You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

United Airlines passengers discover their trans-Atlantic flight is crawling with ants

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/17/2019 Keldy Ortiz

a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc. A passenger on a Monday United Airlines flight from Venice, Italy, to New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport said she and other travelers discovered their plane was infested with ants.

Charlotte Burns, a New York-based art editor, live-tweeted the entire ordeal, alternating between feelings of alarm, anger and just being generally ick-ed out – with some gallows humor mixed in.

The ant situation started on the tarmac in Venice, where she felt an ant crawl across her pillow and another making its away across the screen in front of her.

She noted that she wasn't believed at first when she tried to warn the cabin crew of the creepy, crawly stowaways before takeoff. 

As she reported them to the flight attendant on drink-cart duty, she noticed the woman shudder: “The nice lady is talking to me and pouring a drink when she shudders: she's seen an ant, marching across the top of the seat in front."

The flight attendant reported the situation to her superior, who told asked Burns if they could address the problem after meal service.

Then the man seated across the aisle from Burns told her he'd seen a "parade" of six ants in the overhead bin in front of her row. 

Despite her mounting dread, Burns said she tried to be a good sport and soldier on.

She was less than comforted when a flight attendant showed up armed with "a flashlight and a wet cloth," tweeting, "Sure, ant-mageddon might be undone with a lemony rag, why not." 

After removing and wiping down Burns' seat cushions, the flight attendant reported he'd seen another in the window well.

"The WINDOW? This means the ants are expanding their march," she noted. "I suspect the lemony cloth hasn't quite been our Excalibur."

At one point during the flight, Burns said ants were discovered streaming out of a passenger's bag.

Together, Burns and the guy from across the aisle cajoled Mr. Lemony Rag to unpack the overhead bin to get a better look. They had to convince the flight attendant to wake the owner of the bags but ultimately, he did.

Next, she reported, "Guy wakes up — and he's wearing a SPIDERMAN eyemask, by the way, because @UnitedAirlines has obviously got some merch deal — and says very calmly for a guy who just got woken up about an ant infestation 'Ah yes, I saw one earlier.' "

Speaking of the Spider-Man tie-in, Burns remarked, "If this were a movie, that would be heavy foreshadowing that I have, in fact, been bitten by an ant and am now ant woman."

Meanwhile, the male flight attendant came to inspect the overhead bins.

"The cabin guy does the flashlight thing again in the overhead locker and says, I can't see anything," she wrote. "Me and middle aisle guy say please take the bags out and check beneath. He does. ANTS! Ants lie beneath. The guy in front pulls down his case (which btw isn't zipped shut, as middle aisle guy notes to me in an aside) and ants ants ants spill out, running in every which direction. This is absolutely heeby-jeeby-goose-bumpy-get-me-a-gin-gross."

The owner of the ant-infested luggage, she noted, spent an hour wandering the aisles, "avoiding his seat and quarantined bag."

Meanwhile, Burn and Middle Aisle Guy tried their best to comfort each other.

"At least they're not bedbugs," he commented, prompting "visceral terror" on Burns' part. 

"Yes," she replied, "I have had bed bugs." He says "Me, too." This, she wrote, "explains our vigilance. "

A female flight attendant insisted to them that the ants "came from that man's bag. Not the plane."

Burns, who wasn't buying it, asked, "Even if it were the case, shouldn't there be some protocol for bugs on planes?"

United Airlines confirmed the incident and said the ants were isolated to a customer's bag.  

“We are concerned by the experience our customer reported on United flight 169 from Venice to Newark. We have been in contact with the crew and they have advised the ants have been isolated from a customer’s bag,” the airline told the Asbury Park Press, part of the USA TODAY Network. “At this time, the aircraft will continue to its final destination. We will be taking the aircraft out of service when it arrives in Newark.”

According to NBC New York, United did so after the plane landed just after 2 p.m. EDT.

Burns, who was given the same explanation while onboard, seemed unsatisfied by United's explanation, tweeting, "Bugs happen! Deal with them! Don't tell one passenger to blame another passenger for an inconvenienced flight with an abundance of household insects."

After getting home from the airport, Burns wrote, "I’m home and not taking any chances: the suitcase is going in the Zapp Bug Oven which is a) a real thing b) like a large pizza bag but to overheat bugs not good and c) is the best way to kill bugs and we just happened to have it because of bed bugs."

Contributing: Jayme Deerwester, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on North Jersey Record: United Airlines passengers discover their trans-Atlantic flight is crawling with ants

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From USA TODAY

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon