“I just started cracking up, because you see all these ordinary items on the conveyor belt: purses, backpacks, laptops,” said McGraw, a national political correspondent at Politico. “And then there was a big fat turkey.”
McGraw, the poultry and the unidentified woman who accompanied it ended up on the same Southwest flight to Austin — though the turkey and woman had priority boarding.
“She was in Boarding Group A, which is called, ironically, the early-bird check-in,” McGraw said.
By this point, the journalist was chronicling the journey on Twitter. Her followers had questions (blame the supply chain?) — and jokes.
“Carrion,” one user wrote, succinctly.
“Please keep us abreast of the situation,” someone else said.
Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein — who has been making the media rounds explaining what holiday foods can be carried on and what must be checked — took the opportunity to reiterate her messaging.
In an email, Farbstein said frozen or thawed turkeys would be allowed through a checkpoint, though it was “probably best to bring a frozen one.” She said the one at DCA appeared to be frozen, though McGraw couldn’t tell for sure.
The flight-tracking site FlightAware said the travel time for the trip was three hours and 24 minutes, which the not-so-flightless turkey apparently spent in a luggage bin.
“I watched her open the overhead compartment and she pulled the turkey out ... and she went on her merry way,” McGraw said.
Farbstein said she would recommend carrying a turkey in a plastic bag or soft-sided cooler that could tuck under the seat so that the container would hold liquid as it thawed.
“Personally, I’d look into buying one at my destination!” she added.
The Agriculture Department agreed. “USDA is turning over in its gravy over here!” the agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Service tweeted. “Funny? Yes. Safe? NO! Ditch that foul fowl and buy yourself a fresh turkey in Austin.”
For all the attention McGraw’s tweets earned, the turkey appeared to make less of a splash in person.
“From what I could tell, nobody seemed to bat an eye,” she said. “We all see enough strange and bizarre things traveling these days that, I don’t know, maybe nobody’s fazed by much anymore.”