Delta Airlines: Handgun In Checked Luggage Experiences?


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Does anyone have any recent experiences with checking a handgun in checked luggage on a Delta Airlines flight? I travel frequently via airlines other than Delta but this trip (Atlanta-LAX-Atlanta) will be my first time on Delta in 30 years. With all my previous air travel, I'm very familiar with the TSA and general airline requirements for securing, declaring and checking (in checked luggage) a handgun. My main concern, and the reason for this post/query, stems from rumors I've heard that Delta Airlines somehow marks or codes bags containing a declared firearm in checked luggage, and has them re-routed to their baggage claim office, rather than having them go down the chute and show up on the baggage carousel. It’s my understanding that an airline marking a bag with a gun inside it violates a Fed regulation - or maybe it's just a TSA rule - that checked bags containing firearms NOT be so marked on the outside. Delta is the only airline I've "heard" that (maybe) does this, but don't know if it is even true. (No, calling Delta and asking them is not going to be any help; the typical Customer Service Agents who answer calls are not very knowledgeable about this topic.) I may try to find and call a Delta "Ground Security Coordinator" - they are the ones who'd have reliable info on this subject - but trying to find the right phone number for that person is likely going to be difficult. Anyway, in the meantime, if anyone has any recent experience with declaring a handgun in checked luggage on a Delta Airlines flight - and what transpired when you retrieved your luggage at the destination - please feel free to share it! Thanks.

Did you think to look on Delta's website?
Link Removed

All firearms checked as baggage must be picked up at the Baggage Service Office upon arrival at your final destination. ID will be required to claim your checked firearm.

So, it's pretty clear they are going to mark your luggage as having to be picked up in person, showing an ID to get it. And marking the outside of luggage containing a firearm in a way that indicates it contains a firearm violates Federal law, 18 USC 922 e:

(e) It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to deliver or cause to be delivered to any common or contract carrier for transportation or shipment in Link Removed, to persons other than licensed importers, licensed manufacturers, licensed dealers, or licensed collectors, any package or other container in which there is any firearm or ammunition without written notice to the carrier that such firearm or ammunition is being transported or shipped; except that any passenger who owns or legally possesses a firearm or ammunition being transported aboard any common or contract carrier for movement with the passenger in interstate or foreign commerce may deliver said firearm or ammunition into the custody of the pilot, captain, conductor or operator of such common or contract carrier for the duration of the trip without violating any of the provisions of this chapter. No common or contract carrier shall require or cause any label, tag, or other written notice to be placed on the outside of any package, luggage, or other container that such package, luggage, or other container contains a firearm.
I made a recent trip from GA to CA on Delta. What you have heard is correct. Upon my return I had to retrieve my bag (with my handgun) in the baggage office.

I believe it depends on the airport. In CA my bag was on the carousel. Atlanta TSA did a much more thorough inspection of my bag. I had to open my gun case and they looked through my bag. Returning from CA, LAX only opened my bag to verify my gun was in a locked case. They verified I had a key, closed my bag and sent me on my way.

One would expect CA to have done a more thorough inspection just to hassle you as a gun owner rather than Atlanta.
Since Jan1 I have flown 4 legs on Delta, 2 on Alaska and 1 on Southwest, all of them with a firearm in checked baggage. My experiences vary widely with each airline, but with Delta it varies from airport to airport. In Seattle and Las Vegas, I've been asked to open my case to verify that the firearm is unloaded. As if they have been trained to really verify this. I've shown them that my Glocks have no magazine in the magwell, but never shown that there isn't a round in the chamber - again, as if they want me lifting the gun with two hands, I can open the slide. In Phoenix, the Delta attendant said, "No, I don't want to see inside the case. We're not trained for that, and that's why we have you sign a card that states the gun is unloaded". This seemed like the best and most reasonable answer I've heard. My experiences with Alaska and Southwest are the same as this last one with Delta - "Just sign the card, and we're good...".

Delta puts a CAGPT sticker on the bag, with stands for "Check and Give Protection to" which seems like a "This bag has something worth taking" sign. This means that it doesn't go out on a standard carousel at the end of the flight. When I picked up my bag in Vegas, it had a series of heavy duty zip ties locked around it, length and width wise. I asked if they would remove them, and they said it was there policy (since late January apparently, since it didn't happen in early January) to not allow them to be removed until after you left the airport. I told them my multitool to remove them was inside the bag. They didn't care. So I walked around the airport (an airport that allows open-carry without permit, by the way), and to the rental car pavilion, with a bag that screamed, "I've got a gun inside, come try and take it from me". I thought that if it was zip tied during the entire flight, at least that makes it more difficult for some baggage handler to get into it while it's outside of my control. My return to Seattle showed me that this isn't the case. I was at the "special pickup area, when the bag arrived - unzip tied. The local agent (who kept apologizing for the stupidity of the act) was forced by Delta policy to zip tie it before she gave it to me. So, This is Delta's way of saying, "after a year, this is how we are doing our part to make sure a Ft. Lauerdale type airport shooting doesn't happen." It's ridiculous, really.

As for Alaska and SW - it has extra identification tags, and has to pass the TSA extra screening. However, once at the destination, the tags are removed and it is placed on the standard carousel, like normal luggage. This seems appropriate - and I make sure I'm at the carousel when the bags start coming out.

So, your mileage will vary depending on the airport, and the particular representative you get. There will most certainly be aspects of the process that don't pass the "basic reasonable" test, but so far my firearms have ended up in the right place everytime. Guess that's the PC world we live in now days.
Regarding Delta's rumored practices, it's understandable that you'd want to clarify the situation. I agree that contacting their customer service might not always yield the most accurate information. Finding a Delta Ground Security Coordinator sounds like a promising approach, although it can be a bit of a challenge to track down the right contact. On a related note, if you're considering future travel plans and aiming to make your journeys even more comfortable, there are savvy ways to find business class flight deals. It can significantly enhance your overall travel experience
I've had my bag go to the carrousel and to the baggage counter depending on the city it seems or the employee interpretation of the day. I don't mind going to the baggage counter personally. Overall it almost seems easier to travel with a gun. YMMV

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