So you are in the security line at the airport with well over 4oz of water and some coral in your carry-on luggage.. You inform the first TSA agent you encounter and get raised eye brows.
This article will take you through my experience traveling within the United States (Orlando to Chicago) and transporting coral in my carry-on baggage in hope that it will assist others with question on how to do so, and what they may experience.
Back to the raised eyebrows.. The first gentleman asks "Coral? Like coral from the ocean? Do you have an aquarium or something?" After some small talk, holding up passengers behind me, he says, check with TSA at the security check-point and let them know you have it.
I get to the lane, remove my shoes, take out my laptop and place them all in the tray. When I catch the TSA agents attention, I state that I have a few pieces of coral and ask if she would like me to remove it from my bag for inspection. I get more raised eyebrows! "What is it?" and before I can answer "Take it out so I can see it." And again, I go into the conversation explaining what coral is, an animal. She then goes on to tell me that she is not sure that I can take it through and I explained that their website confirms it can be carried onto the aircraft in carry-on luggage.
She tells me she is not sure, takes the bag and places it into a separate X-Ray bin and says that a supervisor will be over to speak with me.
The supervisor comes over and goes "It is coral?" I reply, "Yes". She then explains to another TSA agent that they are unable to open the bag, but need to confirm that it is alive. Once this is completed, I would need to submit to a pat down and the agents gloves would be tested for illegal substances/explosives. If the tests come back clean, I'm free to continue on.
Well, let me be the first to tell you, if you have not received a "pat down" by a TSA agent, it is more like a rub down of every inch of your body. The use the inside of their hands in a sweeping motion for "non-sensitive" areas, and the backside of their hand in a sweeping motion for "sensitive" areas. They are thorough, which is a good thing all things considered, but those that may be sensitive to this, may want to think twice. One additional thing to add is I also traveled alone so I am unsure if all parties traveling together would also be subject to this.
Now, I am not condoning this or suggesting you take this approach, but airlines have varying animal policies. Feel free to check with your airline as to the scope of their policy; however, due to the slim likelyhood that my coral would start meowing or barking which in by backpack, I chose not to let them know.
I will say a special thank you to WWC and their hospitality while I was flying through, with my suitcase, and getting a quick look at their store and their gorgeous tanks. They were more than willing to bag the items well and provide an extra bag, just in case. They also suggested keeping your receipt handy; however, TSA never requested it.
Please consider this to be an overview of one experience. Your experience may vary and please be aware that final decision is with the TSA on what makes it through the security check-point.