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Fly the friendly skies with your PFD

A new TSA rule allows air passengers to carry the compressed gas cylinders for inflatable life jackets

A new TSA rule allows air passengers to carry the compressed gas cylinders for inflatable life jackets

The Transportation Security Administration — the folks who screen you and your carry-on luggage at airports — will now let you go to your gate if you’ve packed your inflatable life jacket and spare carbon dioxide cylinder. But whether your airline will let you board with that baggage is something you’d better know before leaving home, warns US Sailing, the nation’s governing body for the sport.

“After a recent request from a member of US Sailing’s Safety-At-Sea Committee, the TSA announced that it had amended its policy to allow boaters to travel through security checkpoints at airports nationwide with a CO2 cylinder,” says US Sailing in a statement.

The new TSA rule, posted on the agency’s Web site ( ), is explicit: “There is a compressed gas cylinder exception for both carry-on and checked baggage that allows two compressed gas cylinders fitted into a self-inflating life jacket and two spare cartridges with the approval of the aircraft operator.”

US Sailing says the problem is that the “charged carbon dioxide cartridge on the inflatable is a hazardous material, as defined by the United States Department of Transportation Hazardous Material Regulation, and also a dangerous good, as defined by the International Air Transportation Association. These same rules apply whether you take your inflatable as carry-on or check it through. The regulation requires that you declare the hazardous material prior to boarding the aircraft.”

US Sailing says failure to declare the items can lead to federal charges.

There are ways to avoid problems at the airport altogether. Ship your inflatable PFD to your destination or leave the CO2 cylinders at home and buy replacements at your destination. But if you do decide to pack them in your luggage, US Sailing has some suggestions.

When booking your flight, check to see whether the airline allows CO2 cylinders with your life jacket in your luggage. Be sure to get the name of the person who says it’s OK and his or her department with the airline. And be sure to determine whether it is allowed as carry-on, checked luggage or both.

At the airport, if a TSA screener tries to confiscate your CO2 cartridge, which must be with the PFD, ask to talk with the supervisor. If the TSA supervisor is still unsure, US Sailing suggests directing that person to the TSA Web site.

Finally, US Sailing suggests placing a note with your PFD quoting the TSA announcement of the changed policy.