Monday, January 9, 2012

Cupcakegate

This will be short and “sweet.” Like many of you, when I think of a cupcake, I don’t think of it being in a jar. However, the photo below shows the “cupcake” that was prohibited from being taken into the cabin of a plane last month.
Normal cup cake and a cup cake in a jar.
Cupcake Jar Photo Courtesy of Consumertraveler.com

I wanted to make it clear that this wasn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill cupcake. If you’re not familiar with it, we have a policy directly related to the UK liquid bomb plot of 2006 called 3-1-1 that  limits the amount of liquids, gels and aerosols you can bring in your carry-on luggage. Icing falls under the “gel” category.  As you can see from the picture, unlike a thin layer of icing that resides on the top of most cupcakes, this cupcake had a thick layer of icing inside a jar.

In general, cakes and pies are allowed in carry-on luggage, however, the officer in this case used their discretion on whether or not to allow the newfangled modern take on a cupcake per 3-1-1 guidelines. They chose not to let it go.

Every officer wants to finish their shift and go home with the peace of mind that they kept potential threats off of airplanes. They’re not thinking about whether their decisions will go viral on the internet – they’re thinking about keeping bombs off of planes. This incident may seem like a silly move to many of our critics, but when we can’t be exactly sure of what something is, every officer has the discretion to not allow it on the plane.  This is done purely for the safety of everyone traveling.

Here are two very real liquid related incidents from the past. This is why we have limitations on liquids, gels and aerosols.

1995 “Bojinka Plot” in Asia where Ramzi Yousef planned to use liquid explosives to bomb 12 passenger carrying aircraft bound for the United States. This was one month after his test on Philippine Airlines Flight 434 where a smaller “liquid” container killed one person.

The 2006 foiled liquid explosives plot in the U.K. This plot demonstrated a real threat and is the catalyst for TSA's liquids restrictions.

What the two plots above and intelligence gathered from all over the world tells us is that unless Wile E. Coyote is involved, the days of the three sticks of dynamite with a giant alarm clock strapped to them are long gone. Terrorists have moved to novel explosives disguised as common, everyday items. Our officers are regularly briefed and trained by TSA explosives specialists on how just about any common appliance, toy or doohickey can be turned into a dangerous explosive. When you think about it, do you think an explosive would be concealed in an ominous item that would draw attention, or something as simple as a cute cupcake jar?

The bottom line is that you can bring cakes, pies and cupcakes through the security checkpoint, but you should expect that they might get some additional screening, and if something doesn’t seem right, there is always the potential you won’t be able to take it through. 

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

421 comments:

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Anonymous said...

If bombs can be concealed in normal items, why would terrorists use an unusually-designed cupcake to disguise it?anything unusual draws more attention

Mackenzie said...

All the TSA's rules tell me is that y'all lack imaginations. As many 3oz bottles as you can shove in a quart bag, fine, maybe it'll just be a *small* bomb. Now combine it with the stuff in the bags of your 5 friends. Reactive "security" at its worst. Get some intelligence instead of jumping at shadows.

Mike Toreno said...

"How in the world are there still so many people that *support* the TSA and their actions?"

Those people all work for the TSA. And you've seen them. If the TSA were gone, where would they get another job?

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the passenger here. Cupcakes in a jar can't be against the rules in Las Vegas but OK in Boston. Your supervisor in LV didn't even think they were a security threat - he was just being bureaucratic ... or hungry. You're better off just being quiet rather than saying things that make the agency seem like a bunch of silly box-checkers.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"If bombs can be concealed in normal items, why would terrorists use an unusually-designed cupcake to disguise it?anything unusual draws more attention"

The TSA procedures are based on the assumption that all terrorists are morons who will do stupid things and be easy to catch.

Anyone with a normal level intelligence and a few hours to think about it can find many ways to get stuff past the TSA "security".

Anonymous said...

This is almost as bad as the time I flew with an infant and they weren't wanting to let any of her sealed baby food jars through without opening each and every one of them. Their logic (yes, I spoke with the highest person there) was that the opened jars wouldn't spoil at all during our 14 hour trip. These were standard GERBER baby food jars. Then they tried to deny the formula (powdered in the original can). This stuff cannot be purchased on the "safe" side of the airport. This is stupid. These agents need to be taught COMMON SENSE and how to use it and the rules to make their decisions. I had to actually show them a print out of the TSA website that showed that it was acceptable for me to bring adequate food for the trip. As the trip was over multiple meals/snacks, I allowed a little extra for delays. They still tried to deny any food or formula.

Anonymous said...

"Point 1: It was not a cupcake that was prohibited. It was a cupcake in a jar of icing. "

That the TSA spokesman said should have been allowed. There is no restriction for "icing" in screening. In fact, the TSA indicates that pies, cakes, etc are permitted. Are you saying that TSA headquarters is lying to us?

"Point 2: We don't know if the cupcake in a jar of icing was allowed through Boston. We only know that is what the passenger is saying. "

We do know the cupcake passed through security at Boston. If you believe it didn't, please present your evidence.

It is okay to attack TSA, but please use facts when doing so."

You first.

Anonymous said...

You know with all that is going on with the liquids why not got backwards and just band them all over again when the liquids plot first was brought to light.

Anonymous said...

Anon said:My teens are afraid to fly. Not because of the threat of terrorism, but the threat of the TSA and the Xray cancer machines. My son is supposed to go on a school trip to Philly and Washington DC but is petrified of the TSA, so now is telling me he doesn't want to go. How sad. How tragic for our country to have become a police state. Ben Franklin is rolling in his grave that we have given up liberty for a bit of theatre under the guise of safety.

Well, I'm gonna say that your son has this fear bc you put it there by immediately jumping to the conclusion that bc he has to fly, he's gonna be terrorized by the TSA. 'Most' (not ALL..dont go taking my words and blowing them out of proportion) people I have to do any secondary screening to, usually thank me and say "I wonder what the fuss is all about?!!" The answer is the media, people. When this stuff goes public, it generally gets blown out of proportion. Yes, bad scenarios DO happen bc yes, we'll have rogue TSOs abusing their power and yes, we'll have passengers blow up bc they've had a bad day and taking their water just sent them over the edge or the TSO had a bad day, or whatever the case may be. WE ARE ALL HUMAN and with that comes imperfections. I hate unnecessary procedures too bc I'm the one who has to enforce them but most of what we do has a reason and a purpose other than, "bc we can". But I can go on all day but I believe in what I do and I believe the wrong doings by TSA should not happen, but make your observations from your own experiences and not from what the media or other passengers say. If you go in expecting the negative, thats all you'll see and you'll blow even the smallest things out of proportion bc, "Well, this is what I knew would happen!!" Just think about it. Have a great day

Birmingham Homes Vinnie said...

Come on, folks! The rules are in place and published EVERYWHERE. All of you can complain about having a cupcake in a jar confiscated, but you know it is supposed to be checked. Why even try to carry that on if it meant so darn much to the person who had it?

RB said...

Birmingham Homes Vinnie said...
Come on, folks! The rules are in place and published EVERYWHERE. All of you can complain about having a cupcake in a jar confiscated, but you know it is supposed to be checked. Why even try to carry that on if it meant so darn much to the person who had it?

January 26, 2012 8:01 PM
................
Show us this supposed rule.

Deputy U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens said...

Cupcake in a jar eh? Kinda like how Mags from "Justified" calls it Apple Pie in a Jar {Moonshine}!

RB said...

Birmingham Homes Vinnie said...
Come on, folks! The rules are in place and published EVERYWHERE. All of you can complain about having a cupcake in a jar confiscated, but you know it is supposed to be checked. Why even try to carry that on if it meant so darn much to the person who had it?

January 26, 2012 8:01 PM
.....................

Still waiting for this rule prohibiting Cup Cakes.

Your second question as to why the person didn't just check it is because someone who inspects or handles baggage would likely have stolen it.

spookiewon said...

Here's what it comes down to: Was the cupcake treated as if it was possibly an explosive? Was a bomb-removal team called? Was it treated the way a prudent person would treat something they actually believed could possibly be an explosive? If not, no one at the checkpoint actually had even a remote belief the cupcake could be an explosive, and confiscating the cupcake was completely an act designed to demoralize, as are all the items confiscated by the TSA. There is absolutely no improvement in security if we confiscate stuff we KNOW isn't dangerous because we have a rule that says we can. If it's against the law to try to board an aircraft carrying a bottle of water because bottles of water might actually be explosives, then the only way we increase security is to arrest people who try to bring water aboard and treat the water as if it were actual explosive--and having an explosives expert clear it before handling it. If we simply take the item and throw it in the trash we acknowledge that we KNOW it's not about security. ANd it doesn't matter how much more secure one FEELS because the TSA engages in security theater--you're not but you HAVE been diminished and so have I.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, a cupcake is just a cuptake.

Anonymous said...

To think someone would risk their job in an economy like this to eat a cupcake is absurd. Be real people. No one risks their job over a cupcake.

Anonymous said...

The tsa should have swabbed it and let it go if it didn't fail. They confiscated a wax based hair product from me even though it didn't fit their usual guidelines for liquids and gels., when I asked the supervisor about it, he said if it smears it's a gel. So that would include cake icing too so why would a conventional cupcake be allowed?

Anonymous said...

Let's not be so harsh on TSA workers! Jars are usually used to contain food items which are far from solid. The liquid rules for airplane carry-ons are clear--No liquids over 3oz. By the logic on these posts...a gallon of shampoo should be allowed just because "everyone knows its shampoo". That, my friends, defeats the entire purpose of the regulation!

Never having seen one before, I too would assume a jar cupcake to be less solid than your average cupcake---i mean---why else is it in a jar? if it seems to be more than 3oz of a liquid or gel, it no longer complies with regulations. The suspicion is that its too liquidy--or gel like to comply--not that its a bomb!

Bobby said...

The cupcake in question was neither a liquid, gel, or aerosol.

The container mean the cupcake was in could have been tested for explosive components.

Making excuses for stupid acts by some TSA employees just creates more distrust of TSA and its employees.

Anonymous said...

On the ground level the TSA is one of the worst run government agencies in the world especially in major metropolitan areas. That is simply my opinion. With that being said, the TSA wasn't formed until 2001 so we can't ask why they didn't do anything in 94.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god. It's a CUPCAKE! Who cares?!

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