How to take a live lobster on a plane

​Earlier this week, a tweet from Michael McCarthy, spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the United States, stirred up a frenzy online. The excitement wasn’t due to anything said; rather, it was all about what was pictured: a giant lobster pulled from a passenger’s luggage. 

The tweet explained that the crustacean, weighing over 20 pounds (9kg), was found at Boston’s Logan International Airport. 

This comes the same week as an old internet video of crabs on the loose at an airport baggage claim resurfaced, but as odd as these occurrences seem, the truth is that live seafood is welcome on flights in the United States and Canada, providing the packaging is leak-proof and in compliance with individual airline rules on the transport of fresh seafood. Condé Nast Traveler notes that it’s even possible to purchase lobsters at airports, thanks to seafood market outlets like Clearwater Seafoods at Halifax International Airport, which can pack up to 12 lobsters into special carry-on containers, chilled with frozen peas (instead of gel, which contravenes the liquid ban when it melts).

Airlines who fly to destinations where lobster is popular have already formed live lobster travel policies. For instance, JetBlue, with routes to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket in Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine, state that you can bring live lobster in your checked or carry-on baggage, but “if the container uses ice packs, it must be sealed and in a leak-proof container with the contents clearly marked.” You’ll want a professional to do that packaging anyway, as JetBlue “won’t be liable for damage, loss, or spoilage.”

Burdening yourself with a box of lobsters on a flight can be quite lucrative, however; the critters command high prices and enjoying lobster in many regions of the United States is quite a treat. 

“Paid rent for a weekend in Salt Lake City with lobsters I flew with me from Boston. They even sell them ‘packed to go’ in Terminal C,” says JR, a traveller who has flown more than two million miles, though not all of them with lobster. He told The Independent how the peculiar carry-on can attract attention: “It was six [lobsters], in two small hand carry boxes. And an asshat in Denver where I connected wanted to buy them. Wouldn’t take no for a polite answer.”

And lobsters aren’t the only sea creatures taking to the skies. Matthew Little, a traveller who successfully flew with fish, shared his experience with The Independent: “About nine years ago, I flew home from a trip to Seattle with a big box of fish. I was so worried they’d go bad enroute. As it turned out, the biggest ordeal of that trek wasn’t so much about the fish potentially going bad as much as it was racing through the Minneapolis airport, with a big box (that didn’t have any handle on it or any means of making carrying it very easy), trying to catch our connecting flight.”

If nothing else, these revelations about travelling with live seafood now provide an alternate excuse for the smells inside an airplane cabin.

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