December 28, 2017
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 hyper-regulated US airports and the more relaxed airports everywhere else. But there’s some gray area 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. The even-bigger variable is how well those agents are trained: in our experience, you’ll get ten different answers from ten different agents, 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)
• Cylinder must be empty, with 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 confiscation by poorly trained TSA employees).
• 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)
• Cylinder can be fully charged and can be checked through or carried on board.
• Cylinder (empty or full) MUST be accompanied by the airbag.
• Airbag system must be registered with the airline upon checking in. That way baggage handlers know what’s up when their scanner detects your cylinder. They’ll look up your baggage record and let it through since airbags are classified as an inflatable “lifesaving device.”
• 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 mainly only available in the US, Canada, Chile and Argentina. In Europe, retailers will generally swap your empty cylinder for a new one. In Japan, refilling US and European cylinders are not allowed: you’ll need to rent a Japanese cylinder upon arrival (unless you’re flying from outside the US; then you can just bring your full cylinder).
All of our refill, exchange, and rental locations can be found on our service center locator – select the correct category:
- North & South America – select ‘Cylinder Refill Centers’
- Europe – select ‘Cylinder Exchange Centers’
- Japan – select ‘Cylinder Rental Centers’
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 ‘er 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 turnover 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!