United Cleans Plane After Passengers Get Ants In Their Pants

This past Monday we had a bizarre report of an ant infestation found onboard a United Airlines aircraft. The flight was heading from Venice, Italy to Newark, New Jersey when a woman by the name of Charlotte Burns reported seeing ants crawling across her pillow and entertainment system. It only got worse from there…

United Cleans Plane After Passengers Get Ants In Their Pants
The incident took place on United flight UA169 from Venice to Newark. Photo: Flickr user Alan Wilson

The play-by-play

Charlotte Burns (@charlieburns) took to Twitter to share the ordeal. Firstly, the entire story plays out in a string of tweets, starting with this one:

Next, what follows is a situation that gets progressively worse, eventually leading to the discovery of ants spilling out of a suitcase from the overhead locker:

The aircraft

The incident took place on United Airlines flight UA169 heading from Venice to Newark. The aircraft was a 767-300. If reporting is accurate and the incident took place on Monday, June 17th then the aircraft in question has registration N651UA.

According to Live And Lets Fly and other sources, the incident took place in the United’s business class section – the Polaris class cabin.

United Cleans Plane After Passengers Get Ants In Their Pants
The source of the ants was a carry-on bag stored in the overhead locker. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Response from United Airlines

In speaking to The New York Daily News, United Airlines gave confirmation of the ordeal and had this to say about this incident:

“We are concerned by the experience a customer reported on United flight 169 from Venice to Newark…We had been in contact with the crew during the flight, where they advised the ants were isolated from a customer’s bag in the overhead bin, and was contained to a limited area of the cabin.”


Upon landing, the plane was reportedly taken out of service for extermination. “We followed proper protocol by notifying customs, immigration, as well as agriculture of the issue,” United reports.

The owner of the infested luggage reportedly told the airline that he didn’t know the ants were in his baggage, the airline spokesperson explained. As for Charlotte Burns, she’s home and “not taking any chances.” One of her later tweets reads:

“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.”

United Cleans Plane After Passengers Get Ants In Their Pants
A United spokesman reports that the incident was within the confines of the flight’s Polaris Business Class cabin. Photo: United Airlines

In conclusion, it’s extremely unfortunate this took place but thankfully it wasn’t anything more serious. It’s hard to believe that a massive ant infestation made it past airport security in the first place. Perhaps this issue could have been solved with Heathrow’s new CT scanners

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever experienced on a flight? Let us know by leaving a comment!