Business Finds New Way to Chill Carry-On Lobster

Because of the ban on liquids aboard planes, Clearwater Seafoods, which sells lobsters in the Nova Scotia airport, had to find a substitute for the ice packs it uses to keep carry-on lobster cold during flights. The general manager of the lobster division, Tony Jabbour, says that the company went a week with no sales before finding the perfect solution: frozen vegetables.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Now a creative and nutritious solution to a problem created by the new air travel restrictions. The ban on carry-on fluids evidentially covers the frozen gel icepacks that Clearwater Seafoods packs lobsters in. Clearwater is based in Bedford, Nova Scotia, and it depends on visitors who fly in solo and fly out accompanied by a crustacean.

So for their solution to this problem, we turn to Tony Jabbour, who's general manager of Clearwater's lobster division. Mr. Jabbour, what are you doing?

Mr. TONY JABBOUR (Clearwater Seafoods): Well when the ban came on we have an airport store, a little retail store at the airport here in Halifax, and when the ban came on our sales dropped to nothing, as you can imagine. Same along with the duty free people. And after a weekend of having no sales we had to get creative or get out of the business.

SIEGEL: Well, you couldn't use ice because that would be -

Mr. JABBOUR: A liquid.

SIEGEL: Liquid. Yeah.

Mr. JABBOUR: Could not use gel packs. It cannot be gel or liquid.

SIEGEL: So, tell us about your deliberations on how to solve this problem.

Mr. JABBOUR: Well, Monday morning I had to have an emergency meeting with my staff. We brainstormed different ideas and started the testing phases of them. We were thinking at first maybe we could sell a frozen block of fish, you know, you could buy some fairly cheap fish these days.

SIEGEL: Use the fish, effectively, as an ice cube.

Mr. JABBOUR: Exactly. But sometimes we do sell cooked lobsters as well and it's not really proper to mix a cooked box of lobsters along with the raw filler fish. And also the urgency of it. We said well, what can we do right now? And we came up the idea, let's go down to the local superstore and buy some frozen peas or corn.

SIEGEL: So if you pack the lobster in bags of frozen peas or frozen corn, that complies with the air travel restrictions. But if you packed it with the gel icepacks, that wouldn't?

Mr. JABBOUR: Exactly. Exactly. And the reason being they can see it through the X-ray scanner, whereas they can't really see the gel. So we obviously did some test packs to check the temperature and the effect on the lobsters, and then went up to the security people and asked them about our idea and they said yeah, pack some boxes and bring them up the regular way and the new way and we'll run them through our scanner and we'll tell you if you're on the right track. So we did that and, sure enough, they could clearly see the peas or corn and they gave us the go ahead.

SIEGEL: And do the bags of frozen vegetables keep the lobsters as fresh and cold as long as the gel icepacks do?

Mr. JABBOUR: Yes, they do. I mean, you've got to consider that most travelers from Halifax are traveling for seven to eight hours. No more than that. But we run our tests for 24 hours and, you know, we found that after 24 hours you're very comparable to the gel packs.

SIEGEL: But after, say, the first seven hours? Are they comparable or -

Mr. JABBOUR: Yeah, certainly. After the first seven hours, they're very comparable.

SIEGEL: And when you unpack, in addition to having the lobster, you also have a bag of corn or a bag of peas?

Mr. JABBOUR: Exactly. So now we're selling lobster and, you know, you get a side order of vegetables for free.

SIEGEL: Are the carry-on lobsters that you're packing with the frozen vegetables, are they typically live lobsters?

Mr. JABBOUR: Live or cooked lobsters.

SIEGEL: Either way?

Mr. JABBOUR: Either way.

SIEGEL: And airline security has nothing against taking on the live lobster?

Mr. JABBOUR: No, they had absolutely no problem with lobsters. That was our first question to them, you know, could you carry those on a plane? And their comment is, we have absolutely nothing wrong against lobsters. It's the gels or liquids. You cannot have any gels or liquids.

SIEGEL: Right. I suppose people could take them on as pets and they could come on in some way.

Mr. JABBOUR: Exactly. Yeah. The only thing is about lobsters, they like to stay cold.

SIEGEL: They like to stay cold? And that was the issue? Well, congratulations on your successful adaptation to a tough rule for you to comply with.

Mr. JABBOUR: Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: That's Tony Jabbour, who's general manager of Clearwater Seafood in Bedford, Nova Scotia.

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