United's Firearm policy


April 17, 2014, 08:22 PM
Just checked in for a United Flight.
This pop up came up. Undecided if I will bring my CCW on this trip, but wondering if I'm in for a hassle at the check in counter.

Notice to Travelers
Federal law forbids the carriage of hazardous materials aboard aircraft, in your luggage or on your
person. A violation can result in 5 years imprisonment and penalties of $250,000 or more
(49U.S.C. 5124). Hazardous materials include explosives, compressed gasses,flammable liquids
and solids, oxidizers, poisons, corrosives and radioactive materials.
EXAMPLES:Paints, lighter fluids, fireworks, tear gases, liquid oxygen bottles and radio-pharmaceuticals.
There are special exceptions for small quantities (up to 70 ounces total) of medicinal and toilet articles carried in
your luggage and certain smoking materials carried on your person. For further information, contact a United


Fireworks, Car Batteries, Ammunition, Lighters, Household Cleaners, Lighter Refills, Guns, Compressed Gas Cylinders, Matches

By selecting Accept, all travelers acknowledge acceptance of hazardous materials restrictions in baggage.

Mods, please move this if it does not belong in Legal. Thanks.

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April 17, 2014, 08:32 PM
I believe it has to be declared as such. As in, you can't just throw your gun in with your pants, or they to hide it in your spare shoes...They also have to be locked in an airline approved container to which only you possess the key or combination, and checked in.

April 17, 2014, 08:32 PM

The United web site - https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/baggage/dangerous.aspx - has Federal law prohibits hazardous materials from being included in either checked or carry-on baggage. Items such as explosives, compressed gases, oxidizers, corrosives, flammable liquids and solids, loaded firearms, radioactive materials and poisons are considered hazardous.

Some common examples of prohibited items include paints, mace/tear gas, lighter fluid, oxygen bottles and fireworks.

Other common items which, in limited quantities (up to 70 ounces total), may be carried within baggage include medicinal or toilet articles such as hairspray, perfume and certain medicines which are necessary for customer use during their journey.

April 17, 2014, 09:08 PM
I've flown United with guns, no problem. You do have to declare them, but it's no big deal.

April 17, 2014, 09:23 PM
Per the TSA, the following can be checked:

Firearms - firearms carried as checked baggage MUST be unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided container, and declared to the airline at check-in.

Small arms ammunition, including ammunition up to .75 caliber and shotgun shells of any gauge- Check with your airline or travel agent to see if ammunition is permitted in checked baggage on the airline you are flying. Small arms ammunitions for personal use must be securely packaged in fiber, wood or metal boxes or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition. Ask about limitations or fees, if any, that apply.

Source: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/firearms-and-ammunition

April 17, 2014, 09:46 PM
Thanks. I just read the actual policy from the united website.

Would the plastic case guns come in be sufficient as a "hard sided case" provided it can be locked?

Or does it need to be something more substantial?

April 17, 2014, 09:53 PM
Given the abuse I have seen checked baggage take, I would NEVER trust my firearm to a factory case. Additionally, not all factory cases have secure locking ability.

If you care about your gun and want to fly with it, invest in an appropriately tough case.

April 17, 2014, 10:02 PM
I've always used a Pelican case. Pricey, but worth the investment considering what it protects. I'm looking at picking another one up soon. There are certain cases that are approved and certain ones that aren't. You will have to look up your specific manufacturer to check.

April 17, 2014, 10:06 PM
I think it depends on the case. Some of them, work, others do not. You should be able to check on the website of the product you have and it might tell you. I have only flown with a firearm once, and I used an aluminum case, so I couldn't give first hand experience on plastic.

Onward Allusion
April 17, 2014, 10:14 PM
I would be real interested is where you got your text from. I almost sounds like a rogue employee decided to take it upon themselves to modify corporate policy.

As for housing the gun in a hard sided case, get an aluminum case. The plastic ones are too easy to crack open.

April 17, 2014, 10:20 PM
Thanks fellas.
@onward, when I was almost finished with the on line check in, a pop up window popped up with that text. I copied it but it didn't keep the formatting.

You had to click a "I agree" button to close the pop up window and move to the final on line check in step. Weird .

April 17, 2014, 11:03 PM
As for housing the gun in a hard sided case, get an aluminum case. The plastic ones are too easy to crack open.

Uhmm... depends on how well made the case is rather than the material IMHO.

Been using both aluminum and plastic cased for 3 decades at first for cameras and now cameras and firearms. I have experience with both materials failing and both materials standing up to incredible abuse. Depends on how well it is made not the material.

I've noticed that many people tend to skimp on holsters, scopes and cases. All of which winds up costing more money in the long run.



Frank Ettin
April 17, 2014, 11:08 PM
I found this (https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/baggage/sports.aspx?camp=virtual_expert#Firearms) using the "Ask Alex" function on the website:United accepts one item of shooting equipment per customer as checked baggage. One item of shooting equipment is defined as one hard-sided shooting equipment case containing up to five firearms, with or without scopes, up to 11 lbs. (5 kg) of ammunition, and articles used in the firearm sport.

Firearms will be accepted only from a customer who is 18 years of age or older.
International firearm regulations vary by destination and transiting country. Contact appropriate consulates or embassies to obtain specific entry requirements applicable to destination(s).
Firearms are not accepted to and from Bahrain, Denmark, Israel, Nigeria, Qatar and Turkey.
For travel to and from the United Kingdom, pistols, rifles and shotguns must be packed in a hard-sided rifle case.
Customers traveling to or through Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS) with checked firearms/ammunition must obtain permission from the Netherlands Consulate/Embassy in their country of origin prior to departure. Weapons are subject to confiscation in Amsterdam unless the owner can show all required permits. Customers traveling on military orders with checked firearms may do so without prior consent from Dutch Customs. Checked military ammunition is forbidden.
Customers traveling to Guatemala City, Guatemala (GUA) with checked firearms and/or ammunition must be in possession of a gun import license or a temporary transportation permit, which must be certified and validated by a Guatemalan Consulate. Customers traveling with checked firearms and/or ammunition through Guatemala City do not require a permit as long as their bag does not leave the airport controlled area. Customers must ensure they have all the necessary documents required at their final destination.
Curbside check-in of a firearm is not permitted.
The firearm must be packaged in a hard-sided container capable of being locked. The container must be locked and the key or combination must remain in the customer's possession. If a hard-sided container is needed, see the container section of this site.
Handguns must be packed in hard-sided lockable luggage. Baggage containing handguns must be locked at the time of acceptance by United Airlines and the key or combination retained in the passenger's custody.
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. 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.

First or second checked bag service charges may apply.

April 17, 2014, 11:15 PM
Going through their website I think it might have been a catchall for uninformed travelers, under their Baggage information page/Dangerous items (https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/baggage/dangerous.aspx) it covers the first half, but not what is listed under "Dangerous Items" in post one...

But under Baggage Information/Sports Equipment (https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/baggage/sports.aspx) it seems like they're pretty in line with TSA regs for firearms. I'm wondering if that first post bit was more directed towards carry-on, but not clarified?

ETA: I see Frank beat me to the punch while I was digging around the links and hadn't refreshed the page. Ah well.

April 18, 2014, 03:01 AM
Can't say if it was United or what airline, but somebody reported (here?) that if a container had two places to put a lock, you had to have two locks....

I've had fine luck with manufacturer's clamshell-style cases that included foam inserts. I have a couple of older cases that don't allow for locking, foam, etc., that I wouldn't trust in my gun bag, though.

'Course, for handguns, we're presumably transporting these guns inside outer "suitcases" of some sort, which should protect the whole thing against about anything but the guy from TSA who paws through your undies when the ammunition or a battery charger turn up on the X-Ray....

Use a lock (preferably one that uses a KEY) on the gun case that's NOT a TSA lock. Use a TSA lock on the outer case. It's likely that they'd break off the outer lock if given half a reason to look inside.

Plan, too, on having somebody open the suitcase....

I've only had a couple of minor problems - oddly two out of three in TX. One TX countergal had no idea what the declaration form looked like, or where to find them, and another where a passing supervisor wanted to really know why I had a gun with me. The only other one was a guy at PIT or CLE who didn't like his nap being interrupted when I tried to check in :D.... ("Are you going to give me the combination - to the outer suitcase - or do I have to go try to find my TSA key set?" I chuckled and gave him the combination.) NEVER give anybody the combination to "your" lock on a gun case - just use a key, and you should raise a ruckus if they want to open the box out of your presence.

I don't fly that much.... I don't fit the seats all that well :D.... Buddy of mine got a pilot's license and bought a Cessna. Too rich for my blood, unfortunately.

(Long gun cases are a slightly different story - your locks, no outer suitcase. Use a good case!)

Enjoy the trip!


April 18, 2014, 05:49 AM
There is no such thing as an "airline approved" case. Follow the TSA definition and you'll be OK.


April 18, 2014, 07:03 AM
There is no such thing as an "airline approved" case.

Correct. "Airline approved" is an advertising gimmick used to raise the price. The honest term would be "meets the requirements for airline travel". My pistol travel case was $5 from Ace Hardware with no such claim as being "airline approved" and it works just fine.

April 18, 2014, 08:02 AM
Firearms are no problem with United. Just show up early to get the paperwork done, it will take a little longer than a normal check in, and in case the TSA gets involved. And get a good sturdy case, not some cheap flimsy thing. Aluminum, pelican case etc. Even under the best conditions luggage gets hard use on an airplane. I know, I'm a United pilot...

April 18, 2014, 11:59 AM
It's really not a big deal with any of the airlines. If I had to guess based on what I have seen over the years as an airline passenger, there is at least one checked firearm in the cargo hold of every airliner in the air, on average.
The last flight I took, there were 3 of us checking guns, none of us knew each other. Also, if you arrive at the check-in area and see one of those people that work for the airline trying to assist passengers, let them know you are checking the firearm and you might get lucky and get taken to the front of the waiting lines. This works for me in Orlando all the time.

April 18, 2014, 02:23 PM
The best source for an airline's rules on this sort of thing is their contract of carriage. United's is available here:


The popup quoted in the OP started appearing in the last couple months and, on its face, is contradictory to the CoC. My gut is that the popup is just poorly worded and does not reflect a change in policy that contradicts the CoC.

April 18, 2014, 08:25 PM
I know these may look lame but when you consider your guns and all your gear fit in it, its a bargain.

Weight is key so consider the case and the gear, keep it under 50lbs and good to go. My shotgun weighs in at 6lbs or so, I can pack everything I need for 3 days of bird hunting in unpredictable weather conditions, plus the gun, 45.6 lbs total weight :)


April 18, 2014, 09:09 PM
I don't know if this United Airlines statement means all bags & articles or just the carry-on items.
I checked my M&P Compact .45acp with AirTran in 2013. The pistol was unloaded & I did not bring any .45acp ammuntion. The TSA/airline information FAQs stated you could carry up to 11lbs of ammunition in your checked luggage.
Contrary to a few forum posts(on another well known gun site), the airline counter staff member did open & check my unloaded M&P. :uhoh:
He was polite & professional about the process. A middle age airline employee took my duffle bag(with the inspected S&W firearm) & escorted me to the TSA area. My bag went thru screening & away I went. Upon my arrival, my blue case with red cable lock was secured & all in order.

I purchased a box of Golden Saber 185gr +P in a small shop; www.Route66sportinggoods.com .

With guns & airline travel, Id remain calm. Speak clearly & slowly. Be on time too. :D
Some gunners advise printing out the most recent airline SOPs & TSA policy.
I don't fly with weapons often but when I do, I check the websites for any changes/new information.


April 18, 2014, 10:58 PM
Hey, I'm new here (been reading for years but just joined) and since I've worked for a major airline since April 2004 I figured I'd jump in on this... That "notice to travelers" is mandated by the Feds and is something every airline has to post to travelers before selling a ticket or allowing them to check in at the airport. You'll see it on the airport kiosks before you can print a boarding pass, printed on cards and placed around the ticket counter and on various signs before the TSA checkpoint.

The actual regulations allow a lot of leeway for the airline to manage firearms/ammo/accessories as checked baggage as they see fit so the only way to know for sure is to call and ask.

April 19, 2014, 12:09 AM
Flying with firearms in not generally difficult. I have them unloaded in a lockable case, declare them when I check my bags and fill out an orange form that affirms that they are not loaded. TSA checks them and I then relock them and they are then loaded on the plane. I show ID when I pick them up at my destination. I have only flown from state to state so I have no experience flying international and don't know if regulations are any different in that regard.

April 19, 2014, 01:49 AM
Just don't holler "I've got a GUN!"....

Unless you've got a pail and shovel in there someplace, too :D....

Generally, "unloaded" is what people are looking for, but I had at least one ticket counter guy admit that they usually didn't bother since many of them wouldn't know anyway.

Some airlines don't seem to care if magazines are loaded or not, or whether or not they're packed with the gun, but it may be best to presume empty gun and empty mags.

The TSA "downstairs" gang seem to go crazy over the battery chargers and other stuff in my suitcase. Pretty much a guaranteed second look :D.... Computer or camera's a carry-on, but I tend to stick a radio into the bag, along with assorted accessories.

I did have one loony incident quite a while back. I felt that the manufacturer's box for some .45's was too flimsy, so I rubber-banded the thing, and put the whole thing inside a Ziploc. Got it back with the box about half full, and the rest of the ammunition just laying there in the bag. "Loose ammunition" is a no-no....

Sent 'em a nasty letter :D....


April 19, 2014, 10:45 AM
Most people have flown with firearms and ammunition with little problem. A thread certainly beaten to death here on THR.

April 19, 2014, 03:00 PM
The last time I flew with a handgun, I used a plastic locking Samsonite suitcase bought from Goodwill and put the XD in the plastic case it came with, with a separate lock. It worked just fine for me.

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