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A couple of unusual carry-ons wiggle their way to freedom

Posted: Tuesday, August 08, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A Seattle-bound airliner continued on its way from here last week after a flight attendant rounded up a couple of errant snakes that had been brought aboard the aircraft.

Concerned that reptiles had infested the cabin, the flight crew radioed the Seattle air station and was considering an emergency landing at Juneau before a passenger said there were only two snakes and that they were harmless pets, Alaska Airlines spokesman Jack Evans said.

Passenger Marilyn Leland was headed to Seattle for a business meeting when she saw the flight attendant pass by with a suspicious bundle.

''I saw her carrying a white plastic garbage bag with her arms stretched straight out in front of her,'' Leland told the Anchorage Daily News. ''As it went past, you could see a dark shadow that looked like a snake.''

Leland turned to the man sitting next to her and said, ''Did that look like a snake?''

He nodded.

After conferring in hushed whispers with other crew members, the attendant politely requested that passengers come forward to declare any animals on board.

No one rang a bell. The next time, a stern voice made an announcement: ''Please, if anyone has brought any animals on board, ring your call button now.''

''There was a few seconds' pause,'' Leland said, ''and then we all heard a ding.''

A few minutes later, the pilot announced that two snakes had been caught, double-bagged and locked safely in a lavatory.

''They really handled it well,'' Leland said. ''I was surprised no one screamed or anything.''

The reptiles were identified as corn snakes, a harmless species that likes to feed on small rodents, Evans said.

It probably helped that the crew had a sense of humor. After the wayward snakes were bagged, a flight attendant announced the dinner menu. The passengers had a choice of beef, chicken and a third option.

''Snake,'' the attendant announced. She said it tastes just like chicken.

''It's the first time I recall snakes getting loose in the cabin,'' Evans said. ''I know there have been incidents when small dogs have gotten loose and have yapped up and down the aisle.''

The snakes' owner was not identified. She was greeted by security officers at the arrival gate in Seattle.

Evans says she most likely bypassed security by hiding the reptiles under her clothing.

The woman violated an airline policy that requires passengers to declare pets before taking them on board, he said. The airline also strictly prohibits stowing snakes in the passenger cabin, Evans said.

Passengers may board with domesticated animals, such as cats, dogs and rabbits -- provided they're stowed in a secure pet carrier.



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