Bizarre: Stowaway Pigeon Delays United Flight To Athens

A United Airlines flight faced a delay of over an hour because it had a stowaway onboard. But rather than a freeloading human passenger, this ticketless traveler was of the feathered variety. After being spotted on the plane, the pigeon evaded capture by disappearing into a row of economy seats. Strangely, he was never found.

Bizarre: Stowaway Pigeon Delays United Flight To Athens
United had to deal with a fowl stowaway. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Pxfuel | Simple Flying

Pigeon detectives

UA 124 is a regularly scheduled flight between Newark, New Jersey, and Athens in Greece. Operated most frequently by United’s Boeing 777-200, the service has been running like clockwork throughout July and August. The flight pushes back at 18:05, arriving in Athens at 10:30 the following day.

For passengers traveling on the service this Saturday, however, there was a peck-uliar delay of more than an hour as cabin crew attempted to deal with a bird-brained stowaway. A pigeon had apparently boarded the aircraft in Newark, and was quite happy larking about the cabin, effortlessly evading owl attempts to capture him.

Flight attendant Ariana Bloom filmed the hawkward incident, posting a video to TikTok the following day:

@arina.bloom##flightattendant ##flightattendantlife ##cabincrew ##airline ##pigeon ##birdontiktok ##delayflight ##greece ##fyp

♬ Into The Thick Of It! – The Backyardigans

Bloom opens with a shot of the pigeon quite happily standing in the galley area of the plane. Suspecting fowl play, the bird ambles off into the passenger cabin. Bloom catches him disappearing into a row of passenger seats, as the crew try everything to ruffle the feathers of the errant bird.

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Where did the bird go?

Despite the efforts of the crew to locate the stowaway avian, nobody ever did find the pigeon. All the doors on the plane were opened in the hope he would fly away, so perhaps that’s exactly what he did. Or maybe he was in Polaris… after all, we all know pigeons are wealthy – they have no problem putting deposits on expensive cars.

Responding to comments on her Twitter post, Bloom mused that there were three potential outcomes for the bird:

Bizarre: Stowaway Pigeon Delays United Flight To Athens

It’s unlikely he was still on the plane, despite the crew being unable to locate the feathered fiend. Despite causing quite a flap onboard the 777 with his little game of beak-a-boo, we suspect he decided to wing it when the doors were open, egg-citing the plane when no one was looking.

United Airlines took the whole thing in good humor, telling Simple Flying,

Prior to the departure of United flight 124 from Newark to Athens on Saturday, we took the time to make sure our feathered friend didn’t travel to Greece, as he could not provide an up-to-date passport or confirmed itinerary.

It’s not the first time an animal has caused chaos on a flight. In November 2019, an Air India flight from Hyderabad to Visakhapatnam was delayed for 12 hours while the crew attempted to catch a stowaway rat. In August that year, a Spirit Airlines crew were surprised by a bat on board, and opted to lock it in a bathroom for the rest of the flight. And just last month, United Airlines had to shoo several small birds off its Boeing 767 before it could operate its flight.

For passengers on this weekend’s flight to Athens, the delay was minimal. Flight tracking service shows it pushing back an hour and 24 minutes late. It seems the pigeon did not put in an appearance during the flight, suggesting he safely deplaned himself before the doors were closed. However, we suspect he is now on the no-fly list.