Or, depending on local laws, TSA may just tell you to (properly) put the gun in checked luggage. Or leave it behind.
But we’re headed for trouble. Last week TSA reported that in the first 6 months of 2022, TSA officers have already found more than 3,000 guns at checkpoints around the country.
That’s an average of 17 guns per day. And at this pace, TSA will surpass the previous record of 5,972 guns found at airport checkpoints in one year. That record was set in 2021, a year when far fewer people were traveling.
If you’re flying to any airport near Washington, D.C. in the days leading up to the inauguration, you’ll have to leave your firearms at home.
Based on the events over the past few weeks in the nation’s capital, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, and United Airlines are imposing a temporary ban on checking firearms.
Additional security measures are being put in place as well.
In most cases, credentialed law enforcement personnel and active-duty military members traveling on orders are exempt from the policies.
“To ensure the safety of our customers and employees, customers flying into the Washington, D.C. area (DCA, BWI, IAD and RIC) from January 16 – 23 will not be permitted to transport firearms in their checked bags. As a reminder, firearms are never permitted in carry-ons,“
*Increased mask enforcement on the ground and in the air.
* A limit on the number of tickets to be sold to and from the Washington, D.C. area;
*And and a requirement that all passengers traveling to and from the DC metro area stay seated one hour after take-off and one hour before landing .
“We will have a dedicated command center to monitor every phase of the journey – check-in, boarding, taxi, climb, cruise, descent, and arrival – to ensure compliance and allow us to quickly respond to and resolve any incidents,” the airline said in its statement.
Other airlines are doing much the same. Some are banning the sales of alcohol on flights as well.
The safety of our customers and team members is our top priority. As an additional precautionary measure in advance of the Presidential Inauguration, firearms may not be transported in checked bags on flights into Washington, D.C.-area airports (DCA, IAD and BWI) from January 16 – 23, 2021. Credentialed law enforcement officials and active duty military members traveling on Department of Defense orders will be exempt.
Firearms are never allowed to be brought onboard our planes as a carry-on item.
In the meantime – in case you missed it, here’s a slightly edited version of that column that was inspired by the report of a large alligator caught on tape sauntering across a taxiway between two ponds at Orlando International Airport.
That’s so Florida! Pilots of a Spirit flight departing MCO today had to pause on the taxiway and give right of way to a local resident out for a morning stroll. Passengers caught a rare glimpse of an alligator trudging from one pond to the next. 🐊 pic.twitter.com/xK12ydomLX
Whle the gator’s journey alarmed passengers and slightly delayed a Spirit Airlines flight on its way to the gate, at MCO airport wildlife visitors are not rare.
“For that reason,” said MCO’s Carolyn Fennell, “We have a biologist and wildlife unit on staff to help with planning new facilities, monitoring and relocating, when needed, various ‘critters’ on our property.”
All airports must manage resident and visiting wildlife because birds (mostly), as well as deer, alligators, coyote, moose and even an excess of worms on the runway after a rain (a feast for birds) can create safety hazards that lead to costly and, in some same cases, deadly collisions between aircraft and animals.
A report from the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that in 2015 alone wildlife strikes would ding the US civil aviation industry about $229 million in direct costs and require more than 69,000 hours of aircraft downtime. But despite lingering memories of the 2009 bird strike near New York’s LaGuardia Airport that led to the “Miracle on the Hudson,” Cody Baciuska of Loomacres Wildlife Management says “Passengers should not be concerned about experiencing a strike the next time they fly.”
His confidence comes from the fact that airports are aggressive about managing and monitoring wildlife and constantly network with each other about best practices for deploying a wide variety of tools that include everything from visual and auditory deterrents, fencing, netting and spikes to lasers and all manner of pyrotechnics
In 1999, Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) in Fort Myers was the first airport to add a Border collie to it wildlife management team to help shoo away birds that might otherwise nest and roost on airport property. (The current dog is named Echo; previous ones were Jet, Radar, Sky and Aero.)
Elsewhere, airports team up with airlines, environmental groups, community volunteers and others to humanely trap, relocate and resettle raptors such as hawks, ospreys and owls.
On the east coast United Airlines, Audubon International and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey work together to trap American kestrels (a climate-threatened small falcon) at Newark Liberty International Airport and send them to new homes on area golf courses with more welcoming habitats.
Each year Seattle-Tacoma International Airport carefully collects and relocates fuzzy baby chicks from the nests of resident red-tailed hawks.
“We actually climb the trees and take the chicks out of the nest and take them up north where we raise them to imprint on a different location,” said Mikki Viehoever, the wildlife biologist for the Port of Seattle.
Portland International Airport, located on the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers and along a Pacific migratory flight path for birds, has a very active raptor translocation program.
“Trapped raptors are taken to suitable release sites in Oregon & Washington by car or plane,” said Nick Atwell, wildlife manager for the Port of Portland. “We’ve partnered with Alaska Airlines for transport to northern Washington with the intent of increasing the distance from PDX.”
Atwell and his team tag and band each bird they relocate and keep an online database of sightings. “We want to track the success or failure of the program,” said Atwell. “And find out if a bird comes back to the airport and inform other airports what might be the best distance for translocating animals.”
In January 2017, a 15-foot dead whale washed up near the end of a runway at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. “We worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to remove it,” said Laura Francoeur, chief wildlife biologist for the Port authority of New York and New Jersey, “Because you don’t want to leave a dead whale there to attract scavengers.”
Each year during nesting season for Diamondback terrapins, Fancoeur and her team also monitor the turtles migrating between a nearby wildlife refuge and the shores of Jamaica Bay. In past years, hundreds of turtles marched – slowly – across a runway, causing planes to be delayed. Now plastic barriers keep most of the turtles out of harm’s way, while staff swoop in to gather up and relocate any terrapins that insist on taking the shortcut.
Photo_Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
In addition to capturing and relocating alligators – some more than 9 feet long – at some southern airports, wildlife biologists and wildlife technicians from the USDA’s Wildlife Services unit help keep a zoo’s worth of wildlife away from taxiways and runways. Their ‘highlight’ list includes Nile Monitor Lizards, pythons, porcupines (whose quills can damage airplane tires) and loons.
Courtesy USDA Wildlife Services
“What most people may not know about loons is that they are unable to walk on land,” said USDA spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa. Loons may land on a wet runway believing they’re landing on water and are then unable to get back up. “Our employees have had to physically pick loons up in order to release them,” said Espinosa.
At some coastal airports oysters, clams and other shellfish have become an issue, requiring teams to go out with sweepers.
“During low tides, gulls and other birds go hunting for shellfish and then drop them on open areas, such as runways, to crack them open,” said Espinosa, “While this is a great example of bird ingenuity, it is very dangerous for airports as sharp shell parts can puncture tires, get sucked into engines, damage aircraft and cause accidents.”
In Alaska, USDA Wildlife Biologists and Wildlife Technicians also help wrangle musk ox and caribou.
Musk Ox sometimes form defensive circles on the runways, said Espinosa and “And it can be very time consuming to get them out of the way.” Several hundred to several thousand caribou sometimes cross runways during migration. “It can be a beautiful sight, but also dangerous for human safety and air travel,” said Espinosa.
Last year salmon were spotted swimming across a flood-prone runway at Alaska’s Seward Airport and, after several days of storms, crew clearing snow at the Wiley Post-Will Rogers Memorial Airport in Utqiaġvik (the city formerly known as Barrow) came upon a 450-pound Bearded Seal lounging on the runway.
Courtesy Scott Babcock, Alaska Dept of Transportation Public-Facilities
The runway is about a quarter mile from the ocean, but airport staff believe the seal made a mile-long trek around the runway to get to its chosen spot.
“Animal control was called, and they loaded the seal onto a sled and pulled it off the runway with a snow machine,” said Meadow Bailey, spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, “We refer to this as the day we warned of ‘low sealings’ at the airport.”
Have you spotted wildlife at your airport? Please share the story in the comments section below.
TSA’s blog has some helpful information for anyone heading home through San Diego International Airport after attending Comic-Con International this week – and for those traveling with collectibles and souvenirs from this or any other special event.
TSA suggests that if you’re traveling with a collectible item that has an original seal on it that you don’t want broken, that you ship it home instead of taking the chance that the seal will broken during a TSA search.
Getting dressed up in a costume to attend an event? TSA reminds travelers that neither replica weapons nor real weapons should be placed in carry-on bags and that while both replica weapons and real weapons can be packed in checked bags, actual firearms must meet packing guidelines and be declared.
And, TSA s suggests that if you’re traveling with a lot of brochures, comic books or other books that you put them in your carry-on bag and then place them in a bin prior before sending them through the x-ray machines.
Those items can show up as dense blocks and “Packing these items in checked bags may cause alarms leading to bag searches that can cause a significant slowdown in the screening process leading to delays and bags possibly missing their flights,” says TSA.
If you plan on traveling any time next year, the question is a pertinent one. Travelers with driver’s licenses from New York, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Louisiana, American Samoa or another state or territory the Department of Homeland Security deems not-compliant with the federal REAL ID act may soon be barred from using theirs as legal identification at the airport.
Up in the air, however, is whether “soon” means early or late 2016 — or a year or more.
DHS has already completed three separate phases of its REAL ID enforcement plan, which covers access to nuclear plants and a wide array of federally protected facilities. However, the next phase adds commercial aircraft to the agency’s access list, and will take place sometime after the turn of the calendar year.
The exact rollout date will be announced soon, said DHS spokeswoman Amanda DeGroff adding that the agency will “ensure that the traveling public has ample notice before any changes are made that could possibly affect their travel planning.”
Until then, DeGroff said the Transportation Security Administration will continue to accept state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards from all states.
Congress enacted REAL ID back in 2005 as an anti-terrorism measure that sets minimum standards for states that issue licenses and state identification. The catch is that DHS is barring federal agencies, in this case the Transportation Security Administration, from accepting state IDs that fall short of the more stringent criteria.
This means some travelers may be in for an unpleasant surprise at airports next year.
While almost two dozen states issue driver’s licenses that are compliant with the law, numerous others have raised privacy and cost concerns. They, along with some independent advocacy groups, actively oppose the measure.
Some states, like Oklahoma, have laws on their books that explicitly prohibit complying with REAL ID; meanwhile, about two dozen non-complaint states have been granted extensions.
It’s unlikely the rule will take effect January 1, given the hurdles to compliance and the broad opposition.
“We expect that New Yorkers with standard-issue licenses will have more than a year notice before any change is implemented,” said Casey McNulty, a spokesman for the Empire State’s Department of Motor Vehicles. “New York has also applied for an extension to the law.”
When the final phase does ultimately take effect, travelers age 18 and over from states that remain non-compliant will need to a secondary or alternate form of identification. These include a U.S. passport or passport card, or one of the documents TSA’s authorized ID list, to pass through airport security checkpoints.
Travelers who do a little planning shouldn’t have a problem getting on their planes, but “rushes on passports will likely result in delays in getting applications processed,” noted Andrew Meehan, policy director of advocacy group Keeping Identities Safe and a Real ID supporter.
Still, “airports in noncompliant states will likely see long lines as travelers unaware of the changes will be turned away.”