Our 10 favourite animal hold-ups at airports

London’s Heathrow airport experienced delays this week, while an errant swan was escorted from the runway. Luckily all ended well for both the swan and passengers.

We frequently welcome pets on our private jet flights at PrivateFly. It’s usually dogs and cats. But we do occasionally transport more unusual animals, this week we had an enquiry about flying a pet owl.

Whatever type they are, our animals are always authorised passengers, rather than stowaways. But there are other occasions, such as Heathrow’s swan, when unauthorised animals cause havoc at airports around the world. Here are some of our favourite examples:

New York Airport1. Turtles in New York
In 2011 diamondback turtles caused delays at JFK International Airport. The turtles were migrating, across the runway, heading for a nearby sandy area where they lay their eggs. Initially pilots were on alert to manoeuvre their aircraft around the turtles, before airport staff were instructed to encourage the reptiles to move off the runway.
Turtle migration delays are an annual event at JFK as the airport is surrounded by water.

2. Frogs in Cardiff
In 2005 a Monarch Airways Flight from Cardiff (Wales) to Florida was delayed with 300 passengers on board, while crew tried to find two stowaway frogs. The Cuban tree frogs were believed to have hopped onto the flight when luggage was loaded in Cuba for the flight to Britain.

Houston Airport Otters3. Otters in Houston
Houston we have a problem… in 2009 otters caused Continental Airlines’ passengers an 80 minute delay at Bush Intercontinental Airport. The otters were supposed to be safely tucked up in their cages in the cargo hold, but just before the flight two of the marine mammals ran down the gangplank, and raced across the tarmac.
Crew spent 45 minutes retrieving the escapee otters before the flight could depart.

4. Catfish in Florida
Tropical Storm Fay caused marine chaos on the runway of Florida’s Melbourne International Airport in August 2008. A jet was denied its landing spot when airport staff found four catfish, two gopher tortoises, a blue indigo snake and an alligator which had been stranded by the storm on the runway. All the marine life was re-housed in a nearby pond.

Manila Airport Bees5. Bees in Manila
Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport suffered a swarm of bees in May 2011. Flights were delayed and operations affected when bees swarmed the control panels of five of the airports’ aerobridges. Controllers were unable to attach the movable walkways to arriving aircraft. Gates were closed as officials declared that the incident posed danger to both passengers and airport workers.

6. Hares in Milan
Italy’s Milan Airport is disrupted up to twice a year by hares. The animals first played havoc with the radar systems at the Italian airport in June 2007 and continue to disrupt aircraft take-offs and landings. Volunteers now visit the airport grounds to blow whistles and wave, in the hope of deterring the hares.

7. Pythons in Alice Springs
Snakes on the plane caused a Qantas airliner to miss 2 flights when 4 baby pythons went missing. The snakes were securely packed for their flight from Alice Springs to Melbourne, Australia. On arrival the tiny serpents were nowhere to be seen. After a thorough search the aircraft was fumigated, but the snakes were never found.

Flying with animals8. Cheetah in Melbourne
A Melbourne aircraft Captain announced to his passengers: “We’re sorry for the delay, but we’re having some problems loading the cheetah. We have to do it very carefully”. The aircraft was delayed for 50 minutes as the animal was stored safely on board.

9. Coyote in Atlanta
Flights from Atlanta’s International Airport were delayed for a few minutes in 2012 when someone spotted a coyote on the runway. The wily creature was chased from the airport by ground crews.

10. Dogs in Delhi
Authorities at Indian airports are experienced in dealing with animal related incidents. At Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport 200 stray dogs were found in the airport grounds in just 3 months. Dogs are not the only animal visitors to the airport as authorities regularly deal with jackals, snakes, monkeys and birds.

If you are looking to fly with a pet, contact us or call our Flight Team (24 hours) on +44 1747 642 777