A Lesson from Vancouver International Airport
November 12, 2014
A report of a recent experience by a BCWF Member transporting firearms through Vancouver International Airport on a hunting trip within B.C. provides useful information for those planning to transport firearms as part of their luggage.
The member reports that he and his son were transporting two rifles, correctly packed in an airline approved case along with a small package of ammunition, which Canada's firearms laws - and WestJet rules - permit. They had no trouble checking in with WestJet, however, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) screener to whom they later presented the rifle to asked whether they had ammunition in the case and, on being told yes, refused to accept it, saying that ammunition may not be packed in the same case. This was an incorrect application of the rules, and ended up taking some time to correct.
The CATSA screener did not have a copy of the applicable regulations or any other source of information available on-hand, and declined to look the rule up or reconsider the decision that was made. Fortunately, a WestJet agent intervened and assured the CATSA screener that ammunition, as long as it is packed separately from the firearm, may be transported in the same case. The CATSA agent then agreed to confirm this with a supervisor by phone, and ultimately let the luggage proceed.
The screener's confusion apparently stemmed from a policy that is applied by Air Canada to passengers travelling with firearms. The company's website indicates that unlike WestJet, Air Canada requires ammunition to be packed in a separate case. Air Canada also imposes a firearms handling charge of $50 per item to process firearms, a charge that is over and above the normal baggage costs. Surprisingly, the Air Canada check-in rules specify that the traveller must not attach the trigger lock until after checking in, which would require opening the case and visibly handling the firearm in the airport, a step that could attract unfavourable attention from other travellers as well as the RCMP.
The member intends to bring a copy of the airline firearms check in rules with him for ready reference on his next trip, and has invited CATSA’s head office improve their staff training in Vancouver in this respect. Fortunately, the members arrived early and did not experience any issues with the CATSA screeners in Prince George on their return trip.
This story is a reminder for us all to be aware of the law surrounding transportation of firearms and the policies in place at specific airlines when travelling. To avoid a similar situation, it is a good idea to print out and carry a copy of your airline’s firearms policy (usually available on their website) with you to avoid any confusion.
The firearms rules for WestJet are available by clicking here: https://www.westjet.com/guest/en/travel/basics/baggage/hunting-equipment.shtml
The firearms rules for Air Canada are available by clicking here: http://www.aircanada.com/en/travelinfo/airport/baggage/hunting_equip.html#-firearms