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Don't Check with AirTran

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Crash79, May 3, 2007.

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  1. Crash79

    Crash79 Member

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    This is the story of my first experience checking a firearm & ammunition on a commercial flight.

    I decided to take a last minute trip to visit my sister and brother-in-law in Daytona Beach, FL. It was my brother-in-law’s birthday and my sister and I thought that it would be fun to surprise him (Plus – when you live in Ohio you will use any excuse you can find to head south). Since Florida honors my Ohio CCW I decided that I would check my Kahr P9 Covert, 20 rounds of Winchester Supreme S9, and my 6 & 7 round magazines.

    Before leaving I decided to do some research. I looked up stories that others had shared about their experiences on traveling with a firearm. I also looked up and printed the rules for traveling with hazardous materials from both the TSA and AirTran.

    TSA: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/assistant/editorial_1666.shtm
    AirTran: http://www.airtran.com/policies/permitted_and_prohibited_items.aspx#6

    The AirTran policy is more restrictive than the TSA policy. AirTran does not allow you to transport your ammunition in the same container as the firearm.
    Now with the specific policies in hand I decided to purchase an appropriate case to transport my gun with. I bought several different cases but finally found a Winchester case for $40 that I really loved. This case was a little bigger than what I had planned on purchasing but I knew that it would protect my firearm and I could carry two guns if I wanted to. I also picked up two padlocks to attach to the locking rings on the case.

    [​IMG]

    Since I was only taking a short trip I decided to pack this case inside my checked bag with my clothes and toiletries. I felt that it would be safer to keep this case inside my baggage since anybody can tell exactly what is in this case by looking at it.

    [​IMG]

    Here is a picture of the case packed inside my checked bag. Keep in mind that the suitcase this is packed in is not really a “checked” bag but is actually a full-size carry-on (Hence the limited space). Again, I was only taking an extended weekend trip and didn’t need to take much since I was staying with family. You can also see the 20 rounds of 9mm in the factory box in the zippered pouch. My handgun and both magazines are locked in the hard-sided case and have no ammunition with them.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Because of the wording of AirTran’s policy I decided to call 1-800-AIRTRAN the day before my flight to get clarification on their policy. The specific wording of their policy is as follows: “Ammunition – small arms ammunitions for personal use must be securely packaged in the original manufacturer’s packaging, or in a fiber, wood, or metal box specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition. Ammunition must be packed in baggage separate from the firearm.”

    The final sentence of their policy is what concerned me and I decided that clarification was in order. Upon calling 1-800-AIRTRAN I quickly realized that the representative who answered the phone was not prepared to assist me with my question. At anytime during the process of transporting a firearm when someone working for an airline asks you if you are a LEO after asking them a firearms related question then it is a pretty good bet that they are operating out of their element and will be incapable of assisting you. I asked the representative if I could speak with a supervisor and she put me on hold. The female supervisor that answered the phone was extremely helpful and knowledgeable. It was immediately apparent that this was not the first time she had been asked a firearms related question. I explained how my bags were packed and she assured me that I had met AirTran’s requirements and that I would have no problems checking in. She said that since my gun case was locked separately from the ammunition in my checked bag that it was okay to transport the ammunition and firearm in the same baggage. I had attempted to record this conversation on my mobile phone but I ran out of memory before even speaking to the supervisor and thereby making my recording useless.

    I still wasn’t 100% confident that I would have no problems at the airport but I was determined to take advantage of my rights and take my firearm with me to Florida. Just in case I ran into any problems when checking in I brought my brother with me who is an employee at the Dayton International Airport to walk me through security and to my gate. This turned out to be completely unnecessary. The gentleman who was working the AirTran counter when I checked in had obviously checked in a handgun before. The process was very simple:

    1. I declared my firearm and ammunition to the agent as I was setting my bag on the scale.
    2. The agent asked to see my boarding pass and my ID which I presented to him.
    3. The agent asked me to open my bag at which time I showed him the case and pointed out where the ammo was stored.
    4. The agent then asked me to open my gun case so that he could verify that the gun was unloaded.
    5. I unlocked and opened the case and showed the agent my unloaded firearm with the two empty magazines. (At no point did the agent or I touch the firearm.)
    6. The agent had me sign a bright red firearm inspection tag which he initialed and then I placed this tag inside the case.
    7. I then relocked my gun case, placed it back inside my checked bag, and closed my checked bag.
    8. I walked my bag over to the TSA screeners and again declared my firearm and ammunition to the screeners. (The AirTran agent was very careful to point out that I had to remember to declare my firearm and ammunition to the TSA screeners even though I had already declared it to him. The agent made sure that I understood this point and explained that a lot of people get in trouble because they forget to declare the firearm and ammunition to the baggage screeners. The agent also made a comment about checking the gun being no big deal as he could probably see that I was nervous about the whole process. I made a point of thanking the agent for his professionalism.)
    9. The TSA screeners then asked me to wait while they screened my luggage. I actually got to see my gun on the X-ray display screen and was rather impressed by the resolution. The screeners said everything looked fine and sent me on my way.

    I had no troubles when going through the security checkpoint and was not pulled aside for additional screening. I landed in Orlando and my baggage popped out of the chute just like everyone else’s. I inspected the bag and could find no evidence that anyone had so much as opened my bag after it was out of my sight.

    The trip down to Florida was very simple and I felt very comfortable with the whole manner in which everything was handled. Everyone that I had dealt with was extremely professional including my dealings with the TSA baggage screeners.

    For my return trip I was much more at ease with checking my gun at the counter. I had packed my bag identically to the way that it was packed on the way down. I saw no reason why I would run into any issues on the way back.

    I showed up at the AirTran counter about 1 hour and 20 minutes before my plane was scheduled to depart. I had to wait in line this time because I got there right behind a high school class trip. There were about 10 AirTran agents working the counter in Orlando as opposed to the 2 agents I saw in Dayton. When my turn came I followed the same procedure as before and declared my firearm and ammunition as I was placing them on the scale. This agent had never checked a gun before so he asked me to wait while he went and asked another agent for assistance. The other agent came down the line and I already had my suitcase opened for him when he arrived. I explained how the gun case was locked with no ammunition in it and that the ammunition was stored in the factory box separately in my suitcase. The agent immediately told me that I could not transport the gun and ammunition in the same baggage. I again explained to him that the gun case was locked and that the ammunition was separate from the firearm. The agent then repeated his previous statement to me and I asked him if I could speak to his supervisor. The agent went down the line and spoke with his supervisor and when he returned he told me to take my baggage to the other end of the line to speak with her. I repacked my bag and carried it down the line.

    The supervisor was already in defensive mode and was in the middle of printing copies of AirTran’s baggage policy for me when I arrived. I explained that this would be unnecessary since I was already carrying copies of AirTran’s and the TSA’s baggage policies and was quite well versed in them. Over the next ten minutes I tried to explain how I had spoken to a supervisor at 1-800-AIRTRAN and had transported my firearm and ammunition in the exact same manner on the flight from Dayton. At one point I was actually able to show the AirTran supervisor how my bag was packed at which time she turned to another one of the agents (who apparently outranked her) and told her that my bag was packed correctly. To this the other AirTran agent/supervisor immediately responded that she was incorrect. Another agent actually suggested to me that I give my ammunition to the security personnel and not take it with me. I explained to her that I had no intention of throwing away my ammunition and that this was a ridiculous statement and I could not believe that she would even suggest such a course.

    At this point I was starting to worry about missing my flight and decided to relent and allow them to check my gun case as a second piece of luggage. I told the agents that I felt this way of transport was much less safe than how I had originally packed the firearm. I also informed them that I would never fly with their airline again (I'm sure they care).

    After all of the disagreements were out of the way the process went pretty much the same as it had in Dayton. The agent had me sign a red tag again and place it inside the gun case. Once both my gun case and my suitcase were closed back up the AirTran agent actually walked with me to the TSA screeners and told them herself that I had a firearm and ammunition in my bags. The TSA screeners asked me to wait and were obviously confused as to why the agent felt the need to inform them herself. Once they got to my bag the head TSA screener at this screening station immediately noticed that my gun case was separate from the rest of my checked baggage and asked me if I was sure that I wanted to transport it this way. He pointed out that the gun case would be much safer in a regular piece of luggage so that people (baggage handlers) would not have knowledge that I was transporting a firearm.

    At this I threw my hands into the air and explained to the screener that I had just spent the last 10 minutes trying to explain the exact same point to the AirTran agents. He conferred with his colleagues and was obviously uncomfortable with the firearm being transported in this manner. The screener then asked a TSA security guard to go and speak with the supervisor at the AirTran ticket counter to try to get them to change their minds. I could see the faces of the AirTran agents and the supervisor and they were obviously upset that someone else was now arguing the same point that I had argued only minutes before. The security guard returned from the counter and told us that AirTran would not reverse their position. The screener was still not uncomfortable with this so he asked a TSA security guard to carry the gun case to the plane so that it would not be handled by baggage handlers. I thanked the TSA personnel for being understanding and headed off to the security checkpoint. My gun case and my suitcase arrived in Dayton without incident.

    My complaint here is that AirTran’s policy is ambiguous enough that their employees feel that they can interpret it in different ways. AirTran needs to review the wording of their policy and decide if they want to allow passengers to check their baggage in the manner in which mine was packed or if they always want their customers to have to check two separate bags when flying with a firearm and ammunition. If the answer is the latter then they can count on never seeing my business again. I find the TSA’s policy to be completely adequate in protecting passengers from any danger from firearms and see no reason for AirTran to add their own complexity to traveling with firearms.
     
  2. General Geoff

    General Geoff Member

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    I would have just gotten the name and position of the AirTran employees who disagreed with you, and then then written a letter to their corporate headquarters explaining your situation.
     
  3. 30 cal slob

    30 cal slob Member

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    Gosh, this sounds an awful lot like a conversation I had with some Fedex folks a while back while trying to ship a long gun to an FFL.
     
  4. Thain

    Thain Member

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    Everytime I read one of these threads, two thoughts run through my head. Firstly, I am incredibly thankful that I decided not to pursue it when I got called in for a second interview with the TSA.

    Second, I need to map out the reciprocity states between Michigan and Florida next time I need to head south. I'm driving!
     
  5. TonyStarks

    TonyStarks Member

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    Theres not alot of room for clothes in that bag!

    I love how the gun case is more important and takes up nearly more than half of the case. Be happy everything made it back ok.
     
  6. PennsyPlinker

    PennsyPlinker Member

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    I feel your pain Crash79! I just flew with Airtran about a month ago, and the first time I called them about taking my gun, the lady told me I would want to keep it in my carry on luggage so nothing would happen to it! :what:

    Then, after conferring with her supervisor, she tried to talk me into mailing it to myself wherever I was going! :what:

    I eventually gave up trying to get any intelligent information from the people at their customer service number. The people with whom I spoke were friendly and polite, but they had no useful information whatsoever.

    I had to deal with agents in Philly and Pensacola. Fortunately for me, they were all experienced and gave me no grief about my firearm being in a locked case inside a regular piece of luggage. The biggest difference in the two departing airports was that in Philly they had me put the signed red tag inside the case where no one knew it was there but me. :scrutiny: In Pensacola they laughed about that and said the Philly people were stupid, that the card went next to the case with the gun in it.

    But, I made it through, and next time I fly, if I am going somewhere where I can have my gun, it will go with me again.
     
  7. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

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    You'll find that there are ingnorant people working in every industry.

    Ask for an employee ID number along with their name, inform them that you'll be filing a formal complaint and that the incident will be posted on their company website if possible and that you'll also be filing a complaint with the TSA and Airport Authority. Be polite, but firm. Tell them that their responsibility as a supervisor is to be knowledgeable of any regulated activity and that their lack of knowledge either represents a failure of company training or a concious violation of written company guidance for some unknown reason.
     
  8. TX1911fan

    TX1911fan Member

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    I've flown Southwest and Delta with my gun, and no problems, ammunition in the gun case, just packed separately.

    I udnerstand the principle behind refusing to give up your ammo, but if the choice were between losing $25 worth of ammo, and the risk of losing several hundred dollars worth of gun, I'd have given them the ammo.
     
  9. bogie

    bogie Member

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    1) PRINT AND SNAILMAIL to the Airtran CEO's office.

    2) Call his office.

    3) E-mail his office.

    Copy the TSA on EVERYTHING.
     
  10. migoi

    migoi Member

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    I always...

    put the red tag in my gun case. never on the outside. I do this for two reasons. One is that a red tag on the outside of the gun case points that that there is indeed a firearm in the gun case and this makes it more attractive to steal.

    The othre reason is that there is no carbon copy of the red tag to prove you actually declared the firearm. If someone were to pull the red tag off your gun case, how would you manage to prove you had actually declared the firearm? As I am the only one that retains the keys to the firearms case, if it comes to me proving that I had declared the firearm...it's relatively easy, open the case and there is the firearm and the red tag proving I told the ticket lady about the firearm.

    To each his own though...

    migoi
     
  11. bogie

    bogie Member

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    Oh, and after the guy gets us the addresses and phone numbers (if you get dissed, you gotta find out the info...), it'd be REAL interesting if we can get a few hundred OTHER people who travel occasionally with guns to send the folks some nastygrams...
     
  12. Blackfork

    Blackfork Member

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    Very Important

    This is ONE of the reasons that it is VERY important to carry a firearm whenever you travel by air. They need the exposure and the training. Even if I am going somewhere that I am not going to be able to shoot, I check a firearm and ammunition.

    I had trouble flying out of Toledo once, coming back from a training at Camp Perry. I had a rifle case with two rifles and a Garand upper in it, and eight garand stocks- just wood of course, in my North Face duffle bag. They weren't firearms and were in a duffle, completely legal. The rifles were all locked away. They had a hard time digesting this at American Airlines. Those Garand stocks were driving them crazy.

    Finally, they used me as "training"- complete wand down and security check. They kept explaining that they weren't "really" screening me, it was just "training". I explained that I was perfectly OK with helping train the TSA, but was going to charge a normal rate for doing so, and needed an invoice or payment number and an address. They just kept explaining that this was only "training." Of course, the nations airways were kept as safe from terrorists that day as they are every day.

    Airline security is complete nonsense. As far as I can tell it is a jobs program and political theatre. They do need to check and clear and ship as many firearms as possible, every day, every flight for education in their own numbskull policies.

    I stood in Albuquerque at the Southwest counter and LOADED a Glock 19 mag once, under direct instructions of the counter clerk and supervisor to conform to what THEY thought was the policy against unsecured ammo. I passed it back over the counter and the clerk was trying to put it IN the gun when the supervisor told him he didn't need to, it was fine separate. I didn't think he was going to be able to figure out how to get it in anyway.

    You really will see it all.

    We would all be safer and more American if they revoked all this nonsense.
     
  13. F4GIB

    F4GIB Member

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    Always get NAMES. Always get names.

    Always deal with Supervisors.

    Always write the airline President. It takes 3 minutes and someone will read ALL the letters they get each day. If you're lucky your letter will screw-up someone's day.
     
  14. kevin davis

    kevin davis Member

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    i flew southwest from texas to LA, and then New Zealand air from la to NZ and back, with the ammo in the locked gun case, no problems, When i got back to LA, southwest made me take the ammo out and put it in another checked bag, because they could not be in the same bag. the canadians made me take the ammo out of the locked case also and put it in an unlockable piece of checked luggage (their rules):banghead: i called lufthansa for my upcoming trip to africa and got all sorts of idiot information, most of which was completely false. i just hope i do not get such fools when i transit germany.:fire: it is just like government rules to be so vague that ten people all understand them differently and none of the airlines actually have to understand and follow them.
     
  15. Spreadfire Arms

    Spreadfire Arms Member

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    i think everyone who travels frequently with a firearm has a horror story. mine at JFK in NYC wasn't too bad but basically it rings true that you may eventually deal with an anti-gun airline employee who wants to argue both TSA and their airline's policies when flying with a gun in checked baggage.

    personally after knowing this i won't ever fly AirTran, thanks for the heads up. i had an idiot TSA employee at Austin (TX) Airport very much pushing the border of impersonating a police officer (TSA screeners obviously aren't police but this young guy decided he wanted to imply that he was a police officer) by implying that he chose not to have me arrested. after i called him on that and shut him down (yes i did make a few phone calls after the fact and did fill out a written complaint card at the Airport to document it in writing) i think he got a good ass-reaming.

    i hope he tries that BS again and some other guy files a complaint against him - he is tall skinny young guy about 25 years old and is a supervisor or lead or something. it would be nice to see him get his walking papers or a suspension for implying to honest gun owners that he can have people arrested at the airport for absolutely nothing (i had a loaded magazine in my pocket that i wanted them to put inside my checked baggage before it got sent off - and it i did have an enclosed pistol mag pouch i could have put it in making it all legal).

    anyway i feel your pain. a few of the ticket agents and TSA employees are not up to speed on their own policies and procedures.
     
  16. Run&Shoot

    Run&Shoot Member

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    I have flown delta, Southwest and Alaska few times with a handgun with zero problems, and I packed it just the way you did on your first leg of the trip to Florida. That is exactly correct and you and TSA are justified in being concerned. I too have found TSA people to be extremely polite and helpful, and am impressed they hand walked it out to the plane. They obviously "get it" about the end goal of safety, not just the literal words in a policy statement.

    One idea for future situations. I once mistakenly checked in at a Delta counter when I had a United ticket. Delta was more than happy to convert my ticket to their airline at no charge. If I ever get hassled by an airline I am bee lining it over to a competitor's counter to see of I can just switch airlines instead of enduring some nonsense hassle.
     
  17. Aguila Blanca

    Aguila Blanca Member

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    Isn't it contrary to TSA regulations to NOT have the gun case inside a larger suitcase? I thought that was mandatory.
     
  18. Crash79

    Crash79 Member

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    There is no TSA regulation that says that you can't transport the gun case separate from a suitcase. The only requirement is that the gun is inside a hard sided/locked case and it isn't loaded.
     
  19. Aguila Blanca

    Aguila Blanca Member

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    That's the trouble with laws and regulations. They're written in such complex language that even two moderately intelligent people can read the same passage and arrive at different meanings. I guess the lawyers do that to be sure they'll always have work.

    I found a link to this from the airline travel information on www.packing.org. It's from:

    [Code of Federal Regulations]
    [Title 49, Volume 8]
    [Revised as of October 1, 2003]
    From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
    [CITE: 49CFR1540.111]

    [Page 295]

    I have always interpreted this section to mean that the "bag" is different from the "hard case" in which the firearm is carried. I will concede, now that you bring it up, that it might be interpreted otherwise, but I'm going to stick with the interpretation I've been accustomed to.
     
  20. xsquidgator

    xsquidgator Member

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    Ever since reading Atlas Shrugged, I don't think the regs are this damn cumbersome, confusing, and ambiguous by accident. The bureaucrats want everyone to be afraid and unsure of the rules, this gives them even more power over us.

    I am considering a trip from Orlando up to Tennessee by air, and in the vein of making sure at least the doofuses at the airlines get the exposure, this time I think I'll go through the hassle of bringing a handgun and CWP. The excitement of possibly getting my pistol confiscated or having to leave it at my parent's house should spice the trip up nicely!
     
  21. Crash79

    Crash79 Member

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    I agree that your interpretation of federal law (which is what you have quoted) is correct. There is no doubt about it - the federal government/TSA allows the ammo to be in the same container as the firearm as long as the gun itself is not loaded. The problem is that since AirTran is a private company they have the right to place restrictions on the transport of firearms that are even more restrictive than federal law/TSA policy. In fact this is exactly what they have done.
     
  22. bogie

    bogie Member

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    So, do we have any addresses/e-mail/phone for the airline yet?

    They have the "right," but they also need to be told about just HOW they are (a) screwing up; and (b) alienating people who can afford to buy their tickets.
     
  23. 10 Ring Tao

    10 Ring Tao Member

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    Same exact thing happened to me. The ghetto agent obviously had a chip on her shoulder, and despite having the printed regs in my hand, wouldn't relent. Fortunately, I was flying with my brother, and was able to just put the ammo in his bag.

    Absolutely retarded policy, and ambiguously written to boot.
     
  24. 10 Ring Tao

    10 Ring Tao Member

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    Maybe the thing to do is request clarification or a rewriting of thier policy, while pointing out that undue hassle WILL lose them ticket sales.

    http://www.airtranairways.com/contact/contact_other_locations.aspx

    Headquarters:

    AirTran Airways
    9955 AirTran Blvd
    Orlando, FL 32827

    Customer Relations:

    Customer Relations
    1800 Phoenix Blvd
    Suite 104
    Atlanta, GA 30349

    http://www.airtranairways.com/contact/contact_phone_numbers.aspx

    Customer Relations 1-866-AIR-CHAT (1-866-247-2428)
    Corporate Headquarters 1-800-965-2107
     
  25. glockman19

    glockman19 Member

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    I have not yet flown with my guns. Wouldn't it be better to just Fed Ex it to yourself overnight? For Example, if I'm going to Texas or Florida from California, I'd just overnight it to my friend's house or Mother in law's house and be there to sign for it the next day.

    And

    What if you Fed Ex the gun and pack the ammo? do you still have to declare the ammunition? It seems the hassle is at the airport. I would rather pay a little more and know that my package is shipped to me insured.
     
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