Could you actually board an airplane pre-9/11 with garbage bag carry-on?

There was a documentary about porn actor Ron Jeremy (well before his sexual assault charges) and he used garbage bags either as luggage or carry-ons or both. I think the point was he was too cheap to buy luggage.

In 1998 I was in Cali, Columbia, and I bought a conga drum carved from a tree trunk. I made it into a piece of carry-on by buying a garbage bag and about 25 feet of polypropylene rope (to secure the bag and provide a handle). I stuffed the drum with my dirty underwear an a cowbell and walked straight onboard. At the plane change in Miami, no prob. I think that is where I went through customs, and they didn’t even care to look at my undies. Boarded the plane for Baltimore, still no interest.

Sorry, no surprise punchline to this story; just another data point to add to the pre-9/11 side of the story. Nowadays they’d prob make you empty the drum and prove you could play it.


In December 1970 I flew from Boston to Texas for Christmas. I brought my hamster in my camera bag. I checked the cage as luggage, and they asked if there was an animal in there. Nope. They never looked in my bag. Good thing too, since we were delayed and got a motel and money for dinner in Houston because we came in too late for a connecting flight to our final destination.

When we gave our car to our daughter, we drove it from the Bay Area to St. Louis, and they flew from NJ to St. Louis. It being over Thanksgiving she and her husband packed a full Thanksgiving dinner in her luggage. (Way too much for carry ons.) It sure got open, but made it just fine.

As for security, there was basically none until 1973-4 which was when there was an epidemic of hijacks to Cuba. Security was still lax. Victorinox sold a lot of Swiss Army knives in duty free shops inside of security. Their sales plummeted right after 9/11 when this was no longer allowed. They posted signs at check in counters in Switzerland reminding tourists who bought knives to put them in their checked luggage.

I think the real question is why did they allow you to bring an untreated wood product through customs? Pretty sure concern about invasive species (and pathogens to which donrstic species have no exposure) predates 9/11.

The first time we went to Bonaire ('96?) we stopped in Haiti… In Atlanta people were bringing on chickens (no shit). And small appliances. There were wrecked planes dotting the side of the runway. A very weird experience and I am eternally grateful I was not asked to leave the plane.

Back in the 70’s I read an article in Playboy (see? I read the articles) by someone whose summer job was customs inspector at an airport (?? Summer job?? WTF?). People brought all sorts of foodstuffs through customs, especially from the Indies (he was in Florida). He said "I don’t think they thought of mangoes as food… ‘Any food to declare?’ ‘No… just mangoes’. " His favourite bit was when another inspector encountered two plastic gallon jugs of liquid honey. He thought he saw something in the bottom of the murkey liquid, so he proceed to cut open the jugs at the bottom. 2 gallons of honey all over the counter.

Any food to declare?’ ‘No… just mangoes’.

Yeah, often in Spain if I ask, “Are you serving food now?” the answer is “No,” but if I ask, "Are you serving tapas now?"the answer is “Yes.”

Not so. I was able to go with my parents to their gate at JFK in 1991.

I can beat that. On September 10, 2001, I accompanied my mother to the gate as she was returning home after visiting me. I had a small Swiss Army knife on my keychain that I was allowed to take with me. I walked her to the door of the passenger boarding bridge, and I don’t think they would have objected if I walked her onto the plane.

In 1998 I went and met my wife’s plane. I had our daughter in her stroller and of course it set off the metal detector. They didn’t bother to search it. I walked away thinking that that’s not good. I could have brought in anything under her blanket or in her bag if I wanted to.

I think it was the realization that 9-11 was done with just boxcutters, that resulted in the extreme ban on any edged weapons or things that could be used as cutters or stabbers At the same time the paranoid minds kicked (rightly so) with the realization that a suicidal person could brew explosives in the airplane bathroom from chemicals carried onboard, so liquids were also restricted.

No, there were actual terrorists who tried to detonate liquid explosives onboard an airliner.

TBH it never occurred to me you couldn’t take a garbage bag carry on today. Not that I would try it but it would never occur to me that they wouldn’t let you on with one. I definitely can’t imagine why it would be a security issue (not that it would shock me that they banned something they didn’t like thier customers doing because “security”)

You can take a garbage bag today, so long as it’s not too large.

More precisely one’s designer garbage bag must fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you.

To clarify access to the gates.

In the US, prior to the First Gulf War, you could go through security without a boarding pass and go right to the gate. I used to always meet my friends right there.

During the Gulf War, only ticketed passengers could pass security. Personally I thought it was stupid.

After the war, this restriction was relaxed, and you could again go through security to the gate. Yea!, common sense! Until…

As they say, 9/11 changed everything.

Prior to all the recent troubles, I almost always used to get pulled aside for “special attention”. I assume I look sufficiently swarthy or something.

And it can’t take a lot more space overhead than a standard suitcase, unless the flight is empty and they don’t care.


Before 9/11, I often failed that test. 9/11 airport follies have actually resulted in me being less-frequently sequestered until my flight in a roomful of anxious brown- and olive-skinned persons. Global Entry/TSA Precheck helps with that, too. Or maybe being a lady of a certain age weighs against my traveling with only carry-on.