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Airline Baggage: Traveling with Special Items

Airlines have seen it all. They have seen passengers transport every type of item - from tubas to scuba gear, parachutes to perishables - and they have rules in place for each and every piece. Following those rules is critical if you want to board smoothly and arrive at your destination on time.

To help you travel better with the possessions you simply must have at your destination, here are some helpful guidelines from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for transporting special items by airlines.

Please note that some airlines and other countries may have additional rules and restrictions on these particular items, so before you travel, check with your travel agent to obtain the most up-to-date information. Your travel agent can verify your airline's policies before you arrive at the airport, so you don't waste time trying to track down the info yourself.

Alcoholic Beverages
Travelers may now carry through security checkpoints travel-size toiletries (3 ounces or less) that fit comfortably in ONE, QUART-SIZE, clear plastic, zip-top bag. With the exception of medications, any amount of liquid including alcohol greater than three ounces must be packed in your checked baggage. However, you cannot take alcoholic beverages with more than 70 percent alcohol content (140 proof), which includes grain alcohol and high-proof rums like Bacardi 151, in your checked luggage.

As for alcohol between 24 percent and 70 percent, you may take up to five liters per person in your checked luggage if it's packaged in a sealable bottle or flask. Alcoholic beverages with less than 24-percent alcohol content are not subject to hazardous materials regulations.

Liquids, including alcohol purchased after clearing the security checkpoint are permitted aboard aircraft.

Camping Equipment
Camp Stoves - You can bring these as carry-on or checked luggage only if they are empty of all fuel and cleaned so that there are no vapors or residue left - simply emptying the fuel container will leave flammable vapors, so cleaning is essential. Safest bet: ship the fuel containers to your destination ahead of time - passengers frequently have to leave them at the checkpoint because of fuel vapors.

Can of GasolineGasoline - You cannot bring any flammable liquids, including gasoline, in either your carry-on or checked luggage.

Aerosol insecticides - Hazardous aerosols, such as insecticides, cannot be transported in either your carry-on or checked luggage. Personal items like hair sprays and deodorants are allowed only in limited quantities.

Flare Guns - You may pack flare guns in checked baggage, but they must be unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided container, and declared at check-in. You cannot take these items in your carry-on bag.

Flares - You may not bring flare guns in either your carry-on or checked luggage.

Knives and Tools - Pack knives and tools in your checked luggage. Sheath or securely wrap any sharp edges so that they do not injure baggage handlers and security officers.

Animal Repellants - You can bring chemical repellants in your checked luggage if the volume is less than four ounces and its active ingredient is less than two percent (most bear repellants exceed these limitations). Safest bet: buy these items at your destination and leave them behind when your trip is over.

Compressed Gas Cylinders - Compressed gas cylinders are allowed in checked baggage or as a carry-on only if the regulator valve is completely disconnected and the cylinder is no longer sealed (i.e. the cylinder has an open end). The cylinder must have an opening to allow for an internal visual inspection, and security personnel will not remove the seal or regulator at the checkpoint.

If the cylinder is sealed (i.e. the regulator valve is still attached), the cylinder is prohibited and not permitted through the security checkpoint, regardless of the reading on the pressure gauge indicator.

Crematory Containers and Deceased Remains
You are allowed to carry-on a crematory container, but it must pass through the x-ray machine. If the container is made of a material that prevents the screener from clearly viewing what is inside, then the container will not be allowed through.

Crematory containers are made from many different types of materials, so it's difficult to state for certain whether your particular crematory container can successfully pass through an x-ray machine. Just in case, purchase a temporary or permanent crematory container made of a lighter weight material such as wood or plastic that can be successfully x-rayed.

You may transport the urn as checked baggage provided that it is successfully screened. TSA will screen the urn for explosive materials/devices using a variety of techniques; if cleared, it will be permitted as checked baggage only. Out of respect for the deceased, the screener may not open the container under any circumstance.

Some airlines do not allow cremated remains as checked baggage so please check with your travel agent before attempting to transport a crematory container in checked baggage.

Bag of MoneyCurrency, Coins, Precious Metals, or Valuable Jewelry
If you are carrying valuable items such as large amounts of currency, coins or jewelry, ask the security officer to screen you and your carry-on luggage in private. This will maintain your security and avoid public scrutiny. Ask to speak with a screening supervisor before you reach the metal detectors and tell them you would prefer to be screened in a private location.

Firearms & Ammunition
You may only transport firearms, ammunition and firearm parts in your checked baggage; these items are prohibited from carry-on baggage. When transporting firearms, firearm parts or ammunition in checked baggage, you must declare them to airline personnel during the ticket counter check-in process. The firearm must be unloaded and in a locked, hard-sided container.

You should remain present during the screening and provide the key or combination to the security officer if he or she needs to open the container. If you are not present, and the security officer must open the container, the airline will make a reasonable attempt to contact you; if they cannot, the container will not be placed on the plane.

You must securely pack any ammunition in fiber (such as cardboard), wood or metal boxes or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition. You cannot use firearm magazines/clips for packing ammunition unless they completely and securely enclose the ammunition (e.g., by securely covering the exposed portions of the magazine or by securely placing the magazine in a pouch, holder, holster or lanyard).

You may carry ammunition in the same hard-sided case as the firearm, as long as you pack it as described above. Finally, you cannot bring black powder or percussion caps used with black-powder type firearms in either your carry-on or checked baggage.

Hunting & Fishing Equipment
Hunting Knives, Spear Guns, Bow and Arrows - All are prohibited from carry-on luggage and should be packed in checked luggage. All sharp objects should be sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and security screeners.

Fishing Rods/Poles - Fishing rods are permitted as carry-on and checked baggage. But before you travel, check with your air carrier to confirm that it fits within its size limitations for carry-on items.

Tackle Equipment - Fishing equipment should be placed in your checked baggage, for some tackle can be considered sharp and dangerous. Expensive reels or fragile tackle (such as flies) can be packed in your carry-on baggage.

Knitting Needles, Needlepoint & Sewing
Knitting needles are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage. However, security officers have the authority to determine if an item could be used as a weapon and may not allow these items to pass through security. To avoid this from happening, bring circular knitting needles made of bamboo or plastic and blunt scissors. In any event, be sure to carry a crochet hook with yarn to save the work you have already done in case your knitting tools are surrendered at the checkpoint

Most of the items needed to pursue a needlepoint project are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage with the exception of circular thread cutters or any cutter with a blade contained inside. These items must go in your checked baggage.

Lighters, Matches and Zippos
In an effort to concentrate resources on detecting explosive threats, TSA will no longer ban common lighters in carry-on luggage. Torch lighters remain banned in carry-ons. You may not bring matches in your checked baggage because of safety regulations. You may, however, bring one book of safety (non-strike anywhere) matches in your carry-on baggage or on your person.

For safety reasons, you may not bring "strike anywhere" matches at all.

If you are uncertain as to whether your lighter is prohibited, please refrain from bringing it to the airport.


Musical InstrumentsMusical Instruments
You may bring musical instruments as carry-on or as checked baggage, but first check with your airline prior to your flight to ensure your instrument meets the size requirements for their aircraft. Security officers must x-ray or physically screen your instrument before it can be transported on an aircraft.

As for specific instruments, pack brass instruments in your checked baggage and stringed instruments as carry-on items, if they are within carrier size limitations.

If you have an instrument in your checked baggage, include short instructions (very clear and understandable to someone with no musical background) for handling and repacking your instrument. Make sure these instructions are easy to find on or near your instrument.

Per TSA Screening Policy, you may carry one musical instrument in addition to your one carry-on and one personal item through the screening checkpoint. Individual airlines may or may not allow the additional carry-on item on their aircraft, so check before you arrive at the airport.

Parachutes
You may bring skydiving rigs with and without Automatic Activation Devices (AAD) as carry-on or checked luggage. Typically, a rig will move through the checked luggage or carry-on security screening process without needing physical inspection. However, security officers have a duty to thoroughly inspect any item that raises suspicion. If security officers determine that they need to open a rig to inspect it, you must be present and will be allowed to assist. For this reason, skydivers should add at least 30 minutes to the airline's recommended arrival window when they are traveling with their parachutes.

When checking the parachute in as luggage, pack the rig separately without any other items in the bag. Additional items, if suspicious, could trigger an inspection of the entire bag. Parachute owners may help security officers unpack and repack the rig.

Scuba Equipment
You may bring regulators, buoyancy compensators and masks, snorkels and fins as carry-on or checked baggage

Knives and spear guns are prohibited from carry-on luggage and should be packed in checked luggage. Sheath or securely wrap any sharp objects you pack in your checked luggage to prevent them from injuring baggage handlers and security officers.

Sporting Equipment
Certain sporting equipment cannot be brought on-board an aircraft, but they may be transported to your destination in your checked baggage. These items include baseball bats, cricket bats, hockey sticks, martial arts devices, golf clubs, pool cues, ski poles and spear guns. Any sharp objects in checked baggage should be sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and security officers.

*This information is current as of May 2009

 

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