how to float through airport security with airbag

How to travel through airport security with your avalanche airbag

December 28, 2019

Traveling by air with a BCA Float pack can be a cinch, especially if there's a local refill center at your destination or if you bring along your own high-pressure pump. The key is to know the rules and how they differ between TSA regulations at U.S. airports and IATA regulations at airports everywhere else.

    Failsafe Float traveling: Abbi and Stu Edgerly prepare to breeze through DIA airport security with their BCA Float avalanche airbags.

    Traveling by air with a BCA Float pack can be a cinch especially if there's a local refill center at your destination or if you bring along your own high-pressure pump. It’s especially easy if you're not traveling to or from the U.S. The key is to know the rules and how they differ between U.S. and international airports. There are some gray areas to be aware of, especially if you have connecting flights between airports that follow different rules. The big question is whether your bags will be inspected by U.S.-trained TSA agents or by agents that follow the international (IATA) regs. So the safest bet is to carry the airbag pack and cylinder with you, along with a copy of the regulations.

      A properly packed Float airbag with a dismantled cylinder and cylinder head in a clean Ziploc bag (along with Consumer Refill Kit, just in case). This is the best way to prepare to travel by air with a Float avalanche airbag pack.
      • Here are the rules, as well as our universal suggestion for failsafe float traveling through airport security with your avalanche airbag system worldwide:

      Failsafe Solution (everywhere!)
      Carry your empty cylinder/head (in Ziploc bag) on board, along with your airbag pack. This solution works in all scenarios, whether you're flying in the US, Europe, Japan, or even the southern hemisphere.

      TSA (to and from the U.S. only)

      • The cylinder must be empty, with the cylinder head removed (easily accomplished with bare hands).
      • Put cylinder and head in a clean Ziploc bag and carry through the security checkpoint (you can also check them through, but you risk inadvertent confiscation ).
      • Reassemble and refill your cylinder upon reaching your destination, at an authorized refill center or with a high-pressure pump.
      • To learn how to prepare your cylinder for air travel: follow these how-to-pack instructions and watch our instructional video. We suggest taking care of this before you leave your home, rather than finding out later that you don't have the right tools or parts. Every Float cylinder comes with a Consumer Refill Kit with all the necessary items.

        A Benjamin high-pressure pump fits easily in a ski bag along with two pairs of skis and poles all totaling less than 50 pounds for air travel.

        IATA Air Travel Regulations (everywhere else)

        • The cylinder can be fully charged and can be checked through or carried on board.
        • The cylinder (empty or full) MUST be accompanied by the airbag.
        • The airbag system must be registered with the airline upon checking in so that the baggage handlers know what’s up when their x-ray scanner detects your cylinder. They'll look up your baggage record and let it through since airbags are classified as an inflatable lifesaving device. To register your airbag, look for that option if you check bags online—or tell the agent at the ticket counter when checking in at the airport.
        • We advise bringing a copy of the IATA Air Travel Regulations with you if you carry your system on board. If you check it through, then wrap the IATA document around your cylinder with a rubber band.

        Float Air Travel Documents

        Download and print, carry with you, attached to your cylinder for airport security!

        • Float Cylinder Commercial Air Travel How to Pack Instructions
        • US Travel TSA Float Cylinder Regulations
        • Non-US Travel IATA Float Cylinder Regulations
        • Refills/Exchanges/Rentals: See Service Center Locator

        Remember that refills are only available in the US, Canada, Chile, and Argentina. In Europe and New Zealand, retailers will exchange your empty cylinder for a new one. In Japan, refilling the US and European cylinders are not allowed. You can rent a Japanese cylinder upon arrival (unless you're flying from outside the U.S.; then you can just bring your full cylinder).

        All of our refill, exchange, and rental locations can be found on our store locator by selecting the Cylinder refill/exchange center category. This category includes rental centers in Japan.

        If you travel a lot (especially to Japan), we recommend keeping it simple and throwing a high-pressure pump into your ski/board bag. That way you can fill it up on your own time rather than trying to find an open refill/exchange/rental location.

          A happy BCA family exudes confidence before entering the TSA airport security checkpoint at Denver International Airport (DIA) with their Float avalanche airbags.

            Make my day. Abbi watches her mother's Float 17 Speed go into the scanner, hoping she gets questioned by security (she knows the rules better than they do).

            Kelowna, B.C./Frankfurt, Germany alert!
            Our experience is that when people have issues, it's usually when flying to and from Kelowna, BC (gateway to fabulous Revelstoke), and to and from Frankfurt, Germany (gateway to the Alps). Why Kelowna? Unlike Vancouver and Calgary, this is a predominantly domestic airport with a CATSA (Canada Air Transport Security Authority) security checkpoint instead of TSA. CATSA checkpoints follow the international, not TSA, rules. So if you bring your airbag through Kelowna, it must be registered, and the cylinder (empty or full) must be accompanied by the airbag pack. If you're eventually going to and from the U.S., make sure your cylinder is empty.

            Why Frankfurt? Because it's a huge airport with lots of turnovers and poorly trained personnel. Also, there are many connecting flights originating from domestic European airports. This means if you're flying from a small airport you'll need to meet the IATA regs when checking in and the TSA regs when you connect in Frankfurt. Your best bet is to make sure your cylinder and airbag are together and registered when you check-in. The smartest option is to bring them on board, along with a copy of the IATA regs in case you get grilled at the checkpoint by ill-trained personnel. If continuing on to the U.S., make sure your cylinder is empty.

            For more info, check out the air travel guidelines on our Float Resources page. Have a great trip!