, and then packed inside an unlocked soft-sided piece of luggage. However, a Conditional Acceptance Tag must be used in this case
Maintain entry permits in your possession for the country or countries of destination or transit
Ensure small arms ammunition is packed in the manufacturer's original package or securely packed in fiber, wood, plastic or metal boxes and provide separation for cartridges
You are responsible for knowledge of and compliance with all Federal, State or local laws regarding the possession and transportation of firearms. For more information about this regulation you can visit the TSA website.
If you are transporting a firearm to the United Kingdom, a permit from the United Kingdom is specifically required. You must contact the United Kingdom for more information about securing this permit
Until further advised, passengers departing Brussels, Belgium are not allowed to check weapons including, antique, sporting, hunting or toy rifles in their checked baggage
Customer must be 18 years of age or older
All firearms checked as baggage must be picked up at the Baggage Service Office upon arrival at your final destination. ID will be required to claim your checked firearm

The following types of ammunition are not accepted:

Gun powder; such as Pyrodex or Black Powder
Ammunition with explosive or incendiary projectiles
Ammunition, including case, exceeding 11 pounds (5 kg) gross weight per passenger

Pistols and accessories must be included in one case and contain:

Pistol telescopes
Noise suppressors
A small pistol tool case
No more than 11 lbs. (5 kg) of ammunition, including case

Rifles and shotguns must be packaged as follows:

One hard sided case containing up to four rifles, shotguns, shooting materials, tools
The case must completely secure the firearm from being accessed. All areas designed to be locked must be locked.
Locked cases that can be easily opened are not permitted. Be aware that the container the firearm was in when purchased may not adequately secure the firearm when it is transported in checked baggage.
One hard sided case containing up to five handguns, one scope, tools
One bow and quiver of arrows and maintenance kit enclosed in a case or container strong enough to protect the bow and quiver from accidental damage
No more than 11 lbs. (5 kg) of ammunition, including case

An excess baggage fee will apply if checking more than one gun case.

While Delta is not openly hostile to gun owners, some of their policies are clearly designed simply to generate revenue. While they explicitly state that a case may contain a total of four long guns, in subsequent sentences they specify that anything more than two rifles or two shotguns will result in an extra baggage fee. While Delta does not mandate "original manufacturer packaging" for ammo like some airlines, their policies are still restrictive enough that a holstered magazine would seem to not be allowed. Although, of course, I have personally traveled with ammo in this fashion many, many times on Delta.

 

Grade: A

Frontier
as specified on their web site...

Neither firearms nor ammunition are allowed on international flights, even if they are in a checked bag.

All firearms must be unloaded at time of travel.

Your firearm must be packed in a hard-sided, locked container (or suitcase), or a hard-sided, locked gun case. The container must be able to lock securely and only able to be unlocked by you (occasionally, a TSA screener will need to examine a firearm, in which case you will need to provide the combination or key to the case to the security personnel).

One passenger is allowed to check up to 11 pounds of ammunition.

All ammunition must be securely packed in either the original manufacturer’s packaging, a fiber (such as cardboard), wood, or metal box, or other specially designed packaging.

Ammunition may be packed in magazines or clips if the exposed portion is covered or sealed (i.e. sealed with duct tape), or the magazine/clip is placed in a pouch, holder, holster, or lanyard. All ammunition must be secure.

Ammunition may be packed in the same hard-sided, locked, firearm case, provided it is packed as described.

Overall, I really like Frontier's publicly stated policies.

They explicitly state that ammunition may be transported in magazines or clips as long as any exposed rounds are covered. While we can all raise an eyebrow at the notion that tape is the best substance for doing so, this does give passengers the means to redress the situation if they have "uncovered" magazines... all airports have a roll of tape somewhere. If you're in a jam, they're giving you a way out here.

They state that ammunition may be in the same case as the firearm, as well.

Frontier's entire language is very personable and seems designed to ease tension on the part of travelers... they even do the emotional work of prepping their customers for the possibility that TSA may ask for a key or combination for an examination that takes place out of your view.

 

Grade: -

Go!
as specified on their web site...

Go! airlines was an inter-island carrier who operated within Hawaii until they ceased operations in 2014

Go! airlines was an inter-island carrier who operated within Hawaii until they ceased operations in 2014

 

Grade: D+

Hawaiian
as specified on their web site...

Unloaded firearms may be transported as checked baggage in hard-sided, locked cases that cannot be easily pried open. Up to 11 pounds (5 kg) of ammunition may be checked in in proper packaging.


Advance notice

If you will be checking firearms or ammunition, please call our Reservations Department at least 48 hours before your flight.


Legal

You must review all federal, state, local, and international laws regarding transportation of firearms and ammunition to ensure you are in compliance at your origin, destination, and any stopover points.


Age limit

You must be at least 18 years old to check a firearm. For ammunition, there is no age limit, but the ammunition must be for each person’s personal use.


Weight limits

Gun cases over 70 pounds (32 kg) are not accepted. For ammunition, there is a limit of 11 pounds (5 kg) of ammunition per person. If you have multiple travelers in your group, your ammunition cannot be packed in the same bag, combined, or transferred to someone else.


Secure packing

Firearms and ammunition are accepted as checked baggage only.

Firearms must be unloaded, with clips and magazines removed.

Firearms and any parts must be placed in a locked, hard-sided case that cannot be easily pried open. If your locked case can be easily pried open, it will not be accepted. This applies both to stand-alone cases and to cases placed inside another piece of checked baggage.

Note: Many gun cases can be easily pried open, even while locked. Any case that does not provide adequate security from breach must be denied.

Ammunition must be protected against shock and movement and placed in the manufacturer’s original packaging or in fiber, wood, or metal boxes. It must not be loose or loaded into a clip or magazine.

Explosive or incendiary ammunition is completely prohibited.

Can I pack ammunition in my gun case?

Yes, as long as the case has a designated storage space for ammunition that secures it and protects it from shock and movement. Ammunition must not be loose or loaded into a clip or magazine.


Check-in

When you check in at the airport, let a Hawaiian Airlines agent know that you are checking a firearm or ammunition. After inspection, a special tag will be placed on your item. Your signature will also be required. Website, mobile, and kiosk check-in are not available when traveling with a firearm or ammunition.


Note

Firearms or ammunition which do not comply with all of the above will be denied transportation.

Hawaiian Airlines does not seem to be a particularly firearm-friendly carrier.

In addition to admonishing travelers repeatedly about the unsuitability of many gun cases (and this is true, we should keep in mind) they seem very fixated on details concerning ammunition. A series of seemingly contradictory instructions chastising travelers who might put ammunition into the baggage of someone else in their traveling party. (Let's be honest... how on earth would the airline know whose ammo is whose unless people blurt out this information? If you are flying with more than 11 lbs of ammunition while in a group, be certain to tell the Hawaiian Airlines staff at check-in that everyone is the owner of any ammunition in their own luggage!)

Hawaiian also asserts that they will place a special tag "on your item" although this is not clear whether this means that the declaration tag will be laid upon the firearm inside your luggage (the usual method for air travel) or whether the check-in agent will attempt to affix the tag to the outside of your luggage (which is prohibited). I would not be surprised if travelers with firearms encounter mixed results at various check-in desks and run into airline staff who do not know the proper FAA rules there.

Two particular problems that stand out the most, however, is the fact that Hawaiian explicitly *disallows* ammunition in any magazines or clips (even if covered or holstered) and -- most bizarrely -- Hawaiian requires passengers to notify them *48 hours in advance* of their travel if firearms will be in checked luggage.

I know of no other domestic carriers with this sort of policy.

 

Grade: -

Horizon
as specified on their web site...

Horizon Air and its sister carrier Alaska Airlines are subsidiaries of Alaska Air Group, and all Horizon-operated scheduled flights are marketed and sold by Alaska Airlines. As such, policies and regulations that passengers must follow can be found on the Alaska Air site instead.

Horizon Air and its sister carrier Alaska Airlines are subsidiaries of Alaska Air Group, and all Horizon-operated scheduled flights are marketed and sold by Alaska Airlines. As such, policies and regulations that passengers must follow can be found on the Alaska Air site instead.

 

Grade: C-

JetBlue
as specified on their web site...

Firearms

You must be 18 years of age to check a firearm.

One piece of shooting equipment will count as a checked bag.

Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container specifically designed for the firearm, and in a separate container from any ammunition.

Only the customer should retain the key or combination to the lock.

Customers should remain present during screening at the ticket counter to take the key back after the container is cleared. Once TSA confirms that criteria has been met, the firearm may be placed in your checked bag.

All firearms must be declared by reading and signing the Firearms Unloaded Declaration tag before checking the container.

All firearm containers with designed lock area(s) must have a lock placed in all of the designed lock area(s).

JetBlue will not accept any firearm case that cannot be locked.

Pistol cases may be available for purchase by cash or credit card at any JetBlue ticket counter for a nonrefundable fee of $50. Quantities are limited.

BB guns and air guns are also considered as shooting equipment and are subject to the same requirements and restrictions.

One item of shooting equipment is defined as one of the following:
1 rifle case containing no more than 2 rifles with or without scopes, one shooting net, noise suppressors, and a small rifle tool set
1 shotgun case containing no more than 2 shotguns
1 pistol case containing no more than 4 pistols


Ammunition

Ammunition will not be permitted in carry-on or checked baggage on international flights.  

Ammunition must be packaged in a fiber (such as cardboard), wood or metal box specifically designed for carrying small amounts of ammunition.

Ammunition must be housed in a separate container that is completely separate and distinct from the firearms locked box. It may be in the same checked bag as the firearms box as long as everything is packaged properly.

Ammunition is limited to 11 pounds per customer.

JetBlue has a lot of standard language in their policies but goes a bit further in throwing up arbitrary hurdles and barriers for passengers with respect to:

Requiring "all" hasps on a case to be affixed with a lock. So, a long Pelican rifle case could ostensibly wind up equipped with four padlocks.

Limited travelers to no more than 2 rifles or shotguns and no more than 4 pistols.

Insisting that ammunition must not be in the same locked case as the firearm. That means folk who fly with one large Pelican case, as many of us do, can't fly JetBlue.

One positive point, keeping them just barely in the "C" range, is that JetBlue does occasionally maintain a small stock of suitable pistol cases available for purchase by travelers in case they do not have one.

 

Grade: -

Midwest
as specified on their web site...

Midwest Airlines merged with Frontier Airlines in 2010

Midwest Airlines merged with Frontier Airlines in 2010

 

Grade: -

Northwest
as specified on their web site...

Northwest Airlines merged with Delta Airlines in 2010

Northwest Airlines merged with Delta Airlines in 2010

 

Grade: -

Republic
as specified on their web site...

Always view our partner policies for their specific baggage information; however, Republic Airways has the following additional restrictions for the aircraft we fly.

Sporting equipment is allowed on all aircraft types with a maximum length of 96 inches.

Being a regional connection carrier (who partners and code-shares with three of the largest domestic carriers -- American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines -- Republic refers travelers to each of those airlines' web sites.

Republic does mention that all sporting equipment (ostensibly this would include firearms) is limited to 96" in length. I am not personally familiar with any gun cases that are longer than eight feet, but if you're flying with a Lebel rifle that has a Rosalie bayonet affixed I suppose you might come close, hah!

 

Grade: A-

Silver
as specified on their web site...

All firearms, ammunition and/or harmful articles must be declared. Failure to do so may result in the confiscation of such items and/or potential legal action may be taken against you.

Silver Airways firearms policy language may be the most minimal I have ever seen.

While I'm generally a fan of "less is more" especially where rules are concerned, I do like to see air carriers provide a *little* more specificity to the public, in order to help assure travelers of the rights and permissions they have (for storing ammunition with their firearm, etc)

 

Grade: -

Skywest
as specified on their web site...

Being a regional connection carrier (who partners and code-shares with four of the largest domestic carriers -- American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines -- SkyWest refers travelers to each of those airlines' web sites.

Being a regional connection carrier (who partners and code-shares with four of the largest domestic carriers -- American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines -- SkyWest refers travelers to each of those airlines' web sites.

 

Grade: C+

Southwest
as specified on their web site...

Firearms must be encased in a hard-sided, locked container that is of sufficient strength to withstand normal handling, as follows:

A firearm in a hard-sided, locked container may be placed inside a soft-sided, unlocked suitcase.

A firearm placed inside a hard-sided, locked suitcase must be encased in a hard-sided, locked container.
The locked container or suitcase must completely secure the firearm from access. Cases or suitcases that can be pulled open with minimal effort do not meet the locked criterion.

The Customer checking the luggage should retain the key or combination to the lock, and may use any brand or type of lock to secure the firearm case (including TSA-recognized locks).

Firearms may be checked and will count toward the two-piece free baggage allowance for each fare-paying passenger. We allow multiple firearms to be transported inside one hard-sided case.

Southwest Airlines assumes no liability for the misalignment of sights on firearms, including those equipped with telescopic sights.

Firearms are never allowed in carryon luggage.


Ammunition

Small arms ammunition for personal use (provided it is properly packed) is permissible in checked baggage only.

The ammunition may be placed in the same container as the firearm and must be securely packed in cardboard (fiber), wood, or metal boxes, or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition.

When checking ammunition, Customers are limited to 11 pounds gross weight (ammunition plus container) per person.

Magazines or clips containing ammunition must be securely packaged (placed in another small box or in a secure cutout in the carrying case, in order to protect the primer of the ammunition).

Make sure guns are unloaded and definitely never transport a gun in your carryon baggage!

Gunpowder (black powder) and primers or percussion caps are not allowed in checked or carryon baggage.

Loose ammunition or loose loaded magazines and/or clips are not allowed.

Southwest is something of a mixed bag.

They explicitly state that ammunition is acceptable for transport within loaded magazines (as long as the ammo primers are protected from being struck) and that's good.

However they also have a very cumbersome policy requiring guns inside of locked hard sided luggage (like Pelican cases) to be *further* packed inside of *additional* locked hard-sided cases and that's moronic.

Southwest has a number of rules specific to paintball guns, as well, on their site.

 

Grade: B-

Spirit
as specified on their web site...

Firearms are accepted provided that all of the following provisions are met:

1.The guest checking the firearm is at least 18 years of age.

2.The guest is not traveling to an international destination.

3.The guest declares the firearm to be unloaded and signs a Firearms Declaration tag. NOTE: A guestchecking multiple firearms must complete a Firearms Declaration tag for each firearm checked.

4.The firearm is in a hard-sided container which is locked, and only the guest retains the key or combination.

5.The guest must place the signed Firearms Declaration tag(s) as follows:
• If the hard-sided locked container is inside another piece of luggage, the tag shall be placed inside the luggage next to the locked container.
• If the firearm is a rifle or shotgun, the tag shall be placed inside the locked hard-sided rifle or shotgun case.
• If the firearm is contained in a locked hard-sided suitcase, the tag shall beplaced inside the suitcase next to the firearm.

Ammunition

Small arms ammunition (up to 19.1 mm for rifle and pistol cartridges, any size shotgun shells) for personal use is accepted provided that all of the following provisions are met:

1. The guest is not traveling on an international flight, and is not under the age of eighteen.

2. Amount of ammunition must not exceed eleven pounds (11 lb.) per guest.

3. Ammunition must be securely packed in boxes or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition. Ammunition clips and magazines must also be securely boxed

Spirit seems unique in their desire to have each separate firearm covered by a separately completed and signed declaration card or form.

Now, being an extreme budget air carrier, passenger experiences with Spirit have historically been iffy for any travelers -- not just ones with firearms -- but the web does have a variety of gun-specific travel accounts where things did not go perfectly smoothly.

Arrive early, be polite, and expect to get what you pay for.

 

Grade: A

United
as specified on their web site...

We’ll accept shooting equipment as checked bags in hard-sided, securely locked firearms cases or containers. Locked cases that can easily be opened aren’t permitted. All firearms cases must meet the following safety criteria in order to be accepted for travel:

Firearms will be accepted only from a customer who is 18 years of age or older.
The regulations below refer to all firearms (or items that may resemble a firearm), including airsoft guns, BB guns, paintball guns and any antique trophy guns or weapons.
If you're traveling with a firearm, you must check in to your flight at the airport counter. You won’t be able to check in through the United app, united.com or an airport kiosk. Curbside check-in of a firearm is also not permitted.
Firearms must be packed in a hard-sided container with a lock. The container must be locked at the time of acceptance by United Airlines and the key or combination must remain in the customer's possession. The container must completely secure the firearm from being accessed. Locked cases that can easily be opened will not be accepted for travel. Using a TSA-approved lock can help speed up the security screening process for firearms.
Handguns must be packed in a hard-sided container with a lock. The container must be locked at the time of acceptance by United Airlines and the key or combination must remain in the customer's possession. The locked hard-sized container holding the handgun may be placed inside an unlocked soft-side piece of luggage. The container must completely secure the firearm from being accessed. Locked cases that can easily be opened will not be accepted for travel.
Customers may only pack up to five firearms in any case or bag. However, there is no limit on the number of cases or bags they are permitted to check.
The firearm will be transported in a section of the aircraft that is inaccessible to the customer. Proof of registration is not required.
Firearms carried in addition to the free baggage allowance will be assessed at the current excess baggage charge.
No more than 11 pounds of ammunition may be carried.
The ammunition may be packed in the same container as the firearm or in a separate container.
The ammunition must be packed in the manufacturer's original package or securely packed in fiber, wood or metal containers.
The ammunition inside the container must be protected against shock and secured against movement.
Loaded ammunition magazines or clips must be removed from the firearm, and must be securely packed in boxes or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition and must fit over any exposed ends of the magazine or clip.
Ammunition with explosive or incendiary projectile will not be accepted.
Black powder, for black powder arms, is considered hazardous material and will not be accepted as checked baggage.

First or second checked bag service charges may apply.

Note: Customers must sign and date a Firearm Declaration Tag declaring the firearm is not loaded.

Other than their limit of 5 firearms per case (which is likely due to a desire to limit their liability in case of damage or bag loss, I presume) there are few challenges with flying United while transporting firearms. Even that limit of 5 firearms per case is specified with them saying that multiple gun cases are allowed.

Loaded magazines (packed in a container that covers them as opposed to being in the gun itself) are specifically allowed and no major hurdles appear to be placed in the way of the customer.

I'd like it if they didn't encourage people to use TSA locks on their gun cases, but all in all I'm OK with rating United highly at this time.

 

Grade: -

US Airways
as specified on their web site...

US Airways no longer exists, having been merged with American Airlines in 2015

US Airways no longer exists, having been merged with American Airlines in 2015

 

Grade: B

Virgin
as specified on their web site...

As part of your baggage allowance you can check in as many firearms as you’d like, provided you have the correct paperwork to confirm you’re allowed to own each item. You’ll also need paperwork demonstrating you are allowed to import, export and own each item within the countries your trip will take you to.

Excess baggage charges will apply should you exceed your baggage allowance (details of fees are on our additional baggage page).

What we consider a firearm to be:

For clarity, we define a firearm as anything that fires a projectile – whether it uses air, string or explosives to do so. This includes items such as:

Sporting rifles
Pellet guns
Crossbows
Antique weapons (these must be decommissioned, so they are no longer able to fire).

Virgin Atlantic has Home Office permission to carry handguns classified under section 5 of the Dangerous Weapons Act. As with sporting firearms, you must have the appropriate documentation for both ownership and carriage of these items.

Ammunition

We define the following items as ammunition:

Lead pellets
Arrows
Crossbow bolts
Bullets.

Note that all firearms must be empty when you pack them. Ammunition must be packed separately from firearms in its original packaging and locked in a solid case.

Ammunition is limited to 5kgs per passenger, in line with IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations, and cannot be pooled with other passengers.

Any ammunition containing explosive bullets, toxins or incendiary projectiles will not be accepted on our flights in any circumstances.

Virgin Atlantic, being primarily an international carrier, focuses a lot on the import-export rules and they go into further detail on their site about specific countries. Overall, however, they seem to fall mostly in-line with common policies.

It is interesting see that they also treat air guns as "firearms" explicitly. The same goes for disabled antiques.

It is unclear what Virgin means by "ammunition must be packed separately from firearms" and whether this means separate containers within a single checked case or placed in separate checked luggage pieces entirely. If anyone has specific experience here, feel free to let me know.

 


Please email me and inform me if I have gotten anything incorrect or if you have your own personal stories and feedback to add concerning any of these (or other) airlines.

Sometimes people ask me what policies I should like to put in place if I had the power to change the laws on this subject and impose standards that all airlines would have to follow. I certainly know what I would consider appropriate and good...

Definitions

A "firearm" is any device that expels a projectile by means of a combustible propellant. This includes conventional guns, flare guns, starter pistols, and blank/stage firing replicas. Serialized parts for any of these items (for instance, stripped receivers) are also treated as firearms.

The Right to Travel with Firearms

It is the right of American citizens to travel with firearms that they legally possess, and as such firearms are permitted on all flights to and from any destination, either domestically or internationally. It is the passenger's responsibility to research and comply with all relevant laws wherever their travels will take them; the airline shall take no responsibility for a customer's failure to comply with the rules of any state or nation.

Secure Luggage

Firearms and ammunition can only travel in checked baggage. Luggage that is suitable for such a task must be hard-sided and lockable. When secured, an individual should not be capable of inserting a finger anywhere into the firearms case by means of prying or bending its housing or material.

Sizable Luggage

Small handgun cases can be useful tools for securing a pistol or revolver against damage and mishandling, but they are not suitable for protection against theft. Handguns cases should be inserted into larger hard-sided luggage which is itself locked in order to be safe from theft during air travel. (Naturally, i would revise my opinions here further if we would get our heads out of our asses an mandate security cameras in the non-public areas of airports, with specific focus on areas of baggage handling.)

The Passenger's Locks

TSA-compliant (a.k.a. "SearchAlert") locks are NOT allowed to be used when transporting firearms... a proper lock must be used and only the passenger traveling with firearms (along with members of his or her traveling party, if they are part of a group) are ever allowed to be in possession of the key or combination to said luggage. Should a luggage inspection be necessary for any reason, the passenger must be directly present and they alone shall be the one who unlocks the luggage in question. Again, ONLY THE PASSENGER may ever unlock and open firearms-bearing luggage. The passenger must remain present to observe such proceedings, and then will verify that all their firearms and ammunition are still present and properly packed before re-locking the luggage at the conclusion of the inspection. At no time will passengers ever be separated from their key or combination, nor shall firearm-bearing luggage ever be opened out of their presence once it has been secured.

Additional Fees

There are no limits concerning how many firearms shall be packed with a piece of luggage, however no special provisions are made for baggage weight. If luggage is over the fifty pound limit, additional fees maybe imposed by the airlines as they see fit. However, airlines may not impose any specific "gun case fees" or in any other way penalize passengers who are traveling with guns and ammunition.

Additional Designations

Passengers must fill out the declaration card [in my ideal world, the card would be standardized and available both at airline counters as well as via the web so customers could fill it out in advance] stating that their firearms are unloaded and this card will be kept inside the luggage during the flight. At no time will this or any other indicating tag be affixed to the outside of firearms-bearing luggage. Furthermore, the airline's printed baggage tracking tag will not display any markings or characters used to designate a bag as containing firearms. A passenger's entry in the airline computer shall also not contain any special details indicating their travel with firearms.

Ammunition

There are no limits for how many rounds or what size caliber ammunition a passenger may pack aside from a maximum weight limit of fifty pounds. Ammunition must be packed in a manner that protects against crushing or the rounds becoming loose. The original box, or an after-market vessel designed to carry ammunition, or clips and magazines are all appropriate ways to pack ammunition provided that it is completely enclosed and there is no exposure of the rounds. Ammunition may be packed in the same container as firearms, as long as it is packed in accordance with these standards.

Liability

Passengers are responsible for verifying that their firearms have arrived safely at their final destination. Upon arrival at their final destination, an air traveler will have the right to briefly open and inspect the contents of their luggage in order to assess if things are safely in order. Passengers have a duty to report lost or damaged firearms and ammunition as soon as such a situation is discovered. Airlines are fully liable for loss, theft, or damage caused by non-routine handling of firearms and ammunition that they are transporting. Passengers traveling with firearms shall never be prohibited from purchasing additional insurance coverage for their luggage, but such coverage is not mandatory. In the event of theft or loss, it will be the airline's responsibility to contact law enforcement and fill out all reports. If lost firearms are not recovered within thirty-six hours of a passenger's arrival at their destination, the airlines must compensate the aggrieved party accordingly.

Perhaps i'm reaching a bit too far with some of those provisions of my hypothetical "flying with firearms" law... but a man can dream. Good luck to all who travel with firearms. Stay safe out there!

- dev