Delta’s Silly New Rules For Flying With Guns

If you’re thinking of flying with a firearm in the near future, I wanted to give you a heads-up…

In January, a deranged man flew from Alaska to Ft. Lauderdale, got his baggage, went into the bathroom, pulled out a checked pistol, loaded it, and started shooting defenseless people, killing 5.

It was horrible.

Delta had a choice to make.  They could make changes that would actually help people be safer, or they could engage in security theater that only harrasses their law abiding customers who regularly, legally, and safely travel with firearms.

They chose to harrass their customers.

I first ran into this a few months ago…and ran into it again this weekend.

Now, when you get to your final destination, if you’re trying to be low profile and carry a locked, hard sided gun case inside of ordinary luggage, Delta wants the world to know about it.

First off, they aren’t putting luggage with firearms in them on the normal carousel anymore.  You either have to claim your firearm from the Delta luggage desk or get it at oversized baggage.

Second, they’re putting a BIG sticker on luggage with firearms in them saying not to put it on the carousel.  No other luggage I’ve seen has this sticker…so every baggage handler, flyer, cab driver, bus driver, etc. knows that you have a firearm in your bag.

That’s not so bad…you can rip off the sticker pretty quickly.

But they went one step further.  They are zip-tieing the bags shut with heavy duty 3/8″ zip ties.

They don’t do it at the beginning of the flight…to provide some additional protection from a baggage handler one bad.  They do it at the end of your flight…sometimes right in front of you in the baggage claim area, specifically so that YOU can’t get into YOUR bag.

Think about that…if you’re flying, you can’t have sharp objects.  They zip-tie bags shut so you can’t get into them.  This leaves you with a few options…acquiring a blade, cutting it with 550 cord, melting it with a lighter, or shimming the locking mechanism being some of the easiest.

So, if you’re going to fly on Delta in the near future…have a plan before you go.

***OCTOBER 2017 UPDATE***  I’ve been avoiding Delta, but had to fly them last week.  They appear to have seen the error of their ways!  They didn’t ziptie my bag on either flight, and coming home it was even on the conveyor with the rest of the bags.  Right now, it seems like things are in a state of flux and the best advice is to be flexible and mentally prepared for whatever craziness you encounter.

Questions?  Comments?  Fire away below…

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  • Frank J Russo

    Reply Reply September 30, 2017

    Just got back from a round trip on Delta with my handgun. The check-in on the flight to my destination was so simple that I thought Delta had changed their policy. I signed the card, placed it in my suitcase in front of the agent, he put it on the belt, and I was on my way. I had put a knife in my wife’s suitcase to deal with the zip tie I thought I would encounter, but had no need for it. Retrieved my suitcase from the carousel on the other end.

    On the way home, my experience was very similar to what has been described by others. Plus, while checking in, Delta had me put my bag to the side, while they called a TSA agent over. He went through my entire suitcase right there, before repacking it in front of me, and granting me clearance. Upon arrival, I had to pick my bag up from the luggage desk, complete with zip lock, which really wasn’t such a big deal, since I was home in NJ where civilians can’t legally carry anyway.

  • Jim

    Reply Reply September 27, 2017

    I’ve travelled on Delta several times over the past year with firearms. The zip h tires started out with the 3/8 size but on my last trip, the agent only used a tie that was 1/8th. Quite easy to remove. Like the majority, I carry a nail clipper or a tactical knife in the exterior compartment of my luggage. It’s generally mixed in with dirty underwear. Easily cuts through the zip ties to enable me to verify that my gun(s) made it to the destination.

    Only problem I’ve had was when I was travelling with an old Winchester lever action that belonged to my late father. It was locked in a Pelican rifle case and I reluctantly used TSA locks on the outside but had a pair of Master padlocks inside the case. TSA didn’t want to inspect the handgun inside my luggage but had to open the rifle case. Problem was, they couldn’t get the TSA locks back on the case. Luckily, the paddocks were inside the case and the Delta counter agent called the gate agent to tell me about the lock problem. The counter agent went ahead and made sure the case was secured with the padlocks and then ran the keys to my gate so I wouldn’t miss my flight. Kudos to the Delta ticket counter agent and the gate agent for taking care of this!

    • Ox

      Reply Reply September 27, 2017

      Good stuff, Jim! The zip ties I’ve had on my bags so far have been 3/8-1/2″ (not positive which) but they were easily cut and easily shimmed. The issue I have is that it marks me and my bag as having a gun. Taking off the zip ties in the airport in front of people causes potential problems, as does going to the bathroom (like the Ft. Lauderdale murderer did) and removing the zip ties.

      Delta counter agents have been mostly good. There’s a LOT of them, so it’s impossible to make a blanket statement. Some are customer focused. Some had a bad night and aren’t glad to be at the airport at 0400. Some are shooters. Some are 2nd Amendment supporters. Some are neutral. Some are hostile. Some are just confused about guns because of no previous exposure. Some don’t know the TSA rules OR Delta’s rules on firearms, so I always have a printout when I go to check in my bags.

      It sounds like you got a GREAT one 🙂

  • Robert

    Reply Reply August 25, 2017

    Honestly, my biggest concern is will my weapons make it to my destination. I read on Delta’s website that they will cover your loss up to $5,000 dollars, not that I have a single firearm that costs that, but my DMR and SBR definitely break that ceiling. Also, you have to pay for the additional insurance. Not a lot, I think $50. It’s kind of like paying for insurance beyond the $50 standard you get for USPS Priority mail.) So, I guess I’m ok with the heavy duty zip ties. Granted it can still be compromised, but if it discourages some disgruntled, about to quit baggage handler from ripping off my pistols or rifles, then, I’m ok with that. I always and by always mean ALWAYS check a bag with a fixed blade and a one of my lockers, so by the time I either a) get my checked bag off the carousel, I’ll have a knife, or when if I get my gun. In all honesty, I probably would get my checked bag first, cut the ties, peel the stickers and go about my merry way. I’m going to see this first hand here pretty soon as I’ve got my eye on a couple of pistol/carbine courses I want to take that aren’t in Texas. We’ll see how it goes.
    I appreciate the heads up though!

    Stay dangerous.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply August 25, 2017

      Hey Robert, I’ve had airlines lose guns before. They get REAL serious REAL quickly. They want you to report it stolen to the police, but once you do that and the serial number is entered as a stolen gun, it can be impossible to undo.

      From what I’ve seen on my flights so far, the bags aren’t zip tied until they get to your final location…I’ve had them zip tied right in front of me. They’re marked as having a gun in them and they’re “secured” with a TSA lock that any 7 year old can get into. The zip ties don’t stop baggage handlers at all. Their only purpose is to keep YOU from getting in YOUR bag.

      I also carry knives in my checked bag…which are also in the zip tied luggage.

      But think through this with me for a second…

      If all of the airport & airline personnel in the baggage area know why the zip ties are on your bag, what do you think their reaction will be when you quickly and efficiently remove them? What do you think their assumption will be about your intent? What do you think their assumption will be if you pull your fixed blade knife out of another checked bag or an outer pocket on your main bag? Or if you go into the bathroom zip-tied up and come out without the zip ties on anymore?

  • Phil Meyers

    Reply Reply August 25, 2017

    I pack a 5″ pliers with a wire cutters in my carry on (you are allowed a pliers up to 6″ according to TSA). I also found that at least in St. Louis, they stopped using the zip ties due to customer feedback. The lady in the baggage office agreed it was a stupid idea, especially the day she had to zip tie the bags of a dozen law enforcement officers.

  • Anon

    Reply Reply August 25, 2017

    Am not sure exactly when the author flew Delta but I traveled last year no problem with my pistol on Delta. You inform the ticket agent and head to the oversize counter,display your locked hardside pistol case, they sticker it and your bag, done. Pick up on the other end was not a problem either. I’d rather hand pick my bag from a human than have my luggage circling on the carousel with my pistol inside. Didn’t take me out of my way really or add any more time to pick it up. The sticker on the bag was not outlandishly big and I travel with TSA locks anyway so zip ties are not going to sway me one way or the other. I’m sure that even with stickers announcing there is a gun inside a bag is not going to make the majority of airline employees more eager to pilfer your bags. The repercussions of being apprehended for a stolen weapons charge from luggage and any recovery with an employee still in possession of the firearm would be pretty stiff i.e., don’t think you have to worry about it too much. Delta and airport staff have always been great to me when traveling with firearms – maybe I’m just lucky – or maybe I’m just thankful we little guys still have the right to fly with our choice of firearm.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply August 25, 2017

      Thanks for your comment, Anon…I apologize if I wasn’t clear on the timing, but my most recent time experiencing this with Delta was twice in the last 10 days. It happened since the murderer in Ft. Lauderdale in January, so it wouldn’t have affected you last year.

      The sticker they’re using on bags with guns in them are different than the oversized sticker you may have had last year.

      I also apologize if there was confusion on the zip ties vs. TSA locks. I use TSA locks on my outside bag and non-TSA locks that only I have the key to inside. I’ve used this combination several hundred times when flying with firearms over the years without a problem. The zip ties are in addition to whatever locks you have on your bag and their sole purpose is to keep YOU from getting into YOUR bag. They say that it’s to keep everyone safe, but it marks you as having a firearm outside of the airport until you remove them…whether it’s in a cab, in the rental car shuttle bus, with Uber, checking into your hotel, etc.

      And God forbid if you actually have to use the restroom after picking up your bags. The false fear on some people’s faces is almost tangible. All in all, it was a mistake on the part of Delta. I appreciate them wanting people to be safer…I just wish they would have taken REAL steps instead of engaging in security theater. As an example, some airports now have an armed off-duty police officer in the baggage area…or even in the Delta baggage office. This has the possibility of actually stopping a threat, regardless of whether it’s a copycat passenger, or someone coming in off of the street knowing they’ll have easy access to a mass of unarmed people.

      I hope you understand…I’m thankful for the fact that our right to travel with firearms is still mostly intact (we may fly different places). What I don’t appreciate is that one bad actor committed an evil act. ONE. Not 10, 100, or 1000, but ONE in the last several decades and every single law abiding gun owner who flys on Delta with a firearm got punished for it and nobody is safer.

  • Wendy Martin

    Reply Reply August 25, 2017

    Agree with comments above, well I won’t be flying Delta anytime soon, I heavy-duty toenail clipper has trouble through airport security for several years in my hand carry baggage or purse without any problem and will quickly and easily dispose of even heavy duty cable ties.

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