TSA History -
Small CO2 cylinders associated with self-inflating life jackets were initially banned after September 11, 2001 onboard aircraft. During early 2006, adopting polices used by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the TSA began to allow carriage of self-inflating personal flotation devices (PFD) that used CO2 cylinders. Following the liquid explosives threat occurring later in 2006, the TSA reversed their decision again and prohibited passage of these life jackets through airport screening stations. The Safety at Sea Committee of US Sailing requested a formal evaluation from TSA concerning their policy on the life jackets. Following this request and a review by TSA, CO2 cylinders associated with a self-inflating life jacket will be allowed to pass airport screening stations again on 4 August 2007.
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.