By friendly, I do mean friendly. The day began as we pulled into the Louisville, KY parking garage and I took my rifle and suitcase out of the car. I was excited about this adventure, and ready for anything. I really didn’t know what to expect. Louisville is a nice, quiet airport in a very gun friendly region, so I figured this was a great place to travel with a firearm for the first time. I walked into the airport, stepped into the United line, and was quickly at the check-in screen. I had read the United policy, the TSA regulations, and several other expert recommendations, including Julie Golob’s tips.
I began entering my info on the screen, and because I am Active Duty Military, United allows us to travel with no baggage fees. To get past the free baggage screen, an United representative had to come verify my Military ID. The United rep came to me and I pleasantly asked for an “Unloaded Firearms Declaration Form,” just as Julie suggested. The rep was really busy – and seemed pleasant as well. She didn’t even flinch – just said, “no problem”, reached in a drawer and pulled out the little red-orange tag and handed me a pen and went on to a different customer.
I asked her what to do with the tag, she said, just put it in the case. So, we unlocked my case, put the tag inside, and relocked the case. She didn’t ask to see it. She then weighed both pieces of luggage, put the normal luggage tags on each, and placed them on the conveyer belt. I asked her if I needed to do anything else, she said with a smile, “Nope, you’re all set”. That was too easy.
We decided to wait near security before I went through and have a cup of coffee, incase the TSA was going to call me. Eventually after lots of good conversation and a whole cup of Starbucks, I decided I had better get to my gate. I said goodbye to my friend and went through the TSA checkpoint, to my gate and boarded the plane. There was not one point of hassle at all. I figured in Louisville, it would not be too hard, but this was as easy as my normal luggage. It was amazingly simple. Unbelievably simple.
I had followed ALL the regulations, I had a hardside case, locks for which only I held the keys, and the weapon was unloaded. Maybe this is why it went well, maybe it is because it is a gun friendly state, either way – I was thrilled.
When I arrived at the San Diego airport, I walked straight to baggage claim. My rifle was in the oversized baggage space already so I took possession of it, and walked to the conveyor belt and grabbed my other suitcase and walked straight to the curb to wait for one of my friends to pick me up.
While I was standing there, leaning on my rifle case, an older business man pointed at my case and jokingly asked me, “Is that the new iPad?”
“Yes!” I kidded back, “It is a little bigger than I expected.” We both chuckled.
“You sure have it locked up well!” As he pointed out my Master locks on each end.
Smiling slyly, I retorted, “I have the darndest time with these things, it’s the only way I can keep from breaking the screen!”
Again, he smiled genuinely and knowingly, he knew this was no iPad, no trombone, no musical instrument. He knew exactly what I was doing – and probably had done so himself from time to time.
If this is any indication, I WILL travel with a firearm again. My best recommendation to anyone who has never done it is to research the airline, the TSA, and the airports you will be traveling through. Knowledge is your best defense against unnecessary hassle!