Pepper spray can be useful for self-defense, that’s why many people keep a small canister of mace in their purse just in case.
But pepper spray could also be used as a weapon.
So, can you bring pepper spray on a plane?
This post looks at flying with pepper spray, where to pack it, and how much you are allowed to take on an airplane.
TSA Pepper Spray Rules
The transportation security administration are responsible for keeping you safe when you fly. They are the moody looking folks you’ll see at the security checkpoint.
We checked their website to see what they said about pepper spray:
Can You Carry Pepper Spay In Hand Luggage?
Pepper spray can be used not only as a self-defense weapon but as an attack weapon. In an enclosed environment like an airplane, a bad actor with a can of mace could wreak havoc and cause breathing difficulties to all the passengers and flight attendants.
So it stands to reason, no you cannot carry pepper spray in your purse, or hand luggage on a plane.
You will not be permitted to get through the security checkpoint with a pepper spray aerosol so don’t come to the airport with it still in your purse.
Can you put pepper spray in checked luggage?
Passengers can pack one can of pepper spray in checked bags but there are size and strength limits:
Here is the TSA:
One 4 fl. oz. (118 ml) container of mace or pepper spray is permitted in checked baggage provided it is equipped with a safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge. Self-defense sprays containing more than 2 percent by mass of tear gas (CS or CN) are prohibited in checked baggage.@TSA
As well as the TSA permitting pepper spray in checked bag you also need your airline to accept it, so I checked the main airlines in the united states to see what they are saying about it:
Alaska just direct passengers to check the TSA guidelines so you can pack a self-defense spray in your checked baggage
It seems American Airlines can get a bit confused about flying with mace.
Their own website says you can’t:
And on Twitter they have mixed messages.
Anna persisted with them and got the right answer in the end.
If you arrive at the security checkpoint and you still have your self-defense spray in your hand luggage you might be lucky and receive a courtesy checking of your carry-on.
Of course, there is then the risk that you arrive at your destination and your checked luggage gets lost by the airline.
Carry-on luggage doesn’t get lost if it’s in the overhead bin above you.
You’ll need to decide how much you want to take that mace with you on vacation. The alternative will be to surrender the spray to the TSA at the checkpoint.
Delta are another airline that seems to get confused about pepper spray.
They told Chris that it wasn’t allowed in checked or carry-on baggage.
But on other occasions Delta is in line with the TSA guidelines for pepper spray:
Christina was flying with Delta and the TSA took her pepper spray from her and made her dump her water.
Frontier say it’s allowed in checked luggage:
Pepper spray, bear spray, mace, or any time containing an irritant or incapacitating substance are accepted in limited quantities.Frontier Airlines
In 2015 two women on a JetBlue flight got into a fight. Somehow one of them had managed to get pepper spray on board and used it. Several passengers ended up being treated for breathing difficulties because pepper spray in a confined space is very dangerous. Again this demonstrates why it should never be allowed into the aircraft cabin.
JetBlue go one step further and prohibit mace or pepper spray from checked bags too.
Rachel was pretty annoyed that JetBlue confiscated her mace from her checked luggage:
Hard to disagree with her logic that if guns are allowed pepper spray should be too, especially since the TSA guidelines allow it.
Southwest takes the same stance as JetBlue and prohibits pepper spray from checked luggage.
And they know customers find it frustrating…
The United website says that defense sprays like mace, pepper sprays and tear gas are not allowed in checked or carry-on bags:
Over on Twitter you get mixed messages. Bea got a knock back:
More recently they seem to be following the TSA pepper spray guidelines. Taylor was quoted the regular TSA advice.
But I think it’s fair to say there is some confusion. It’s hard to predict how a United check-in agent would react if they knew you had pepper spray in your hold luggage.
On the other hand, if the TSA searches your checked luggage and discovers pepper spray that is under 4 oz with a safety mechanism then they will just ignore it.
I can’t help but feel that this situation is more complicated than it needs to be. The TSA and the FAA work to create a standardized set of policies about aviation safety and security. It doesn’t help passengers when individual airlines start adding their own restrictions.
One thing is crystal clear, you cannot bring pepper spray on a plane in your purse or carry-on luggage, the TSA will confiscate it from you at the security checkpoint and no airlines allow it.
As per the TSA, you can put 1 small 4 oz self-defense spray in your checked luggage if it has a mechanism to prevent accidental discharge.
But airlines can get a little confused about this and sometimes report that pepper spray or bear spray is not allowed in checked bags.
However, it is the TSA that is responsible for scanning and searching checked luggage so ultimately their policies will apply. Yet, if you tell a JetBlue or a Southwest check-in agent that you have pepper spray in your hold baggage they may refuse to allow it.
You see… confusing!
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