81

Issue

When flying with only a carry-on allowed, I am often bothered by not being allowed to carry a small knife that I will need at my destination (backpacking trips). So far, every time I faced this issue, I just bought a knife at destination and offered it to someone before flying back home as it is generally cheaper than having to pay extra for checked luggage in which I would put nothing but my knife! I could also mail my knife but that leads to other problems (e.g., what address to mail it to).

I am wondering whether I could just ask customers checking luggage for the same flight as me if I could put my knife in their checked luggage. I am afraid that some customers would find it offensive for me to ask and afraid that I would put them in a very delicate situation as it is generally recommended to not accept such solicitation (and they can't tell whether I somehow hid some illegal substance in the knife). I am also afraid that security personnel would target me.

The next time I will experience this situation will be a flight from Vancouver, BC, to San Diego, California.

Question

Can I get into trouble for asking people if they'd agree to put my knife in their checked luggage?

An answer could be "Sure, give it a try, you've got nothing to lose. Just be polite and don't be frustrated if it does not work!" or "No, don't do that. You're going to get into serious trouble from airport security, and maybe even people helping you could get into trouble." I am sadly expecting an answer closer to the second option.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JoErNanO Jun 26 '18 at 8:23
  • 15
    I know it's somewhere in the chat, but as I believe it is the good solution for this, I write it here again. Look for Poste restante. You can send your knife to a post office, and it will wait for you there. Note that there are post offices in some (many?) airports. Not sure it's much cheaper than new knife/checked luggage though. – Legisey Jun 26 '18 at 10:13

13 Answers 13

247

Sorry, it's a valid idea but it's not going to happen

  1. It's tricky to find passengers who will be on your flight before you pass through security. You would have to catch them at check in, before they check in their luggage. If you check in with Air Canada in Vancouver, there are flights to many different destinations. How would you find someone going to the same place?
  2. It's specifically against safety instructions that are blaring through the loudspeakers every 10 minutes

    Do not transport items you have received from strangers

  3. If security asks the passenger

    Have you received any items from someone else?

    (which they occasionally still do), the passengers would have to either lie or a lot of awkward explaining to do.

  4. You'd have to figure out how to meet at the destination and potentially exchange phone numbers.

So yes, you could get in trouble since you are asking people to do something that security specifically and very publicly prohibits.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JoErNanO Jun 28 '18 at 13:03
162

Sensible people will call security on you and you're probably going to get arrested.

You may find a "mark" but you'd be placing a naive and people-pleasing person in a very bad and nerve-wracking predicament.

Drug cartels have been known to smuggle drugs in very unusual places (sown inside dogs, in the texture of Virgin Mary statuettes, watermelons) and I doubt they haven't considered doing exactly what you're saying.

So no, don't do it, don't put someone in that situation. Mail your knife or replace it, consider it part of the cost of the trip. Or just check in your own bag.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JoErNanO Jun 28 '18 at 13:04
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    "you're probably going to get arrested". I think this is excessive. Questioned, maybe; asked to leave, possibly; but "arrested"? – a3nm Jun 30 '18 at 15:25
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    @a3nm Yes, I think that's a likely outcome. Perhaps not charged with anything in the end, but security is taken pretty seriously today. – Andy Jun 30 '18 at 19:43
90

Even ignoring the practicalities, it's a terrible idea.

Without being too paranoid, I don't know what you have done with that knife.

I don't want my finger prints on it, I don't want whatever substances it has been in contact with in my own bag, and I don't want to have any kind of explaining to do to law enforcement, especially upon arriving in the US.

  • 24
    @Surb: Without being too paranoid, it might not even be a knife. I've seen briefcases made out of heroin. Who says the knife's grip isn't drugs, or plastic explosive? Or, whatever, radioactive isotopes bound in a plastic matrix, or a container hiding a rizin vial? Or, none of that, and simply a trick to get close to you and have you open your suitcase so the real object can be put in. Or, a way to get within arm reach of your wallet/passport. – Damon Jun 24 '18 at 11:33
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    @Surb if I were paranoid I'd think OP was deliberately trying to set up someone to take the fall for whatever crime he committed using said knife, and call security on the spot. If you're not paranoid you just follow the rules, consider it might be tainted, and decide to be careful and refuse. – jwenting Jun 25 '18 at 4:56
  • It's paranoid, but not too paranoid. (I was told once "if you think you are too paranoid, you're not paranoid enough"). – gnasher729 Jun 26 '18 at 15:58
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    Excellent point, I hadn't even thought of this. Commit a murder with a knife, than get a friendly stranger to carry the knife in his suitcase to some faraway place. If the police catch him with the knife, he's now a suspect instead of you. If nobody stops him, the murder weapon is now far far away. Maybe it would be easier to just throw the knife in a dumpster, but cool idea. – Mark Daniel Johansen Jun 26 '18 at 19:39
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    @Mehrdad: In school, 25 years ago. Drug awareness event, police brought it. They brought a whole load of "harmless everyday stuff" which looked like "plastic" or "hard leather", and said was in reality drugs plus some "matrix", i.e. glue (probably epoxy or such, I wouldn't know). – Damon Jun 13 at 14:43
73

Forget the fact that it's a knife for a moment.

Would you accept a deal where you risk arrest just so a stranger can save (say) $30?

If you're like most people, your answer is no. If you're not, well... there's your answer.

  • 10
    And even setting the risk of arrest aside, if I’m paying for a bag, and I don’t know you, why would I inconvenience myself (repacking my bag, finding you at baggage claim) so you can save money that I had to pay? – bogardpd Jun 25 '18 at 12:14
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    @kukis Do they allow that in airports? – Matthew Crumley Jun 25 '18 at 19:28
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    @MatthewCrumley: No I think empathy is illegal in airports – Mehrdad Jun 25 '18 at 19:36
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    @MatthewCrumley I agree with all the answers posted here. I was just replying to bogardpd comment. There are some reasons, like empathy to help stranger with a knfie, but probably they are not good enough. – kukis Jun 26 '18 at 7:26
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    @Paul no I am not. dictionary.com/e/empathy-vs-sympathy . I could express sympathy for the person with a knife and don't act upon it. I could express empathy for that person, and therefore would be more likely to act upon it (because I would be able to put myself in his position) – kukis Jun 27 '18 at 10:37
51

Once when I found myself at the airport with no check-in baggage and a swiss army knife I wanted to preserve for sentimental reasons, I asked the airline staff giving me my boarding pass, if they could arrange to transport it for me.

They agreed, and I was able to hand it over (at no cost) and later collect it at at airline's ticketing counter at my destination. I think cabin crew carried it on the flight; this was in 2009.

Asking a fellow passenger seems like a bad idea.

  • 14
    The last time I was travelling with someone who had a prohibited item in their carry on (corkscrew with tiny blade) the airline's sole suggestion was that we step out of line, spend $10 on a padded mailer to mail it home in, and then rejoin the line at the back. – arp Jun 23 '18 at 23:25
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    this is an interesting option. Of course, you have to go to the airport with the knife, and take the risk that the staff will refuse and you'll have to get rid of the knife. – njzk2 Jun 24 '18 at 2:00
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    I had similar success with a sword once, I think it got carried by cabin crew actually. Other times, I was sent to the airport post-office. – bp. Jun 24 '18 at 13:13
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    Worth noting that even if your experience isn't exactly the same as this, the idea is still sound -- they might not carry it for you, but they will be able to help you find a way to move it, though it might cost you a bit. – Nic Hartley Jun 26 '18 at 22:47
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    @bp. the problem is always what that item is made of or what you have done with it. Cabin crew are risking themselves just by accepting (even if they don't carry it later). – CPHPython Jun 28 '18 at 15:24
40

I've been in more or less this situation in Charles de Gaulle on Air France. I was travelling with carry-on only and had bought a souvenir letter opener that I subsequently forgot about. I had arrived at the airport quite early and it was found at security and I was sent back.

I did in fact have a baggage allowance but I didn't want to check in my carry-on because it had reading material, snacks, music etc. The check-in counter declined to check in a single letter opener on the grounds that it was too small and would probably get lost or fall through a crack so I went to a newsagent and bought a roll of sticky tape (and a free plastic bag), one roll of tape and plastic bag later, I had something that could be checked in. It got a sticker stuck on it and rolled off down the conveyor belt, I collected it at the other end. It must have weighed about 500g so if you are paying for baggage weight, it might not be very much.

21

I think your second option is closer to the mark. As a passenger, it is ill-advised to agree to carry items on behalf of other unknown individuals. For all that they know, in principle your knife could contain an incendiary device, or illegal drugs, or some other prohibited substance. Passengers are supposed to only carry items the safety and legality of which they themselves can vouch for. This is especially delicate when crossing an international boundary, where they will be responsible for your knife through customs. I would be quite uncomfortable if you asked me to do this, and I think in general it would be rather rude to ask.

I agree with you that this is a rather sad state of affairs, but I believe it's the world we live in.

  • Or it could just be a knife, which is bad enough. – gnasher729 Jun 26 '18 at 16:00
  • 3
    There's a Swiss Army knife model with a 1 Tbyte USB drive as one of the "blades". Infinite possibilities for legal problems... – DJohnM Jun 27 '18 at 7:51
13

If price/service is sane, send it ahead via postal mail

This gives you the best of all worlds:

  • restriction is not an issue
  • low cost
  • no lingering around waiting for checked bags

Heck, I do this strategy for regular luggage. UPS is often cheaper than checked baggage, and it means no wrestling bags at the airport, queuing up to check... and when I walk off the plane, I'm free.

  • 1
    With the bureaucracy in some countries like mine, forget about it. You will have to go to the central office pick it up and it may take 30 days to process if it is deemed to be inspected (it will probably be due to being a knife I suspect). It is cheaper to pay for it than getting a new one than to go to the central office. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 24 '18 at 18:33
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    @RuiFRibeiro only if you're crossing trade barriers, certainly not a problem inside trade unions like the EU or US. And check your laws in advance and disclose exactly what it is on the paperwork, so if they give it a cursory Xray they find exactly what they expect. – Harper Jun 24 '18 at 20:02
  • Even then...my sis-in-law sent us a cake from London in December, and it only arrived mid-April. Regular postal mail is unreliable here. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 24 '18 at 20:04
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    Yeah, I wasn't really targeting the advice at scenarios where trade agreements or logistics make it complicated, slow and expensive... after all, the entire point is lost if the shipping costs more than the knife. Was thinking more OP's scenario. – Harper Jun 24 '18 at 20:09
  • We do have trade agreements with the UK. It is just that you cannot trust your regular mail, and UPS and Fedex are damn expensive. e.g. your answer is not valid for all points of the world. I do agree, it is simple to buy a knife. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 24 '18 at 20:10
8

Aside from the security issue, you are also circumventing the carrier's pricing structure.

Admit it: you are being cheap, flying on a discount airline (e.g. Spirit) whose revenue model is about upselling checked baggage as a perk.

You want to haul things that need to be in checked baggage, that is to say, enjoy the benefits of that privilege. But without paying for it. It's like conspiring with someone to split a 10-day Disney pass, which is cheaper than two five-days.

The airline has the right to object, and if it's not a violation of their terms of service today, it would be well within their rights to change that. This may also be a matter of fine interpretation of their ToS, in which case it boils down to, "we disagree, if you wish to argue this, you will not be flying today". Regardless of ToS, they could play the security card and threaten to fetch TSA.

What courts have said in the past, is that if X has the right to set a rule R... and Rule R is reasonable on its face and not inconsietent with their rules and good business practice... then X has the right to enforce Rule R, even if they haven't yet spelled it out explicitly in their list of rules. So if you visit your favorite concert venue on 9/12/2001 and suddenly they're calling your boxcutter a knife, when they didn't before... yeah, they get to make that rule on the fly. So if you got in a legal punching match with the airline over this, you will lose.

In other words, courts are not amused with crafty rules-lawyering and twisting a companys ToS against them.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JoErNanO Jun 28 '18 at 13:04
2

There are plenty of other ways of getting items to a location before you arrive there other than, at the very last moment, asking someone to take it on for you, which won't work because of all the reasons shown above.

Investigate one of the many services which provide a solution to this, such as lockers you can have things delivered to or posting it to someone you know in the area you're going to or couriers who'll hold it for you for an amount of time.

  • Sounds like a good solution. Where would one find these couriers? – Jennifer Jun 25 '18 at 5:18
2

I experienced this once, when my teacher gave me a bag of his stuff because he had too much of it. I carried this as my own.

It was around 1984.

I simply cannot imagine this happening anymore except for people I trust with my life (or about that).

With a stranger this is not only impossible but I would probably warn security.

just don't do it - not only nobody sane will take it for you but you risk to miss your flight because of detention.

  • 8
    1984 was a kinder, gentler time. Which, in the context of the novel "1984", is a rather scary thought... – Bob Jarvis Jun 26 '18 at 17:03
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    As you suggest, a teacher is a very different situation from a complete stranger -- your teacher was presumably in loco parentis at the time. – David Richerby Jun 27 '18 at 21:45
  • @DavidRicherby: no, we met by chance on the same flight. He actually gave me the stuff after I left my parents (travelling as an UM with my brother). But yes, as Bob said it was a much gentler time then. – WoJ Jun 28 '18 at 9:02
1

You could ring (or better still email so you have a reply in writing) the airline beforehand, tell them you need to take a knife, and ask if you can hand it to them to be returned to you at your destination airport.

  • 2
    I can't imagine any airline agreeing to provide this service. It's not like duty-free alcohol where there is an established process for pickup and delivery. – arp Jun 24 '18 at 4:11
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    I can imagine them saying "yes, we'll do that for you if you put it in a suitcase, take it to the baggage check-in desk and pay the appropriate baggage fee". – Dawood ibn Kareem Jun 24 '18 at 12:06
  • @arp: could you share any links to the process for pickup and delivery of duty-free alcohol please? just curious to know. – Ramnath Jun 27 '18 at 13:42
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    @Ramnath In the US, when you buy duty-free alcohol, it's taken to the gate for you and you pick it up before boarding; in Europe, there's a scheme where you can buy it at your departure airport and they look after it until you return. Neither of those would be useful for a knife but I think that arp is just using it as an example of something where the airline has some procedure, as distinct from other small items of luggage, where there's no procedure at all. – David Richerby Jun 27 '18 at 21:51
1

An approach that you could take, if you were bent on this course of action that, frankly, seems ridiculous given the cost of a decent knife for camping is $10-30, is to use a site like Craigslist or Facebook where you can post personal ads.

Your odds are probably slightly better at getting someone to take your knife rather than approaching them at the airport, but it's still a fantastically bad idea. You're already paying a few hundred dollars on your ticket and you're waffling about less than 10% of the cost? There are much better things that you could be doing with your time and effort that would give you the funds to just go out and buy a knife when you get where you're going.

  • What if the OP goes on 3 or 4 camping trips a year, and the flight price of each is about $100? And if the knife has sentimental value? – Ivana Jul 2 '18 at 14:17
  • 1
    @Ivana simple. Don't transport sentimental knives on camping trips, if you're not willing to pay the costs of transporting it. – Wayne Werner Jul 5 '18 at 4:52

protected by JonathanReez Jun 24 '18 at 16:36

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