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Flying with avalanche airbag systems

 Poster: A snowHead
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@jabuzzard, Who did you fly to Friedrichshafen with? Keen to look at flying there, OK for hire cars etc?

Thinking Pieps myself, I cant believe the airport security are so slow on the uptake with ABS given that MUC is pretty close to the Alps....but I guess they are on super high alert and very twitchy at present. Given the amount of tooled-up police about in the airport I guess they are sensitive to anything, they nearly sent me to Room 101 because I'd left my satnav in my rucksack, and didn't take it out, it is apparently a laptop device.....ah well!! wink
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Quote:

Who did you fly to Friedrichshafen with? Keen to look at flying there, OK for hire cars etc?


It was a Ski Freshtracks holiday to St. Anton via Mark Warner. The airline was Germania and was I think a charter flight though there where clearly people who where not skiing with Mark Warner on the flight and coming back it was not full (not sure about the flight out). As such I have no idea what car hire is like. It does however look like a decent option aka less likely to be hit with bad weather than Innsbruck for example given it is not actually in the mountains and still only 1.5 hours to St. Anton.
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Agreed, interesting thanks @jabuzzard,
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Quote:

Or the security bloke had a alu canister and wanted an upgrade to a carbon one.

@dp, He's got 2 now, a spare one in case he needs it. Evil or Very Mad
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@Markymark29, After 5-6 years of hassle with ABS, I've had Pieps Jetforce for the last couple. I pack mine as hold luggage, as even though they are hand compliant, an observant security x-Ray operative would notice a large battery, and wires connecting it to a trigger handle.........
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Quote:

After 5-6 years of hassle with ABS, I've had Pieps Jetforce for the last couple. I pack mine as hold luggage, as even though they are hand compliant, an observant security x-Ray operative would notice a large battery, and wires connecting it to a trigger handle.........


Problem with that is the Pieps Jetforce 24 is a good 3.4kg out of your hold luggage allowance. So unless you are willing to pay for extra luggage allowance that is not really an option for me. Like I said I had no real problems with it as carry on luggage and I suspect as time goes by and more people travel with them, more security operatives have seen them this will only get better. On the other hand the gas canister systems will always be a problem as you will always have a highly compressed cylinder of gas. I guess you could go with the compressed air and travel with an empty cylinder and suitable hand pump to fill at your destination, but that works out quite expensive.

http://www.mammutavalanchesafety.com/2016/11/refilling-airbag-cylinders-with-hill.html
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@jabuzzard, I always carry my ski boots in a backpack as my carry on luggage (my boots won't fit in the Jetforce, and I can't ski without them), and since I travel BA I have plenty of hold luggage allowance, it isn't a problem.

I also guess it is a case of airport security concentrating on 'known' issues (liquids, laptops etc), rather than unknown ones like avalanche packs. I haven't tried flying into the USA with it yet, but I assume you might be asked to power it up, which is the case with any electronic device you have (at least that was the announcement when I landed at Heathrow a couple of weeks ago for anyone transferring to a US flight. It advised people to ensure devices were fully charged).
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So I've had an email saying we can collect the canisters from MUC as a matter of urgency and produce the original paperwork for release but they reserve the right to dispose of within 90 days! That's not much help given that I'm not flying in there until next February. Confused
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PowderAdict wrote:

I always carry my ski boots in a backpack as my carry on luggage (my boots won't fit in the Jetforce, and I can't ski without them), and since I travel BA I have plenty of hold luggage allowance, it isn't a problem.


Which would have instantly put me over the 5kg carry on luggage limit I had on Germania. That was something of a joke anyway, because although my bag was less than 5kg at check in the moment I went through security I added some bottles of water and food that would have taken it over 7kg.

I always pack my boots into the suitcase, and then do some sneaky cross packing into the ski bag, the weight of which nobody ever seems to check anyway and by carefully choosing of what I cross pack including a pair of old salopettes I can manage for a day or two if my suitcase goes missing by hiring some boots.
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Jet2 at Manchester Airport very frustrating after many no problem EasyJet flights with my ABS. I had registered beforehand with Jet2 via Mark Warner and had a print out of email response with copy of IATA regs. I spent 45 minutes at the check in desk (good job I arrive early) . Check in person called supervisor who had a copy of the regs in her hand but had to make a succession of telephone calls to head office, which was usually engaged (6:00 am) to answer a succession of questions. Finally after confirming I only had one bottle I was allowed through. This seems to be a major training issue for Jet 2
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@GlasgowCyclops, @dp,
Hi, Back from a great touring trip to Gressoney so here is some further information on the problems I had with Jet2 / UK Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA).

Firstly and most importantly, Scott, and the manufacturer of the airbag system used by Scott (Alpride) have been superb in dealing with this. The problem is resolved for Scott Alpride Airbags.

Just to remind you this was specifically regarding a Scott Airbag (which uses two small gas cylinders used for inflation) and the initial refusal of Jet2 to allow me to carry it in Jan & March 2017, notwithstanding no prior problems in 2016.

Further, whilst Jet2 do seem more critical than others in their assessment of Airbags it was infact the UK CAA who refused travel (Jet2 had sought clarification from the Uk CAA due to it having 2 small cylinders of gas) and it was not a decision made by Jet2 itself. Jet2 simply followed the advice given to them by the CAA.

So this problem was caused directly by the UK CAA due to one persons interpretation of the IATA / ICAO rules for airbags. That sounds critical of the UK CAA though in fairness its a problem of interpretation with a set of ambiuous regulations that try to cover all types of self inflating safety devices under many different headings. The UK CAA themselves have been trying to get the IATA / ICAO regs re-written to have just one section covering all self inflating safety devices to remove this ambiguity. The decision to refuse travel has now been reviewed within the UK CAA at a higher level and, following very many emails between Scott, the UK CAA, Alpride and myself, has resulted in the following email being sent to me from the UK CAA.

Start email Quote:
RE: Dangerous Goods Carriage - Avalanche Rescue Airbag.
Ranito Mario <Mario>
20 March 2017, 09:29You
Good morning Mr. Tingle,
I am writing to you to provide you with further information regarding your Avalanche Rescue Airbag.
After a lengthy discussion on the specifications and characteristics of their products, I elected to forward the information back to Eric Gillett, with whom I had previously discussed this topic.
Mr. Gillett is our Policy specialist who participates in the ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel and he has a say on interpretation of ambiguities generated by the regulations.
In this particular case he has opted to give a different interpretation from mine, with regards to what is contained in the regulations, which I am transcribing below:
ďAs the Alpride system has a mechanical trigger without pyrotechnics, I agree that I can be considered to be a self-inflating personal safety device. I also agree that the limit of 50mL water capacity applies to devices other than avalanche rescue backpacks and personal safety devices.
I consider it unfortunate that ICAO did not choose to implement IATAís proposal to merge the entries for avalanche rescue backpacks and self-inflating personal safety devices as airlines are likely to apply the limits which most closely relate to an itemís description. I also consider it unfortunate that the entry for Ďsmall cartridges for other devicesí is included under the entry for personal safety devices as this can create the impression that all small cartridges are subject to the 50mL water capacity.
I will be presenting a paper on this matter to the forthcoming ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel Working Group.Ē

Having said this, it still remains the responsibility of the operator to accept/approve the carriage of such items as baggage.
I am hoping that the above definitely clarifies the issue.
Thank you and kind regards
Mario Ranito
Inspecting Officer (Dangerous Goods)
Flight Operations Specialist Teams & Safety Performance
Civil Aviation Authority
Tel: 01293 573546
Mob: 07393 762847
Follow us on Twitter: @UK_CAA

End Quote.

So as far as the UK CAA are concerned its now fine to travel with the Scott Airbag as a 'self inflating safety device'. They also confirm that the 50ml water capacity limit does NOT refer to Avalanche airbags OR 'self inflating safety devices'. I am writing back to the UK CAA to ask them to specifically advise Jet2 of their change of attitude because I suspect that Jet2 might have it 'blacklisted' otherwise.

As you can see from the email received today from the UK CAA they are part of a working group on DGO regs and are once again trying to get the DGO regs written more clearly. The DGO regs are re issued every January so fingers crossed thay add more clarity and prevent this confusion in the future.

In the meantime, it should be easier to travel with a Scott airbag than perhaps many others now that the UK CAA has specifically said it (by name) can be carried. Of course you still need to ask the airline and get prior permission to get it listed on their flight manifest, but now that the CAA has changed its stance I cannot see why it would be a problem.

Hope all that makes sense.
Happy skiing!
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@letitsnowagain, snowHead
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Having followed this tread and used the BA number provided to great satisfaction, does anyone have a number for JAL that gives similar results. The number Iíve currently got is leaving me hanging.

Many thanks
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@Suzi snowflake, JAL - 0344 8569778 - really helpful staff
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Hi everyone!

I'm flying to Calgary this saturday. Yesterday I reached the carrier (Air Canada) in order to inform them that I am planning to bring skis and the ABS backpack in my checked-in luggage.

What surprised me was that they told me I have clearance to fly with the backpack but the cartridge should be empty! Obviously for me that is useless since I don't want to rent in my destination one.

In any case, I'm not able to find in their website nor standard safety aviation rules applying for Canada that statement.

Anyone has any issue with an ABS flying to Canada because of the cartridge?

Thanks in advance.
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@polinauer, I flew multiple times direct to Vancouver with BA without any issues with my ABS and full cartridge. I guess it is down to Air Canadaís T&Cís.
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Possibly due to the fact that in the USA the TSA forbids pressurized cartridge on board the plane, and being North American based have chosen to follow those rules. I would check to see if you can get it filled in resort. At this point it is probably your simplest option. You can then chalk it up to having a couple of full practices with the system. One before you leave for Canada and one before you return. See the following web page for dealers in Canada that could do a refill. Looks like there are nine in Calgary itself and then at least one in Banff, Fernie and Revelstoke.

https://abs-airbag.com/us/dealer/

Reasons why I spent extra for a Pieps JetForce. Smile
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Has anybody flown with Japan Airlines recently? I am reading conflicting reports on the internet from past years.
I phoned the London office and the lady told me that there is no need to register with them or anything, just bring the IATA printout. Can be carry on or checked in. Is that the case?
I have bitter experience with similar situation with Iberia from a few years ago.

Reservation is via BA, I am flying into London on flight operated by BA and have emailed them already, but London - Tokyo is operated by "Jl0044 Q"?? And Tokyo - Sapporo is "Jl0525 Y"
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I flew back from Hong Kong on Tuesday after a few days R&R after Road trip on Hokkaido. We had nearly an hours wait at Cathay Pacific check in for clearance to take snowpulse airbag in checked luggage despite having a confirmation email from Cathay Pacific granting permission and all the necessary paperwork. There were no problems at check in at Heathrow and Chitose. The supervisor at HK said that they had never seen one before and it was only after things became somewhat heated i.e. that that could keep the cylinder and that I would sue them that permission was granted.
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polinauer wrote:
I'm flying to Calgary this saturday... Anyone has any issue with an ABS flying to Canada because of the cartridge? .
No. No issue. Well...
  • I rang them at some North American call centre, and told them I was carrying the thing, and they said it was fine but didn't sound interested. I didn't demand a "ticket number" for the call and didn't think it had much value. They didn't care. They did tell me to put it in hold baggage, not to carry it on.
  • I packed the bag plus all the related manufacturer/ IATA/ Air Canada paperwork with my boards and disconnected the (full) cylinder but left it in place, which is how I read the requirements.
  • LHR check in did not bat an eye when I told them I had it. All was smooth and quick.

  • Coming back, the YVR check in people threw a wobbily. There are two groups - the AC check in staff, and the airport security people, and they both had never seen one before. I gave them my full charm offensive, which included demonstrating roughly how the thing works to about 20 of them. My flight was already delayed by just-under the EU limit so I had plenty of time. Eventually they said, "ok, but you have to connect the cylinder". I briefly considered pointing out that such a thing would not increase anyone's safety, but I realized I'd won so I shut up.
  • They asked me specifically each of the questions covered in the Mammut documentation eg "does it have a safety release valve". Clearly they had no clue what one was, or what it looked like, but the paperwork said it was there, so I pointed at the paper and they were happy.
So that's it. Stay cool and calm, secure in the knowledge that it's your right, and they just may need a while to realize that.

They will not be smart enough to know if the cylinder is full or empty - you'd have to weigh it, in my case at least. I did have fun explaining the composition of air, which isn't part of airport check in staff education, it seems. They are wrong to suggest you empty it (!) and if you have the paperwork then you can prove it's wrong. There are to my knowledge no specific Canadian rules; there are different USA rules.

It's just ignorance, so you simply need the paperwork and a little tact. I would not imagine those huge battery pack things would be any easier to get through as it's not an informed concern based on the relative danger of a bit of Nitrogen versus Lithium Ion.

I would expect this to get easier as time goes on. I already educated 20 ground staff on it at YVR. Calgary gets a ton of off-piste people (CMH) and they are likely to be better on this if anything.
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Quote:

I briefly considered pointing out that such a thing would not increase anyone's safety, but I realized I'd won so I shut up.


Last winter one of the regional Japanese airlines made a group of friends connect the triggers of their airbags and would not let them board if they did not, so Very Happy Very Happy
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Flew out of Manchester with Jet2 to Grenoble on the 4th with a Pieps JetForce. What a palaver. Their xray machine flagged up some bits of the wiring and electronics of the rucksack, which I duly explained. Then after several of them had a conflab they decided to call someone more senior. Unfortunately he failed to speak with myself and went off to check with the airline because they had some notion that it was Jet2 - no/EasyJet -yes. Eventually he came back and said to me personally actually it was the other way around. At which point I replied it was battery powered, no compressed gas canisters involved. At that point the senior official looked suitably annoyed that his time had been wasted, and told them to do an explosive test anyway. Must have taken about 20 minutes in all so not too bad if it had not been for the queue to get to that point.

Coming back through Grenoble yesterday not even a second glance as the rucksack went through the xray machine and that is despite allegedly tightened security, that seemed to mostly involve lots of troops wandering around with assault rifles.
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philwig wrote:

It's just ignorance, so you simply need the paperwork and a little tact. I would not imagine those huge battery pack things would be any easier to get through as it's not an informed concern based on the relative danger of a bit of Nitrogen versus Lithium Ion.

I would expect this to get easier as time goes on. I already educated 20 ground staff on it at YVR. Calgary gets a ton of off-piste people (CMH) and they are likely to be better on this if anything.


After the occasional palaver with my Alpride bag (but a good relationship with the BA safety man) I suggested to a friend - who is a trainer for BA - that I could visit BA at LHR and I could bring with me an Alpride bag, an ABS bag and a Jetforce bag. I own the former, have friends with the latter 2 that I'm sure I could borrow for the day if it meant more airbag knowledge for everyone. Just pay my travel and put some lunch on.

I said I could open up each pack, show the operating system and the differences, and maybe show some avalanche videos of people using their packs in anger. Little 20-30 minute session during routine staff training, just so they know what they're looking at when somebody says "airbag" at check-in.

He was well up for it. He took it to his bosses... they said no, why do we need training, they can just read the IATA dangerous goods sheet, go away.
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Just reporting on experiences this season at the following airports: Southampton, Geneva, Haneda and Chitose with respect to JetForce (Li ion battery) packs vs the same airports the previous season with ABS (compressed gas cartridges). Carriers: FlyBe, Easyjet, BA and JAL. All as cabin luggage.
We carried the paperwork for all the packs.
The ABS packs were ALWAYS inspected and waved through after a paperwork inspection and discussion.
This season with the JetForce packs they went through security every time without a murmur - no paperwork or demos, easy as pie.

I was a little but shocked by the ease with which the JetForce packs passed through security because the battery pack and wiring in the JetForce looks a great match for a suspicious device...

In the same security areas, people with ABS packs were "pulled over" whilst the JetForce packs went through as normal luggage.
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We flew with TUI on a Crystal holiday in Jan this year. Rang them up in advance to get an airbag each logged on our booking - after holding for ages (Crystal...) the girl I spoke to initially wasn't sure what this meant, so took my number and promised to get a supervisor to call me back. I was expecting to have to call again the next day, but I got a call about an hour later (kudos to Crystal for that). The supervisor was entirely comfortable with the process, asked me the usual questions to make sure I didn't have an explosive trigger above 'x' size and not too much gas etc. So far, so standard.

The bit that was a complete surprise was that she then told me I could take the bag on the plane as hand luggage. Shocked I asked if that was right and said I'd always had to put it in the hold before, and she confirmed that yes, I could take it as handluggage, provided the canister wasn't armed. I asked specifically if Stansted security would also definitely let me through - she again confirmed that this would be fine, and that airport security operated on the basis of the rules the airlines told them. This was news to me (and I still don't really understand how that can be true), but the lady I spoke to was adamant, and had absolutely nothing to gain by misleading me (I was quite happy with putting the bag in the hold).

In the event, I didn't believe that I'd get through, so put the airbag in the hold (that actually worked out better for me anyway). But would be interested to hear if others have taken airbags as hand luggage before...
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@pleasehelpme, yes I know numerous people who've taken them on as hand luggage. The IATA regulations also say they're fine as hand luggage.

They don't pose a risk to other people when not armed, and they don't pose a security risk... so there is no reason why they wouldn't be allowed as hand luggage as far as I can see.
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@dp, that all makes sense, and as plenty of others have observed before, avvy bags aren't much different to the life vests you'll find under your seat. I'm just surprised by the outbreak of common sense!

But good to know that this has worked for others in the past. Maybe I'll try it one of these days...just quite a lot of faff if security kick up a fuss Smile
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As I've said before I think the main problem with avalanche airbags is that just too few people in the airport know enough about what they are. It's all very well the IATA regs approving it, and the airline approving it, but if you happen to go through security at a time where you have a few barely qualified meatheads manning the x-ray machine then you could still be in for a lengthy wait whilst you wait for somebody 'more senior' to motivate themselves away from their coffee.

My main reason for not taking it as carry-on is just really that I'd rather carry my boots (if checked baggage goes missing I'd rather have no airbag than no boots).
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I took a empty bca canister with valve off through Aberdeen airport the security guy wasn't to happy, strongly recomended i booked it in next time.
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
Anyone airbagged on Cityflyer - the usually efficient BA system informs me I have to contact Cityflyer themselves and Cityflyer Ops themselves appear to be a buckpassing/non email answering blackhole.

I've been given phone nos of 2 people who are no longer in the business so far.


Bump - flying BA out of City again - anyone ever had any joy with Cityflyer. I just wrote a note and stuck it in the bag last time as finding the right person to address let alone get action from them proved impossible.
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Another thumbs down for Jet2 at Manchester. I had precisely the same issue as@On the rocks and I was probably on the same flight as @jabuzzard.

I had contacted the airline to notify - ďtell your tour operator (Alpine Elements), as they are always late to send their passenger manifest to usĒ. Which I did, receiving an email to confirm (donít get me started about Alpine Elements for that week!).

Check in desk at Manchester at 4am - fine and ABS tagged as approved hand luggage (with canister and trigger in orange box with IATA regs). But then, at security, it all kicked off. Staff had no idea what it was, trying to relieve me of the canister as if it was a bottle of water. When challenged, they claimed that it hadnít been approved by the pilot, despite seeing the email.

I was then required to wait to the side until a Jet2 manager came (around 45 minutes). She recognised that I had done everything that I could have done, but blamed Alpine Elements for not notifying them (apparently they have previous for telling passengers that things have been notified when they havenít - everything from ABS and ski carriage to vegetarian meals and even babies!). She also seemed unable to reconcile the weight of the canister (258g) with the 200mg limit for trigger explosive, despite me emphasising that the two things were unrelated. Eventually, after visiting the ABS website on my phone, she gained enough confidence to concede and approve the backpack and, to be fair, then phoned someone to ask how this could be avoided on my return.

Then, even after all of this, the original half-trained stooge then insisted that I show him the spikes hidden in the bag. After some digging around he accused me of hiding crampons in the bag. When he showed me the x-ray image, I was able to explain that the crampon spikes were actually the ring of screws securing each of the pressure release valves. Muppet Evil or Very Mad

I just made final call for the flight.

Jet2 seriously need some training here but, given that a number of people were stopped on a busy March Sunday, it would seem that there is no appetite for this.

Returning through Grenoble, the bag was pulled at the x-ray, but waved through as soon as the canister was recognised.

I am now curious as to whether putting it in checked luggage would have been better, or would it have just been confiscated?
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For me, the main problem with canister bags is the ambiguity. Alpride, two canisters. Other airbags. Sealled canister but more than 100ml (can't take 125ml of deodorant spray on so why gas canisters?).

Wires in bags and what they may look like is not a problem. We manufacture high power custom systems for microscopes and OEMs and I regularly have thinks in my bag that could easily look like something that would go BOOM. I have only ever been asked what it was in India. That may have been for other reasons. Happy
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I flew from LTN last weekend with EJ. I had my rucksack as my carry on and canister in the checked bag with all regs wrapped round it.

I checked with EJ online (twitter) before flying if I needed to pre register flying with airbag and was told no, I asked really and she came back and said no - if I needed to do so it would say that on the EJ flying with dangerous / restricted items page so good to go.

I then explained to the EJ guy at check in who had no idea and told me to speak to the people at oversize.

People at oversize immediately said no I couldn't travel with it so I got all the paperwork out including the EJ website print out so they then called EJ. Whoever they spoke to didn't seem to know so 3 guys came and saw me and looked at all of the paperwork. I got the impression they didn't really know what they were looking at and so said yes should be ok. Whole thing took about 20 mins.

Coming home from GVA I couldn't be bothered so just put it through without telling anyone and it went through fine!
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EasyJet Bristol to Lyon last March
Both bag and cylinder as carry on ej
Website and iata make it clear that they can be carried as either carry on or hold but I prefer to be able to. Argue at security rather than be called back ref hold bag
Muppet on security went into panic mode but he called his supervisor over hoping to get me arrested no doubt but supervisor cool and waved it thru to his disappointment !
Lyon much better at security obvious they are more used to seeing the kit
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Aeroflot Heathrow have stopped friend boarding with his trigger and cannister ABS after many phone calls back and forth to Moscow even though he had all the documentation etc !

It's not even in the hold!
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