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28 June 2017

The strange things people put in luggage

A man holding a lobsterImage copyright
TSA

As people jet off for their summer holidays, the question of what you can and can’t carry in your luggage is more pressing than ever – especially for those attempting to carry live creatures or unexploded mementoes of war.

It’s the age-old problem – you’re overseas on a trip, you treat yourself to that 20lb lobster you’ve always promised yourself, and you need to get it home. What do you do now?

For one passenger at Boston’s Logan International Airport, the answer was simply to check it in as part of their luggage allowance. But the crustacean wasn’t allowed to fly, and the US Transportation Security Administration has now tweeted a picture of it.

This isn’t as rare an event as you might think – a man returning home to China was found with a live lobster in his hand luggage in March last year.

He’d travelled from Australia via Hong Kong, and somehow had managed to get his cargo as far as his returning airport in Ningbo, in the east of the country, before officials stepped in.

The month before that, two women were filmed in Hong Kong stuffing live lobsters into a holdall. The fate of the creatures, and the women’s destination, is not known, but it seems likely that they were destined for a journey of some kind.

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Getty Images

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Unexploded artillery shells still turn up in northern France, and in Eurostar luggage

It’s not just live things that cause consternation at security checkpoints – the Eurostar has a consistent problem with people trying to bring unexploded shells from both world wars onto its trains.

They’re found in France and then attempts are made to bring them over to the UK.

There have been so many instances of this that in May 2015 the BBC did a round-up of shell-collectors bringing trains to a halt. And so it goes on, with people still trying to carry old explosives under the Channel every now and then.

London City Airport commissioned a report last year that found 13% of people in the UK have had to give up an item of hand luggage because it flouted the rules.

Its report also said that two pairs of fluffy handcuffs are confiscated by London City Airport staff every month on average.

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Getty Images

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Tourists who treat themselves to a London snow globe can’t carry it in their hand luggage

Top of the report’s confiscated list is snow globes, commonly depicting landmarks from the capital. These break the rule on not transporting more than 100ml of liquid on board a flight in hand luggage.

Also on the airport’s banned list are potato forks for fondue sets – because they could be used as a weapon.

A year ago, Essex Police tweeted photographs of an iPhone case that looked like a gun, which caused a bit of consternation at Stansted Airport.

Image copyright
Essex Police

In 2010, Cardiff Airport released a list of items that people had been stopped with.

These included a palm tree in a sand bag, a briefcase full of bricks, two unpacked armchairs and a 10lb frozen turkey.

When security staff asked the passenger about the turkey, they replied: “Why are you making a fuss – will it thaw at 30,000ft?”

The man was told it was illegal to take perishable foodstuffs abroad without proper permission.

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Getty Images

Image caption

Turkeys are great in an oven, not so good in your suitcase

Cardiff Airport says that it “hasn’t had anything too unusual” of late, but does often prevent “home comfort foods” such as Marmite and butter – which is classed as a liquid. Also tinned foods like peaches have been prevented from going aboard aircraft.

Other items that aren’t even allowed in hold luggage when boarding a plane in the UK include the following:

  • Lighters
  • Fireworks
  • Matches
  • E-cigarettes
  • Vehicle batteries
  • Mace or pepper spray
  • Imitation explosive devices (including replica or model guns)
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