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Discussion Starter #1
I'm flying to NC to meet a boat in a few days, and I am planning to bring my inflatable PFD. I am planning to check it along with some other gear. Any words of wisdom? Should I expect problems / questions from the airline? If so, how should I mitigate them?

Thanks!
 

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Hunter 386
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Check the airline's website. They should have a list of things allowed/disallowed. I usually print out the page that has the pfd listed and either show it at the check in counter or pack it with the pfd. Sometimes the check in people don't know all the rules by heart.
 

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I believe the inflation canisters (any gas canisters) are not legal on US airlines. If you can't get a definitive answer from the airlines, leave them out of the pfd's so they can just remove them (and not the pfd's) and replace them wherever you are going.
 
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Mermaid Hunter
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I believe the inflation canisters (any gas canisters) are not legal on US airlines.
One installed and one attached spare inflation canister are allowed. There is a list on the TSA website. I print out the list, highlight the relevant section, and tape it to my PFD. It's okay for both carry-on and checked.
 

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We were not permitted to take an inflatable PFDw/ cannister in carry-on some years back.. it was quite a schmozzle as we had to arrange to mail it back home as we were awaiting a redeye departure.

The irony was that though the cannister was 'an issue', during the pretakeoff safety briefing it became evident there was already several hundred CO2 cannisters in the cabin - all the under-seat lifevests. All we could do was shake our heads..
 
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It is legal to ship an inflatable vest as luggage, just did it. Put a copy of the applicable regulation in with the vest but didn't look like the bag had been opened or otherwise inspected. Did unscrew the CO2 container and store separately. Didn't want a curious TSA employee accidentally inflating the vest. I searched this site for the official regulations.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks all. After a little bit of a web search, it appears that my airline (American this time) permits inflatables in checked bags, but not carry-on. I'll heed the advice about making it obvious that PFDs are permitted in checked bags in case someone gets interested.
 

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One installed and one attached spare inflation canister are allowed. There is a list on the TSA website. I print out the list, highlight the relevant section, and tape it to my PFD. It's okay for both carry-on and checked.
Just a couple of things to be aware of:

Those are the TSA guide lines but it is still at the discretion of the individual officer and some of them are clueless, so do take the list of permitted items, put the PFD in a separate bin for the scanner (not trying to hide anything, sir) and be super nice. I take mine in carry on because I figure that, worst case, I can always surrender the gas canisters and replace them later.

To get through security outside of the US you sometimes need written permission from the airline as well. Some airlines have it on their website to print off but some (BA for one) want several days to email one to you.

And don't forget that things can change overnight. I was flying on the first day of the liquids ban - absolute chaos!
 

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Mermaid Hunter
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Those are the TSA guide lines but it is still at the discretion of the individual officer and some of them are clueless, so do take the list of permitted items, put the PFD in a separate bin for the scanner (not trying to hide anything, sir) and be super nice. I take mine in carry on because I figure that, worst case, I can always surrender the gas canisters and replace them later.
Here is the TSA guide. http://www.maximuminflation.com/documents/prohibiteditems_brochure.pdf

While the airline reserves the right to have their own more restrictive rules the reality is that it is TSA you have to get through in the US. You'll have to check other countries, as I do, before transiting. Note that in some countries the airlines run security, not a national agency; the US used to work that way pre-TSA.

You are correct that the individual TSA officer in the US can make their own call my experience has been that being polite and asking for a supervisor generally leads to a teachable moment. I've had TSA supervisors pull a bunch of TSA officers together to explain what the PFD is, why it's allowed, how it relates to life jackets on the plane, and what the risks are (for the folks running x-ray and the swipes). It slows me down a bit *grin* but I've never lost a cartridge.
 

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Hasn't really changed in the last decade. Everything is at the discretion of the TSA inspector, and if that oaf punctures the cartridge to look inside, you have no recourse. OFFICIALLT the TSA did change their policy, to now formally allow PFDs, about 2-3 years ago but it is still subject to the arbitrary gate agents.
Under UN regulations (binding on the carriers) your PFD is "essential lifesaving equipment" and as such allowed in the cabin. Remember that phrase if you are asked to explain what it is. Also, you might either remove the cartridge, carry a retail packaged re-arm kit (which explains itself), or at least doubly-secure the cartridge against meddlesome fingers.
If you send it checked baggage, there's less risk and less problem. Except, the 500 baggage handlers that the TSA fires every year for tampering and theft. And again, a TSA inspector in the baggage x-rays might just pull the trigger.
No matter how you're doing it, you're rolling the dice. Take your best shot, just know there is no guaranteed way to ship it--except by post or courier.
Many people have had very good luck and no problems. Just be aware, the ultimate TSA regulation is "Whatever the guy who checks your bags wants to do, is what will be done." No appeal, no discussion. "Essential lifesaving equipment" per UN regulations and the IATA.
Oh, and: "You know, there's already about 150 of these on board the aircraft."
 

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Here is the TSA guide. http://www.maximuminflation.com/documents/prohibiteditems_brochure.pdf

While the airline reserves the right to have their own more restrictive rules the reality is that it is TSA you have to get through in the US. You'll have to check other countries, as I do, before transiting. Note that in some countries the airlines run security, not a national agency; the US used to work that way pre-TSA.

You are correct that the individual TSA officer in the US can make their own call my experience has been that being polite and asking for a supervisor generally leads to a teachable moment. I've had TSA supervisors pull a bunch of TSA officers together to explain what the PFD is, why it's allowed, how it relates to life jackets on the plane, and what the risks are (for the folks running x-ray and the swipes). It slows me down a bit *grin* but I've never lost a cartridge.
I wasn't trying to be argumentative. I fly a lot and this is my experience in the US also - they did give me a hard time about my deodorant once... long weird story there. The point I was making is that you can never be sure, things can change and having the PFD with you so you can explain and, if necessary, remove the cartridge, is not a bad idea.

From the TSA website allowable items :
"You may bring a life vest with up to two CO2 cartridges inside, plus two spare cartridges in your carry-on or checked bag.

Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane."

As for other counties, things are sometimes a bit more complicated than they initially appear. U.K. allows PFDs with written airline approval. BA's website says to call customer service to get the approval mailed or emailed to you. Customer service hadn't got a clue what I was talking about; I was told that I didn't need approval for a lifejacket but that I couldn't take CO2 canisters under any circumstances. I took me three phone calls and finally I received the approval the evening before I was due to fly.

BTW, when looking at airline rules, beware of code shares. It is the rules of the airline operating the flight, not the airline that issued the ticket. In the above example, I was traveling on an American Airlines ticket but that leg was operated by BA, so I needed a BA approval letter.

Bottom line: Approach things reasonably and you are almost certain to be o.k. but you have absolutely no rights, so it's prudent to be prepared... just in case.
 

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OFFICIALLT the TSA did change their policy, to now formally allow PFDs, about 2-3 years ago but it is still subject to the arbitrary gate agents.
Under UN regulations (binding on the carriers) your PFD is "essential lifesaving equipment" and as such allowed in the cabin. Remember that phrase if you are asked to explain what it is. Also, you might either remove the cartridge, carry a retail packaged re-arm kit (which explains itself), or at least doubly-secure the cartridge against meddlesome fingers.
The underlying TSA regulation (the detail beneath the brochure I linked to) is that installed cartridges and attached spares are allowed. That means separate recharge kits are not.

I fly with my PFD in carry-on multiple times each year, as recently as a month ago, domestically and internationally. Never a problem - some hiccups but never a problem.
 

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At the time of our incident (described previously) we were informed that had we been marine professionals it would have been permitted.. but then again, the supervisor who was called into the discussion also told us that the CO2 cartridge 'might start a fire'..... :rolleyes:
 

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Teachable moments?
Logic?
Rhetoric 101 perhaps?

Now, either the passenger is correct, i.e. that the undetermined device in question is harmless and can be allowed onboard, or,

The passenger is incorrect, in which case they may be lying. And the hermetically sealed and UNINSPECTABLE device may be many manners of weapon, including a poison-gas filled cannister with a release device inside.

So, either the passenger is right and you let them fly, or else you really would be obligated to call in HazMat and the Bomb Squad, in order to determine exactly what that uninspectable hermetically sealed cannister might really be. Tossing it in the "couldn't let it aboard" trash bin COULD result in mass casualties at the terminal otherwise. That would not be an appropriate solution.

And of course, if there really were 150 of these things on board every plane at the terminal (a quick look will prove there are one, sometimes two, under every seat in the sealed life vest packet) then it would not be safe to let ANY of those aircraft fly, until the contents of all those other cylinders was also confirmed.

That's just logical.

(Extra points if you can make the nice man cry and whine "MOMMY!", or resign.)

Never threaten, just explain what might be possible, and should be of concern. After all, few of us actually repack our CO2 cartridges. Who is to say that some clever terrorist organization didn't fill thousands of them with Sarin, and then distribute them to chandleries all over the nation?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Check the airline's website. They should have a list of things allowed/disallowed. I usually print out the page that has the pfd listed and either show it at the check in counter or pack it with the pfd. Sometimes the check in people don't know all the rules by heart.
Just wanted to drop in once more and say thanks for the advice. The quoted bit above was particularly valuable. The check-in counter person originally rejected my PFD, but relented when I showed them the print out from their website.
 
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