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United Airlines Travel Alert

Editor's Note: This information came from the Firearms Alerts Mailing List, typically a reliable source. However, has not independently verified the following information. Your local airport may have different procedures. This is published to alert travelers to potential problems.

A warning to everyone who flies with guns: United Airlines puts a row of
seven "Fs" under your name to indicate you have firearms in your case. YES, it is illegal, but they do it.

I just flew from Washington, Dulles International (IAD) to Las Vegas, McCarran International Airport (LAS), and back.

I declared my unloaded guns, as required, filled out the red tag, and put it in my luggage as required. My flying companion had checked in before me, and they taped the red tag to his luggage tag. The girl who checked him in, heard me say it was illegal to do, so they retrieved his bag and moved the red tag inside.

Upon my arrival in Las Vegas, I noticed my luggage had been opened (my nylon wire tag was gone). My guns were inside a locked metal box inside the luggage, so I opened the luggage. My guns had been moved from their location at the bottom rear of my luggage, to the top front. Obviously someone got scared, or put off by the locked metal box. It is easy to stuff a gun into your pants, but a large box is another matter. I got lucky, my guns were not stolen.

My return flight was without event.

Last night I was having dinner with a friends, one asked me what airline I took out to Front Sight. I told him United. He works for the government, in a three letter agency, and he told me the only time they have guns stolen was when they fly United, and it was because United puts a row of "Fs" under your name on the luggage tag. He jokes with me all the time, and we have a
running joke about TWA (The Worst Airline) which I won't fly, and he loves.
I thought he was pulling my chain.

I had not yet thrown out my luggage tags, so I had a look, and sure enough, my ammo bag, and my bag with guns had seven "Fs," and the other bag did not.

I immediately called the airline, and they did not know. They put me in touch with a baggage manager in Illinois, and he did not know. They would not let me talk to a check in person.

Today, I drove to Dulles, baggage tags in hand, and asked to speak with the Station Manager. I spoke with Carol Tumas, Service Director. I asked her what "this" meant, while pointing to the "FFFFFFF" under my name. She said, "First Cla----, er, Firearm."

Before it was over, she had a baggage supervisor and a UNITED security person there and they said they "were required to push the button," on the terminal that printed that on the tag. They have similar keys for heavy bags, and live animals.

Currently, Ms. Tumas will be contacting their legal department on Monday, and will be getting back to me. In the mean time, I would not fly United, my
favorite airline, with firearms until they remove the "STEAL ME NOW" letters from the bags.

Ward W. "Chip" Fetrow, III


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