Travel Tips

5 min read

Pepper Spray on Flights: Navigating Airline Security Rules

Strap in, travelers! Ever wondered if your pepper spray can jet-set with you? Let's unpack the spicy details of airline regulations before your next takeoff!

Tobi Miles
June 17, 2022

When traveling anywhere, you always want to be safe, especially if you are alone. According to a study in the National Library of Medicine, 20 percent of women in the US carry pepper spray. If you are one of these women, you should know whether or not you can bring pepper spray on a plane.

Pepper spray is not permitted in carry-on bags on any airline. Some airlines do not allow pepper spray in checked luggage, so you should check with the airline first. You can bring one 4 fluid ounce container of pepper spray with a safety mechanism in a checked bag. Pepper spray with more than two percent of tear gas by mass is not permitted in checked baggage.

When your flight lands at your final destination, the last thing you want to do is try to find pepper spray. Before you book your flight, make sure you know all of the guidelines for packing pepper spray in your luggage.

Will the TSA Confiscate Pepper Spray?

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TSA will confiscate any pepper spray that you pack in a carry-on bag. You can bring pepper spray in a checked bag if it meets TSA guidelines, but it isn’t allowed on every airline.

For airlines that permit pepper spray, you can only bring one four fluid ounce container. It must have a safety mechanism and contain less than two percent of tear gas.

JetBlue, Southwest, and United Airlines do not allow pepper spray in a carry-on or a checked bag. American Airlines and Frontier do allow you to bring one 4 ounce pepper spray sealed in your checked baggage.

Always check with the airline the day before travel to ensure you’re permitted to bring pepper spray in your luggage. The TSA agent will ultimately have the final decision on whether or not they allow pepper spray through the security checkpoint.

A Quick Look at the TSA’s Rules for Pepper Spray

  • The TSA breaks pepper spray rules into three categories depending on size, safety, and tear gas percentage.
  • The pepper spray container cannot be larger than 4 fluid ounces. The rule for pepper spray is different from the liquids rule when it comes to carrying medicinal and toiletry items.
  • The pepper spray size requirement refers to the size of the pepper spray container, not the contents of the container.
  • You cannot bring pepper spray in a carry-on bag and must store it in your checked bag if the airline allows it.
  • The pepper spray has to have a safety mechanism to prevent accidentally discharging the contents. The safety mechanism cannot just be a recessed button; it has to have a cover or cap on the trigger.
  • TSA limits the amount of tear gas in the pepper spray to two percent by mass. If your pepper spray has more tear gas, you cannot bring it in your checked luggage.

Can I Bring Pepper Spray If It’s In a Plastic Bag?

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You can only bring pepper spray on a plane if it meets the TSA and airline’s guidelines. If the airline you’re flying on permits pepper spray, you can only bring one 4 fluid ounce container.

The pepper spray must have a safety mechanism and contain less than two percent of tear gas. If your pepper spray follows the guidelines, you can put pepper spray in a resealable plastic bag.

Related Read: How Strict Is JetBlue with Personal Item Size?

Can I Put Pepper Spray In a Checked Bag?

If an airline allows pepper spray, you must always pack it in your checked baggage. You can never have it inside your carry-on bag. The pepper spray must meet the TSA's size, safety, and tear gas requirements.

Pepper spray packed in a checked bag cannot be in a container larger than 4 fluid ounces. The size requirement depends on the actual container, not the contents inside. Keep in mind that pepper spray does not fall under the liquids rule that applies to carry-on medicinal and toiletry items.

The pepper spray container has to have a safety mechanism that prevents the pepper spray from discharging accidentally. The FAA states that a recessed button cannot be the only safety feature of the pepper spray. The device must have an additional safety device like a cap. A case for your pepper spray is not a substitute for the safety mechanism but a good added layer of protection.

The TSA does limit the amount of tear gas in the pepper spray. The pepper spray must contain less than two percent of tear gas in order to bring it on a plane.

What Is the Best Way to Pack Pepper Spray?

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As mentioned earlier, pepper spray is not permissible in a carry-on bag. You can only bring pepper spray on a plane if it is inside your checked baggage.  Therefore, you should check with the airline before traveling with pepper spray because not all airlines allow it on board.

When packing pepper spray, it’s important to do it to prevent it from accidentally discharging. The FAA says that pepper spray must have an additional safety feature like a cap, not just a recessed button. However, there are extra steps you can take when packing pepper spray.

When packing your pepper spray in your bag, check that the safety mechanism is secure. This could be a clip, reinforced trigger twist lock, or another device. Next, if the pepper spray has a cap, make sure to seal it tightly. Seal the pepper spray in a plastic bag or even double plastic bags for added security in case of accidental discharge.

Will Pepper Spray Explode on a Plane?

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Pepper spray can explode in extreme heat, but it will not likely explode on a plane. However, since you can’t have pepper spray in your carry-on, so it wouldn’t be in the plane’s cabin if it exploded.

To prevent pepper spray from exploding or discharging accidentally, the TSA has specific guidelines on safety. Pepper spray in checked bags must include a safety mechanism that prevents the pepper spray from discharging.

Is Pepper Spray Allowed on an International Flight?

On domestic flights, one 4 ounce pepper spray container is allowed. It should have a safety mechanism and contain less than two percent of tear gas. The pepper spray cannot be in a carry-on bag, and you must store it in your checked baggage. These are the guidelines of the TSA.

While the TSA allows pepper spray, international travel does not always have the same guidelines as flight travel domestically. International aviation regulations (ICAO/IATA) do not allow pepper spray in carry-on or checked baggage.

Does the TSA Allow Any Self-Defense Items On a Plane?

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If you want to protect yourself when traveling, there are several self-defense items allowed on a plane. Some of these self-defense items include stun guns, tasers, pocket knives, and swiss army knives. Keep in mind that each of these items has specific guidelines specified by the TSA.

Stun guns and tasters are not permitted in carry-on bags, but you can bring them in a checked bag. You must transport both of these devices in a manner where the weapon can’t accidentally discharge.

Some of these devices use lithium batteries, which come with their own regulations. Spare lithium batteries (not installed in a device) are not permissible in checked bags. You must carry extra lithium batteries on board with you in your carry-on bag or personal item, like a purse.

Pocket knives are not permitted in carry-on bags, but they are allowed in checked bags. In general, the TSA never allows sharp objects in carry-on bags. Swiss army knives are also not allowed in carry-on bags, but you can stow them in checked bags.

Make sure to secure and wrap any sharp object in a checked bag, like a knife, properly. This precautionary measure will prevent accidents to you as you unpack as well as baggage handlers or inspectors. Like most items, it is ultimately up to the TSA agent whether they allow certain items or not.

Related Read: Can You Bring A Taser On A Plane?

Still Not Sure? Ask the TSA

Don’t take the chance when it comes to bringing pepper spray on a plane or in your bags. If you are unsure what to do, it’s best to check with the TSA first.

There are various ways to contact the TSA to get information and answers to all of your air travel questions. You can visit the TSA website, chat with them through social media, call TSA directly or email them.

The TSA website has a database of questions often asked by other travelers and answers from the TSA.  This list of questions includes disabilities and medical conditions, ID requirements, items that are lost or damaged, and permitted and prohibited items. You can also find answers to questions about TSA PreCheck here.

If you have a question for the TSA, you can send it to AskTSA on Facebook Messenger or Twitter. They are available 8 AM to 10 PM ET on weekdays and 9 AM to 7 PM on weekends and holidays. Live representatives are also available if you call the TSA.

Final Look at Bringing Pepper Spray on a Plane

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Safety is always a high priority when traveling, and pepper spray often fulfills this need. Knowing the rules when it comes to pepper spray will save you time when going through airport security. Bringing pepper spray on a plane is not unheard of, but there are TSA guidelines and airline guidelines.

Pepper spray is never allowed in a carry-on bag. In order to bring pepper spray on the plane, you must follow the rules from both entities. If your airline allows pepper spray in a checked bag, it can only be one 4 fluid ounce container. The container must be equipped with a safety mechanism and have less than two percent of tear gas.

Article updated:
January 5, 2024

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