Thanksgiving

What's with All the 'How to Take Your Turkey on a Plane' Articles?

Who is actually trying to take an entire turkey on a plane? And why?

by Hannah Keyser
21 November 2018, 5:48pm

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It's Thanksgiving week, which is great news for a food website because people are encountering all sorts of eating-adjacent issues that they need addressed and if we can properly anticipate those quandaries, we'll be able to credulously capitalize on the reliable clicks of service journalism. So in the spirit of news you can use, here's a hot tip: Buy your bird after you get to wherever you're going.

Do not bring a turkey on a bus; driving seems fine, but why all the fuss? Do not sail it on a boat; although I'm pretty sure that turkeys float. Do not bring it on a train, and for fuck's sake why would you try to take a turkey on a plane? (Apologies, Theodor Seuss Geisel, they can't all be winners.)

I wouldn't have ever considered whether anyone tries to bring a frozen, uncooked turkey with them on an airplane (where space is famously at a premium) except for the fact that dozens of internet outlets wants to assure me that I absolutely can bring a frozen, uncooked turkey with me on a plane.

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As you can see, some of these headlines date back a year or two or four, because this topic is not only hugely popular; it's also apparently annually relevant. Even if we toggle over to the "news" tab, there are plenty of local orgs addressing the pressing question of the best way to take a turkey on a plane this very week.

screengrab news about taking a turkey on a plane

All of these stories start with the same premise based on their ledes: People travel on Thanksgiving....

"Flying the friendly skies for the holidays? You will definitely not be alone," says KRON 4.

...which means uh oh dealing with the TSA...

"Every family has their own Thanksgiving customs, but there is one tradition that unites us all: standing in line at airport security," the Kitchn opined last year.

"Get ready for packed airports. The TSA is expecting to screen 25 million people between the 16th and 26th of November," warns WPDE local news.

...But what about dinner?

"More people will be traveling over the river and through the woods — including many with Thanksgiving dinners in tow—than in previous years," writes the Chicago Sun-Times.

"You’re flying to Aunt Ethel’s house for Thanksgiving. Do you contribute to the meal by bringing the turkey?" asks KUTV.

Seemingly this genre of November content exists specifically because every year the TSA publishes an advisory of Holiday Travel Tips that addresses this very issue. Prior to 2016, "turkey" was one of just a list of foods—including "cakes, pies, bread, donuts, turkeys, etc."—that "are all permitted."

But in 2016 and 2017, they decided to have a little fun with this hypothetical, writing, "Let’s get the travel tips started by addressing the 15-pound turkey in the room. Yes, your turkey can fly. Well, turkeys can’t fly, but you can pack them in your carry-on or checked bags.

And this year, the government agency (which, by the way, has a surprisingly helpful Twitter account) got real goofy with a bunch of gifs that amount to saying the same thing. That is: Weirdly mashed potatoes count as a liquid, which must be limited to 3.4 ounces, but turkey and all other solid foods are technically totally fine to carry on.

Except: What? Why? And also, who?

When I asked about this issue on Twitter—namely, who are all of these people who are concerned about bringing whole turkeys through airport security—most of the people who responded were equally perplexed. But one user helpfully reminded me that some people hunt their own wild turkeys, which then might need to be transported elsewhere in the country. If this is the case with the turkeys on your plane, I hope they have been properly cleaned and rendered largely un-carcass like before being stowed in the shared overhead bin. Within the VICE office, a quick poll regarding whether anyone knew a person who had ever taken a turkey on a plane was met with assorted versions of "what?" or "lol" or "wtf," which I took to mean no.

However, one person, who wanted their turkey-trafficking to remain anonymous, had. Their mother-in-law was concerned about sourcing a Thanksgiving turkey in Mexico, so they'd flown one down. But, as it turns out, "[M]exico is full of turkeys AND we ended up getting one there," they said.

Which brings us to the final question: Should you bring a turkey on a plane? I asked our culinary director, Farideh Sadeghin, who strongly recommended against doing so. "Unless you have it on hella ice," she said. "But then... why would you do that?"

Why, indeed?

This article originally appeared on Munchies US.