The source of the maggots was from a container of spoiled meat that was in the carry-on baggage of one of the passengers. The plane returned to the gate, where a ground crew cleaned out the aircraft before it was allowed to continue to Charlotte. The passenger who caused this situation was also allowed to continue, but on another flight. Only after the flight arrived at Charlotte did the airline fumigate the aircraft.
Comments from one of the passengers on this flight show just how disturbing this event was to them:
- I heard the word ‘maggot' and that kind of got everybody creeped out...All of a sudden, I felt somebody flick the back of my hair and on the front of me came a maggot, which I flicked off me
- I felt like they were crawling all over me because it only takes one maggot to upset your world
- And as they're telling us to stay calm and seated, I see a maggot looking back at me and I'm thinking, ‘These are anaerobic, flesh-eating larvae that the flight attendants don't have to sit with
In the US, the federal government restricts what kinds of animals or other live creatures are allowed on an aircraft, and what kinds of animals can be imported into the US. However, for domestic airline flights it is up to the airline to set rules for animals, and those rules typically deal with flying with pets and service animals. Also, while the TSA has many rules about what items are permitted and prohibited from checked or carry-on baggage, there are no specific restrictions on bringing either spoiled meat or insects through security.
AirSafe.com contacted US Airways directly, and a representative indicated that dogs, cats, and birds were allowed on flights, but not bees or other insects. Presumably this means that maggots would not have been allowed on the aircraft if the airline had been made aware of their presence. It is not clear whether the passenger who brought the maggots on board either received permission from the airline or was even aware that there were maggots in their baggage.
Advice from AirSafe.com
Most airlines have very detailed rules on what kinds of live animals or biological specimens you can bring on an aircraft. If you are thinking about bringing any kind of animal or insect on board the aircraft, contact the airline ahead of time to see if your animal will even be allowed. If you are traveling internationally, make sure you are following all appropriate import and export rules. If you see something that may be a problem, for example someone sneaking an animal onto the aircraft, or a carry-on or checked baggage item that may be a health hazard, contact an airline representative immediately.