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.