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Flying with turkeys: You can bring them in a carry-on. But the gravy? Check that.  

Travelers wait to go through security screening at

Travelers wait to go through security screening at LaGuardia Airport on Wednesday. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Flying somewhere for Thanksgiving? Airline passengers can tuck a frozen bird in their carry-on bag — along with their favorite seasonings and even a few sides — but not the cranberry sauce and gravy, according to Transportation Security Administration officials.

The officials detailed what kind of foods can be carried on, and which should be checked, at a news conference Wednesday at LaGuardia Airport, where they also said travel volume around Thanksgiving at local airports is expected to be near 2019 pre-pandemic levels.

TSA Supervising Officer Michel Ricot said that during his 18 years working for the agency, he has seen passengers haul an assortment of grub, including frozen and cooked Thanksgiving meats.

"Some people are flying the night before and they don’t have time to prep when they get there, so they bring whatever it is they’re going to make, just to make things a little bit easier," Ricot said at the news conference.

As far as frozen turkeys, Ricot added: "As long as it can fit in your carry-on bag, you can bring it."

Security won’t stop passengers at checkpoints from bringing in any solid chow, including baked goods, apple pie and chocolate. But passengers need to think twice before lugging wine, maple syrup, or anything canned or jarred.

"The trick is, How do you know if it should go in your checked bag or your carry-on bag? And if it’s a solid, it can go in your carry-on. If it’s a liquid, a jell, something spreadable; then it should go in your checked bag," TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein explained.

"If you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, it should go right into your checked bag," Farbstein said.

TSA officials said they are equipped to manage the spike in passengers, anticipated to last from Nov. 19 through 29.

"We expect to see a substantial increase in passenger volumes, which will be approaching the pre-pandemic 2019 volumes we saw two years ago, which is good news for the airport and good news for the region," said Robert Duffy, TSA’s federal security director for LaGuardia.

During the Thanksgiving period, Duffy expects 45,000 to 50,000 LaGuardia passengers will be screened daily. In comparison, during the peak of the pandemic in 2020, there was once a daily low of 700 passengers screened at LaGuardia, he said.

Nationwide, TSA officers have been screening between 1.9 million and 2.2 million people daily, which is a large increase from last year but still down from pre-pandemic levels, when more than 2.5 million people walked through security daily, and even more during the holidays.

Manhattan resident Manjula Jayabalan, 29, was traveling to Chicago on a business trip and still unsure of her holiday plans next week, but she didn't want her flight experience tainted by what's yet to land on a stranger's dinner plate.

"Sitting next to someone who has uncooked meat on the plane would be terrible," Jayabalan said.

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