Woman fined $500 for taking her in-flight apple off the plane

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Photo: Elkhamlichi Jaouad / EyeEm (Getty Images)

Today’s WTF moment: A woman is being fined $500 for carrying her in-flight snack from Delta—an apple—with her off of her flight. BBC News and other outlets are reporting this morning that Crystal Tadlock, flying from Paris to New York, wanted to save the in-flight snack for her connecting flight to Denver. She even kept it in the Delta-logoed plastic bag.


When she landed in New York, and the apple was discovered at customs, “Ms. Tadlock told the border agent that she had just received it from the airline and asked whether she should throw it out or eat it. Instead the agent handed her a $500 fine.” The agent asked her “if my trip to France was expensive and I said, ‘Yeah.’ I didn’t really get why he was asking that question, and then he said ‘It’s about to get a lot more expensive after I charge you $500,’” as Tadlock told news outlet KDVR. The apple was apparently considered “undeclared fruit.”

A Delta Air Lines spokesperson unhelpfully told CBS Denver that “we encourage our customers to follow U.S. Customs and Border Protection protocols. The apple in question was part of an in-flight meal meant to be consumed on the aircraft.” Although Tadlock intends to take the case to court, she has lost her global-entry status, which helps travelers move speedier through check-ins. In the meantime, she is posting furiously on social media.

CBS Denver reports that Customs And Border Protection has released the following statement:

Privacy policy prohibits CBP from discussing the details of any individuals specific inspection, however all agriculture items must be declared.

Prohibited items that are not declared by a passenger are confiscated and disposed of by CBP. More importantly, civil penalties may be assessed for failure to declare prohibited agricultural products and may range up to $1,000 per first-time offense for non-commercial quantities.


It’s that “assessed” part that sticks out at us: There really was no reason for that customs official to be such a dick about this. He probably thinks he was being generous for not charging her the whole $1,000. For an apple.


Dr Emilio Lizardo

Clearly this is in violation - it is an unprocessed agricultural product and the rules exist to prevent accidental importation of parasites that could devastate US commerce and agriculture. Think Emerald Ash Borers, Asian Carp, Zebra Mussels, et cetera.

But I can tell you from personal experience that the agent has discretion whether or not to levy the fine. Typically the agent will confiscate the contraband, educate the person, and inform them that the infraction has been recorded and if they do it again they are likely to face a stiff fine. This guy was just conforming to the stereotype of a petty dick exorcising his small amount of power so he could feel like a big man.