Don't know about foreign airlines, but many US airlines do permit you to fly with a PFD with it's inflation cylinder in place. I flew to Bermuda recently and informed the lady when I checked in that I had it in my checked luggage. She looked it up on her computer and said, "OK". I think it might be a good idea to have a copy of the CFR with you when you travel in case anyone questions it.
Info below was copied from Flying with Self-Inflating PFDs: Uncertain Limits Remain with Carriage of Life Jacket CO2 Cylinders
Federal Exception for Self-Inflating Life Jackets -
The current exception is found in Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Section 175.10 (25)
, "With approval of the aircraft operator, a passenger or crew member may carry in checked or carry-on baggage no more than two small gas cartridges containing no hazardous material other than a Division 2.2 gas that are fitted into a self-inflating life-jacket for inflation purposes, plus no more than two spare cartridges." TSA screeners should be aware of this change and prepared to allow self-inflating PFD through their checkpoints. A key disclaimer in this entire regulation is that the airline must also approve carriage of this gear on their aircraft. Most airline passengers aren't carrying PFD's on a routine basis and it shouldn't be a surprise that company polices will vary and not be understood by all employees.
A boater wishing to carry a self-inflating life jacket needs to consult with their airline of choose. Some carriers allow the PFD's to be in carryon baggage, others permit them as part of checked baggage and many prohibit them outright. Check company websites and call ahead of your planned trip. A recent check of published company policies produced these results:
- Alaska Airlines - No mention of self-inflating life jackets in their baggage policy
- Continental Airlines - Accepts one carbon dioxide (CO2) powered inflatable life jacket as checked or carry-on baggage. The life jacket may be packed in a checked or carry-on bag or carried as a single item in lieu of a checked or carry-on bag
- American Airlines - No life jackets inflated by CO2 cartridges allowed
- Delta Airlines - Accepts one self-inflating life jacket that contains one small carbon dioxide cylinder as checked baggage only
- Northwest Airlines - CO2 cartridges are allowed in carry on and checked baggage for self-inflating life vests. Two cartridges may be installed in the life vest and two spares may be carried. CO2 cartridges may not be carried for any other purpose.
- Southwest Airlines - Allows self-inflating life vests with two small gas cylinders and two small spare cylinders in checked baggage
Remember these regulations may not be applied consistently and may change
. If a TSA screener prohibits an inflatable PFD from passing their checkpoint, ask for the supervisor and refer to 49 CFR 175.10 (25). Boaters often attach knifes or place flares in their PFDs, don't go anywhere near the airport until these are removed from your life jacket. Be familiar with the baggage policy of your air carrier.