It’s no secret that TSA has a bad rap. From transgender travelers to little boys, the agency has targeted all kinds of people who have walked through an airports’ shiny metal scanners. But it appears you don’t even need to be alive to be harassed by airport security.
A.J. Francis, a football player for the New York Giants, tweeted yesterday express his outrage after the Transportation Security Administration rifled through his suitcase and spilled his mother’s ashes. The defensive lineman included a photo showing his luggage with cremated remains scattered all over his clothes.
Three hours later, TSA apologized on their Twitter. But the damage was already done.
2: Our officers are trained to handle your carry-on and checked property with care. Out of respect for the deceased, under no circumstances should the container be opened. Please accept our apologies and our condolences. https://t.co/dlf0Ci6Fh3 https://t.co/wLxp0Wphg9— AskTSA (@AskTSA) July 9, 2018
Though Francis received an outpour of support, some Twitter users voiced their skepticism and asked him why he didn’t simply just carry his ashes on the airplane.
Cremated remains are allowed in checked bags and, with special instructions, in carry-on bags, according to the TSA website. It also advises travelers to check with their airline about traveling with cremated remains in checked bags, as some do not allow it.
Many users on social media shared an archived post from 2012 stating that cremated remains are subject to screening and must pass through an x-ray machine. “If the X-ray Operator cannot clear the remains, TSA may apply other, non-intrusive means of resolving the alarm.” However, it is unclear as to whether this policy is still in place, as it states that the page may contain information that is outdated.
The current policy and the archived post both maintain that TSA employees are prohibited from opening the container.
According to his tweet, Francis flew Delta, which allows for cremated remains to be checked or carried on. The airline also requires a death certificate, which he said he was waiting on. In any case, TSA clearly violated policy by opening his container. The agency did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.
Francis’ story prompted other users across social media to share their own experiences being harassed or mistreated by TSA.
Francis shared fond memories of his mother on Instagram in the weeks leading up to the incident with TSA. According to one post, his mother, Carrie Leanne Francis, died on June 26.
Update 8:43pm CT, July 11: In a statement emailed to the Daily Dot, the TSA said a video of the screening showed the container Francis used to store his mother’s ashes was “alarmed for an unidentified object.”
“A TSA officer discovered the unidentified object was an opened, unmarked ceramic container, wrapped in aluminum foil inside a small bag,” the statement said. “Upon further inspection of the checked bag, the container was loosely packaged, unmarked and the contents unknown to the TSA officer.”
According to the statement, the container was “carefully repacked” after the bag was screen and cleared. The TSA also reiterated its current policy on cremated remains and advised passengers to secure them in a container made of lighter materials such as wood or plastic.