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Savvy Dive Travelers and the TSA Rules and Regulations senior contributing editor John Flanders did some research this week on scuba travel and related challenges. In the first of a three-part series, he looks at TSA restrictions and their impact on divers.

Traveling with Scuba gear offers many challenges.  However, the thought of using rental gear on that “dive trip of a life-time” is enough to make an Open Water Diver cringe.  The good news is you CAN bring scuba gear on-board an aircraft – however a savvy traveler understands the TSA rules and airline baggage restrictions.

First let’s look at the Transportation Security Authority (TSA) rules and restrictions. The TSA has nothing to do with weight considerations, but everything about what you can carry on to an aircraft and what you check in the cargo hold.

Travelers may bring regulators, buoyancy compensators and masks, snorkels and fins as carry-on or checked baggage. In fact, it is quite surprising how easily these items pass through the TSA scanners without a wink of scrutiny from the TSA personnel. As a rule, all traveling divers should carry on their Scuba regulators, computers and submersible pressure gauges.  These items are part of the life support system and shouldn’t be left to possible damage in the airplane’s cargo hold.  If you wouldn’t check your laptop computer, why would you check your dive computer?

For travelers who need their pony bottle, Spare Air™, or rebreather bottles at their destination, there is good news: Compressed Scuba cylinders are allowed in checked baggage or as a carry-on only if the regulator valve is completely disconnected from the cylinder and the cylinder is no longer sealed (i.e. the cylinder has an open end).  The cylinder must have an opening to allow for a visual inspection inside. I tape the end of the Scuba cylinder with “painter’s tape” and attach a note to the TSA security officer to replace it after inspection.  To date, I have not had an issue doing this.

As a rule, TSA Security Officers will not remove the seal or regulator valve from the cylinder at the checkpoint.  If the cylinder is sealed (i.e. the regulator valve is still attached), the cylinder is prohibited and not permitted through the security checkpoint, regardless of the reading on the pressure gauge indicator. TSA Security Officers must visibly ensure that the cylinder is completely empty and that there are no prohibited items inside.


Of course, it is no surprise, that dive tools (a.k.a knives) are prohibited from carry-on luggage. These items should be packed in checked luggage.  If you travel with a small tool pouch or spare parts kit, you should check those items as well. Spear guns are prohibited from carry-on luggage. These items should be packed in checked luggage. A quick tip, knives and spear guns cannot be brought to a security checkpoint. Pack these items in your checked baggage. If you bring these items to a checkpoint, there it is almost guaranteed that the TSA will confiscate them and a fair chance that you may miss your flight while being detained by the TSA.

Like any other baggage, Scuba bags will be scanned and probably hand searched by TSA officials.  Do not pack anything suspicious. As always, safety being the highest priority, the TSA requests that all Scuba divers should sheath or securely wrap any sharp objects you pack in your checked luggage to prevent it from injuring baggage handlers and security officers.

The TSA has gone to great lengths to inform travelers and specifically traveling Scuba divers.  To learn more about TSA rules, information and prohibited items please visit

NEXT WEEK: Savvy Dive Travelers and ever-changing airline baggage restrictions.

IN TWO WEEKS: Tips and techniques for the savvy dive traveler


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