Animals on the Plane: 10 Bizarre Incidents Involving Animals on Flights

Commercial flights are bad enough when you have to deal with dozens to hundreds of people crammed in a metal tube. When people talk of a bad flight, it is mostly because of bad weather, sitting next to a noisy neighbor, or having to deal with screaming children on board. Add a barking dog or a snake to the problems people face in a typical cabin and you got yourself a mayhem in the skies.
In the US, most animal-related disturbances on flights are caused by poorly trained or untamed support animals which are allowed on flights by law. Unwelcome animals including deadly snakes still manage to get themselves onto airplanes and the resulting chaos is hard to escape. Here is a look at shocking as well as interesting incidents involving animals on flights.

  • A snake on AirAsia 

The story made rounds on the internet as AirAsia passengers and a pilot shared the video on social media tagging Samuel L. Jackson and #Snakesontheplane. The snake was recorded slithering through the overhead luggage compartment. It was a slender green snake that seemed trapped in the compartment and therefore didn’t find its way into the cabin. 

The flight from Kuala Lumpur to the Malaysian city of Tawau was forced to make an emergency landing in the city of Kuching in Borneo, over 500 miles from its destination. Since the snake could not be easily retrieved, the passengers were put on another flight as their plane was left to the animal handlers to locate the snake. The snake is believed to have entered the plane before take-off.

  • A cobra on EgyptAir 

The EgyptAir flight from Cairo to Kuwait had 90 legal passengers on board and an illegal one 91st who was an unwelcome Egyptian cobra hidden inside one traveler’s carry-on bag. The passenger who ran a pet shop in Kuwait was trying to smuggle the serpent when it sneaked out of his bag. The angry cobra bit the man as he tried to get it under control and then sneaked under the seats causing total panic on the flight. 

The pilot who was flying over the Red Sea was forced to seek an emergency landing in the resort town of Al Ghardaqa. Luckily, no more passengers were bitten as the plane landed and everyone disembarked to allow emergency crew and animal handlers to take control of the serpent. Hopefully, they enjoyed the beautiful sand beaches of the stretch of Al Ghardaqa as the plane was rid of the snake before their flight to Kuwait resumed. 

  • A snake on a Ravn Alaska

Alaska is a vast state where commuting is just a lot easier by air and that is where Ravn Alaska saves the days. On one flight from the village of Aniak to Anchorage in 2017, a loose pet snake caused a scare. The snake had escaped from its owner on a previous flight. The pilots and attendants failed to locate it in time before the passengers to Anchorage boarded the plane. 

The pilot warned the passengers that there was a loose snake on the plane, but there was no commotion as they were reassured that it wouldn’t bite. A brave flight attendant finally managed to secure the snake which was found lying near a little boy. She was able to put it into a trash bag without any harm coming to her or the passengers.

  • The woman and the pig on US Airways

It happened on a Thanksgiving morning US Airways flight from Connecticut to Washington. The woman carrying the pig wasn’t identified by name but images of her carrying a huge pig made rounds online. She boarded a little late after most passengers were seated and caused a protest from fellow passengers when her nearly 100lb pig caused the whole cabin to start stinking. The pig also defecated in the aisle and squealed so loudly that the crew kicked both the animal and her owner off the flight

The law is not clear on what species or size of animal can be allowed on board as an emotional support animal so it is up to the airlines to set those rules. The rules limit the weight and size of animals allowed on board and most importantly, insist on the animal being trained. The pig in this case was neither trained nor secured which would explain the problems it brought to the cabin.

  • The dog that forced a US Airways flight to make an emergency landing

A support animal out of control is nothing compared to dog poop smelling in the cabin so bad that passengers start getting sick. It happened on US Airways flight 598 from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. A dog that the crew only described as a “big dog” defecated in the cabin three times. 

The crew ran out of paper towels to clean up the excrement after the dog defecated the second time, so when it did a third time, the passengers had to deal with the smell. Passengers started getting sick because of the smell forcing the pilot to divert the plane to Kansas City and make an emergency landing. The flight took off an hour later after a cleaning crew had been deployed on the plane and the crew restocked on towels.

  • The Labrador that mauled a passenger on Delta Airlines

The passenger took both the owner of the dog and the airline to court in a case that caused sweeping changes to how Delta Airlines handles support animals. The dog which was apparently well trained and fully documented was the service animal for a US marine officer on the same flight. 

The passenger, Marlin Jackson, was supposed to sit next to the dog owner on the flight from Atlanta to San Diego. Having received the window seat, he walked past the dog and its owner, and for some reason, the dog started growling before attacking him. It pinned him onto the window of the plane and bit him in the face. The attack was apparently so severe that the airline had to remove the entire row of seats because of the bleeding. He ended up needing 28 stitches to his face.

  • The snake on Aeromexico

This is the closest a real-life flight came to Samuel L. Jackson’s film Snakes on The Plane as a serpent was recorded slithering inside the cabin. It is not clear how the green snake ended up inside the cabin of the flight from Torreon to Mexico City but there is a good chance it was a stray from the airport. The snake was recorded slithering from the back of the cabin between the plane’s body and the overhead luggage compartment.

 The snake then lost its grip and dropped onto one of the seats in the back, which was, luckily enough, unoccupied. The snake emerged when the plane had already reached Mexico City, so all the pilot had to do was request a priority landing and get the passengers off as quickly as possible before the snake found its way to the front part of the plane. No one was harmed on the flight either, but it was a real close shave for most of the passengers.

  • A stray cat in a Tarco Aviation cockpit

Tarco Aviation offers chattered flights mostly around Europe, Asia, and Africa, taking passengers to places where commercial flights are not readily available. The airline was making one such trip from Khartoum, Sudan to Doha, Qatar when a cat suddenly appeared in the cockpit. 

The aggressive feline started attacking the pilot and the crew in the cockpit creating a catastrophic situation that forced the flight to divert back to Khartoum just 30 minutes after departure. The stowaway is believed to have entered the plane the night before the flight but it is not clear how it found its way into the cockpit. 

  • Excessively farty sheep on Singapore Airlines

Animals in the cargo hauls are not any more comfortable when crammed together than humans are in the cabin. Grazers give out lots of methane when grazing in the fields, and that can result in lots of heat when they are doing their business in a metal tube. That is what happened on a Singapore Airlines flight from Sidney to Kuala Lumpur. 

The pilots thought the plane was on fire because of the heat signal causing them to request for an emergency landing in Denpasar, Bali. The fire crew was surprised to find the farty ruminants comfortable in the cargo haul and no fire on the plane. They later told the pilots to advise farmers on changing the animals’ diet before they board planes.

  • Snake in the shoe

Moira Boxall wasn’t planning on smuggling a spotted python from Australia to Scotland when she took her flight in 2019 after her holiday. The flight from Queensland to Edinburgh is more than 9,000 miles long making it one of the longest flights in the world and the last thing you want on such a flight is a snake tucked in your hand luggage. 

The passenger in this case didn’t open her suitcase until after the plane landed in Scotland though which was a huge relief. They found the small python curled up in her shoe and even started shedding its skin after over 24 hours of traveling. The snake wasn’t poisonous and all she had to do was get animal rescue to get it a new home in Edinburgh.

6 Surprising Facts About the Airline Industry

The world of aviation is not just about traveling from one destination to another. It’s a realm filled with peculiar stories and fascinating facts that often fly under the radar.

Blurred background of interior aircraft , luggage cabin. the atmosphere in the aircraft cabin before the flight
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From unique airline services to the surprising impact of flying on our senses, here are six intriguing aspects of airlines that you might not know.

1. Flights to Nowhere During COVID-19: Amid the pandemic, some airlines took to offering “flights to nowhere,” where planes would take off and land at the same airport. This unusual practice wasn’t just a novelty; it helped airlines maintain their allotted gate slots at airports, kept flight crews and air traffic controllers in practice, and ensured ongoing aircraft maintenance. Such flights were a creative response to keep the aviation industry operational during challenging times.

2. Air Horse One – The Equine Airline: There’s an exclusive airline for horses, aptly nicknamed ‘Air Horse One.’ This service goes the extra mile to ensure its four-legged passengers are comfortable, with pilots making wide, gentle turns and smooth ascents and descents to prevent the horses from getting spooked or losing their balance.

3. American Airlines’ Unchanged Flight Number: While it’s common for airlines to retire flight numbers following fatal accidents, American Airlines is an exception. They continue to use flight number 1, despite its history of three major crashes.

4. Janet Airlines’ Secret Service: “Janet” Airlines operates as a secretive, full-service airline, transporting military and contractor employees to classified sites like Area 51. Its name is believed to be an acronym for ‘Just Another Non-Existent Terminal.’

5. Hooters Air: Between 2003 and 2006, Hooters operated its own airline. The flights included the regular flight crew and attendants, along with the restaurant chain’s signature Hooters Girls, known for their distinctive attire.

6. The Science Behind Airline Food Taste: Ever wonder why airline food tastes different? It’s not just the food itself but also the flying conditions – including low air pressure, dry cabin air, and ambient noise – that dull our senses of smell and taste, altering our perception of flavors.

The Costly Lesson of American Airlines’ Lifetime AAirpass

In 1981, American Airlines introduced the “lifetime unlimited AAirpass” at a cost of $250,000, which would be equivalent to around $870,000 in today’s currency. This exclusive pass granted lifetime access to unlimited first-class flights, and an additional companion pass could be obtained for an extra $150,000. The airline hoped that this initiative would generate substantial revenue, but it ultimately backfired. Only a handful of people purchased the passes, and those who did made full use of the benefits. Two of the most frequent fliers cost American Airlines a staggering $1 million annually and accumulated over 30 million miles in their travels.

Interestingly, the AAirpass was not the only such program at the time; other airlines offered similar lifetime passes with varying prices and benefits. For example, United Airlines sold a lifetime pass for unlimited travel in first-class cabins at a price of $500,000 in 1988. However, due to similar issues with cost and usage, these programs were eventually discontinued.