Recently we tried to fly from Incheon International Airport to Cebu, Philippines. This was our first trip traveling with our Hollis PRISM 2 rebreather. Knowing that we were bringing all kinds of “weird” looking stuff to the airlines we showed up about 4.5 hours early to ensure we had enough time to explain what everything was to security.
We get to the airport with PRISM 2 in a carry-on and our sorb (Carbon Dioxide Absorbent) as a check bag. We were immediately asked to see security…we expected this. We politely explained that the sorb is not hazardous during transport and provided the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) and an official letter explaining travel with Sofnolime.
We were also told that tanks were NOT under any circumstances authorized and the attendant refused to listen to my explanation that the valves were removed. After 5 minutes of digging them out she was satisfied and said “OK” once she could see no valves on the tanks.
A Korean Airlines (KAL) Attendant instructed us that Sofnolime was a hazardous material and could ONLY be flown on cargo (non-passenger) flights, she stated that this was Korean Air’s policy. We kindly asked for our luggage back and told them we needed to cancel the trip. The attendant informed us that we would have to wait about 1 hr to get our baggage back and in the mean time we could get a refund for tickets (minus fees of course).
After an hour of waiting and not getting a full refund we were finally able to ask for our bags…but they still weren’t ready. A bit upset at this point…we were now being told 20 MORE minutes to wait. Thankfully it was only 5 minutes.
Now sadly dragging our gear back to the parking lot where we parked our vehicle (more money wasted on parking) we put our things away and headed home (paying more tolls for nothing).
Once home we wrote a detailed letter to Korean Air Cargo Logistics asking what their policy was on Carbon Dioxide Absorbent (because we have an upcoming flight to Guam). We wanted to be sure to be ready. Since the KAL check-in attendant stated that passenger flights are a NO GO but cargo flights are OK we wanted to get the details. Their reply was a bit maddening because it seems that KAL’s policy is that this material is PERFECTLY OK to fly on both passenger and cargo flights (SELFTGS@Koreanair.com). Here is what they wrote:
“Dear Sir or Madam,
First of all, thank you for contacting Korean Air.
I’m returning your inquiry regarding transportation of Carbon Dioxide Absorbent.
As we look through the MSDS you linked, it is not Dangerous Goods for
air transport and can be transported by Passenger Flight or Freighter.
If you have any more questions, please feel free to contact SELFTGS@Koreanair.com
We hope our answer helpful.
XXX XXX XXX
Cargo Logistics and Service
Korean Air ”
Needless to say this sparked an immediate call to their customer service center. We went back and forth with the phone representative on the exact details of the events that caused my cancelled vacation. At the end of the conversation we were apologized to and informed that we should send an email to them (email@example.com) explaining the situation as well as the reply from KAL Cargo Logistics (above). We sent this email off prior to getting off the phone with the representative. We were also informed that a supervisor would contact us in 1 to 2 days regarding this matter.
Absolutely NO ONE contacted us. One day 3 we called KAL again, we were again instructed to send an email and someone would call later today.
Once AGAIN no call… we called back the following day…same story and AGAIN no call. This happened 4 times and 4 times none called. Finally on the 5th call placed to KAL we asked for a direct number to customer service located in Korea. We were given a number and finally a legitimate customer service address (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We called customer service and we were assured that someone would contact us with information. FINALLY we got a response:
“Dear Mr. ————–,
We always thank you for your patronage of Korean Air, and we’d like to reply to your inquiry for the compensation you asked on your second letter as below.
First of all, we feel regrettable that you, a SkyTeam Elite Plus member, had to cancel your flight, KE631 on 24 Oct due to security screening result of Carbon Dioxide Absorbent material. For your clear understanding of the consequences, we would like to help you with further explanation and assist you with suitable party which you might discuss compensation with.
For your information, the whole security screening of checked-in baggage at the Incheon airport is completely conducted by Security Screening Dept. of Incheon International Airport Corp. Even though we have our own general policy for the restricted items to which we can refer in order to follow Aviation Safety and Security Act, we can only load checked-in baggage which passes its security screening. In some cases even though the material is not dangerous goods, at the airport side they can make the call based on various facts with more details under Aviation Safety and Security Act. Please understand that the reply from Korean Air Cargo Logistics was based on our own policy about general Cargo handling of Carbon Dioxide Absorbent transportation and MSDS you linked.
So if you need to discuss compensation, for better assistance you can contact Incheon International Airport Corp. which made decision for your material transportation on 24 Oct. and will still play the main role for security screening of Carbon Dioxide Absorbent material in a future. You can refer to its Voice of Customer Website; http://voc.airport.kr/eng/voc/complain/ComplainGuide.jsp
Thank you very much for taking your precious time to write to us and we look forward to serving you again in the near future.
xxx xxx xxx
Check-in service team leader
Incheon Int’l Airport | KOREAN AIR”
OK so we are reading this as it is not KALs fault but Incheon Airport’s contracted security fault…
Here we go…we went to the link provided (http://voc.airport.kr/eng/voc/complain/ComplainGuide.jsp) and submitted a complaint explaining the situation we encountered on 24 October 2013.
We are awaiting a response. Hopefully we will have an official memorandum for those of us traveling with CO2 absorbent in the future…or at a minimum be WELL AWARE of the KAL and Incheon Airport regulations.
… STAY TUNED!