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knives in checked luggage: to declare or not?


Oct 21, 1998
just got off the phone with twa about taking knives to the blade show. obviously i will have them in a suitecase and have it checked but do you tell the airlines that you have knives in there? twa said yes and the knives must be locked within a box/case inside the suitecase. also, i would be required to show the knives to prove that they are secured properly. when i asked what could happen if did not declare the contents and packed them anyway. she stated that the suitecase might not be loaded on to the plane! what is your personal experience with knives in this situation? all of those dealers and makers have to get their knives to atlanta somehow. the biggest advantage i can see if i declare the knives i can state a $$value in case the luggage is lost or stolen...dmc
Your TWA clerk is mistaking knives for firearms. Knives do not have to be declared.

Guns in checked luggage must be declared and in a locked, hard-sided container, unloaded, with ammo in a separate container (and they limit the amount of ammo you can carry). And the airline may ask to inspect the gun.

The airline's liability for lost or dammaged luggage is limited to $9.07 per pound to a maximum of $400 per bag to a limit of $1250 per passenger.

You may purchase "excess valuation" for your baggage, but only if it meets ATA standards. Without seeing it, I can say that your luggage probably does not. Believe it or not, even American Tourister and Samsonite top-of-the-line hardside suitcases do not meet ATA standards for excess valuation.

The best things you can do are:

Have your suitcase wrapped in palletizeing film (essentially big Saran wrap). This will discourage pilfering.

Have your suitcase fitted with a shackle for a good lock. The locks on suitcases are intended to keep the latches for coming open in rough handling, not for security. There are, for example, four keeps that, together, can open every Samsonite hardside suitcase ever made. You can buy all four at a luggage store. Disreputable baggage handlers carry the keys and can open and pilfer from the bags they handle. But, they want to be in and out quickly since they'll loose their job and get in serious trouble if they're caught. So, make yours difficult and they'll wait for the next one.

Use hardside luggage.

Be sure that your name and address is marked on the suitcase in several places and also inside.

Arrive early so that your bag makes your flight easily.

Ask not to have your bag offloaded down the chute at your destination, but held for pickup at the baggage counter. This will delay you considerably but will secure your bag.


I know some dealers ship their knives UPS ahead of them. UPS will let you insure your package as appropriate and they have a lot of experience with protecting valuable things in transit.

If the airline lost my Brend (and the entire bag it was in), how much would I get back? How much would it cost to insure for the flight? How much would UPS charge to get it there safely?

Stay sharp,
> If the airline lost my Brend (and the entire
> bag it was in), how much would I get back?

$400 is all the airline is obligated to give you. They often do pay higher claims to avoid bad publicity, especially when items mysteriously disappear out of locked suitcases.

> How much would it cost to insure for the
> flight?

Not much. Excess valuation is based on weight and value of the item. Excess valuation for a $10,000, 70lbs video projector is about $30 a flight. But, it does have to be in an ATA-approved container.

If you're wondering about these ATA containers, Anvil (http://www.anvilcase.com) is the major manufacturer. They have pictures on the website and you can see the kind of thing I'm talking about. The video projector mentioned above is 30lbs by itself. The empty case 40 more. But, it's got great wheels!



WOW what a great answer!

I can only ad that if you are like me and wish to carry a knife with you on board you may want to carry a self addressed stamped padded envelope with you with a priority mail stamp on it. Although I have never used mine some other members have. FAA regs are not very clear and subject to interpretation. Depending on who is looking at your knife when you go through the metal detectors, your knife may be subject to seizure. The envelope is a ticket home for your knife, just in case.

Now for those of you with knives which have a clip. I am not condoning ilegal activity here but if you feel you must bring your knife with you which is over the limit for FAA, and it has a clip, simply turn it into a makeshift money clip. When you get to the metal detectors toss it into the basket knife side down and put your keys or other metal objects on top. It has worked for me countless times. Once there was no basket and I actually through the knife with my money in it around the side of the metal detector and retreived it on the other side. The guy looked at me funny and I told him there was no basket and I did not want to hold up the line for a money clip.

Best Regards,
Mike Turber
BladeForums Site Owner and Administrator
Do it! Do it right! Do it right NOW!

Last time I flew with one of those projectors in an ATA case, I happened to be watching out the window of the plane as they unloaded the baggage. I easily recognized my projector as it came down the belt. The handler picked it up off the belt and tried to lift it to the upper shelf on the baggage trailer. This despite the fact that it has a big red sticker on both big sides that says, "Heavy -- 70 LBS. -- Do not lift". He lost it and it fell at least six feet to the pavement. I thought, "at least I've got excess valuation on that thing and at least I'm flying into a big city and can probably rent one to use here." When I claimed it, you could see the dent in the metal covering one of the corners. I unpacked it right there in the airport, set it up, powered it on, and it was fine. The ATA case did its job.

I've worked as an aircraft technician for the past 30 years. Most of the time I was traveling to, and working in, third world countries. Here are a couple of suggestions that worked very well for me over the years.

As was suggested by Gollnick in the threads above, ALWAYS use a good quality, hard sided suitcase. Put a hasp and lock on it. As an added measure of protection, put a double or triple layered wrap of duct tape around the complete suitcase on each side of the handle so that it covers the locking clasps and key tumblers that keep the bag closed. This serves several purposes. If the bag is dropped or smashed the duct tape will help keep it closed, even if the main hinge breaks. It makes it a lot tougher for a thief to get into your bag quickly and without being noticed. As an added bonus, you will be able to immediately spot your bag when it comes down the chute in the baggage area. Besides, who wants to risk going to jail over a bag held together with duct tape? It worked for me.

Next, I would suggest you trasport your knives in a good quality, metal tool box. Get one with drawers. Several companies (like Craftsman) make strong, drawer type boxes. I modified mine with a sheet metal plate that covered the exposed ends of the drawers and would lock in place with a hasp and lock. It took a lot of abuse over the years but I never lost a tool during shipment. The darned thing was like a safe. Your knives will have a safe place to rest while traveling, you can wrap and seperate the knives according to size in the drawers and you can check it in as a second piece of luggage. Voila, instant carrying and transportation case. A good box will probably cost about 1/3 the price of one custom made knife.


Una salus victus nullam sperare salutem. -Virgil
For soft luggage, I have used plastic cable ties to tie the two zippers together. Use the thickest one that will fit. Bring a bunch and keep it in your carry-on luggage. They are quite inexpensive when bought in bulk (bags of 50) at large auto or electrical supply stores.

It will not make your soft luggage as secure as the hard sided cases with proper locks. The intent is to make the potential thief look for easier pickings. It would probably help in any claims for items missing out of your luggage.
pso, I've used the nylon ties for years and they work great.I put a small pair of dykes in my carry on bag to get access quickly at the other end.

Mike, actually the FAA regs are pretty clear on knives: 4" blade limit on folders. But localities and airports and even airlines are free to use to use more restrictive rules. I've used the money clip trick for years and never had a problem with it. The last time I flew the ran the little basket through the X-ray machines at both Baltimore BWI and Cleveland Hopkins. I assume this is the new drill. From now on my "money clip" will be no bigger than a Delica or Rescue II. BTW at Baltimore and Cleveland it was a K.I.S.S. and it caused no problems.


who dares, wins


It does not matter FAA has for regulations for carry-on and checked baggage. This is just a minimum that the airlines must follow. The airline on the concourse with the most gates is required to maintain security for that concourse. They are the ones who set the rules for the rest of the airlines to follow. Each airline is well within its rights to set rules and procedures for checked baggage as long as they meet faa regs.

Being a former airport screener in Alaska I've seen just about everything imagined in trying to get stuff on the plane. My suggestion is follow the airlines rules because something as simple as a warning about taking an oversize knives on the plane can turn into several hours with the LEO's (airport police) explaining yourself if you pull an attitude when questioned.

If you're not sure and you don't want to ask the airlines they are supposed to post the rules at the security checkpoint. Even then the supervisor at the checkpoint and the LEO's have leeway in interpreting the posted rules. Good luck with checked baggage, the airline agents themselves don't seem to know their own rules and even misinterpret them. You can request written copies but the best suggestions never seem to work when it comes time to fly.

Whish I was going too!