Wow: El Al 787 Stuck In Hong Kong After Cat Prints Found Inside Plane

Last week, an El Al 787 Dreamliner took a slightly longer trip to Hong Kong than intended. The reason? The carrier’s crew found traces of a four-legged stowaway on board.

El Al 787
One of El Al’s 787 remained on the ground in Hong Kong for longer than planned due to a stowaway cat. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

There are many reasons why planes can be detained on the ground. Most of them can be fixed by calling in a maintenance crew. Usually, it will result in a few hours of delay for passengers. However, an El Al 787 Dreamliner carrying cargo to Hong Kong was stuck on the tarmac for a slightly more feline problem.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.

All the way from Tel Aviv

Last Wednesday, crew discovered small paw prints inside the plane during a routine scan. As reported by Israeli media outlet Ynet, they concluded that the long-haul hitchhiker must have snuck onboard at Ben Gurion Airport while the plane was being loaded.

As it is forbidden for an aircraft to take off with an unlocated animal loose, the discovery of the four-legged hitchhiker’s presence caused the plane to miss its intended departure back to Tel Aviv. El Al crew failed to locate the little creature and enlisted the aid of airport ground staff. Equally unsuccessful, traps were then dispersed throughout the cabin and the cargo hold overnight. This move, too, failed to catch the stray.

Wow: El Al 787 Stuck In Hong Kong After Cat Prints Found Inside Plane
The cat most likely snuck onto the plane as it was being loaded at Ben Gurion Airport. Photo: Getty Images

Almost two days of delay

From flight data, we can ascertain that the only of the airline’s 787s in Hong Kong at the time was 4X-EDL. The Dreamliner arrived in Hong Kong on November 10th at 11:20 and was scheduled for departure that same evening at 22:00. Instead, it took off on November 12th at 18:10 and arrived back in Tel Aviv at 23:09. It has since operated one other flight, between Tel Aviv and London Thursday morning.

As El Al did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the incident, it is unclear how or when the cat was found. We must assume that it was located sometime before takeoff, otherwise the plane would not have been permitted to depart. The fate of the cat so also remains unknown. Hopefully, with an abundance of animal shelters and cat adoption facilities in Hong Kong, it may find a new home in Asia.

Technical spaces particularly vulnerable

The reason why it is a bad idea to fly with a loose animal whose whereabouts are unaccounted for is pretty self-explanatory, especially with smaller animals that could make their way into more technical areas of the plane. Rodents and important wiring seem a particularly bad combo.

El Al
The Dreamliner in question went on to operate a flight to London Thursday morning. Photo: Getty Images

Air Canada cockpit cat

Most often, when flights are held up because of cats, it is when a passenger’s scared pet has managed to escape its carry-on after boarding, although this is also incredibly rare. In 2012, a runaway cat named Ripples managed to make its way into the cockpit of an Air Canada flight. Ripples managed to get himself lodged in the avionics bay. The crew was unsuccessful in extracting him, and maintenance had to be called in to open up an alternative access panel.