HomeOutdoorsNewsGarter Snake Wreaks Havoc on United Airlines Flight in New Jersey

Garter Snake Wreaks Havoc on United Airlines Flight in New Jersey

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Rebecca Richardson via Getty Images)

The flight started like any other. Passengers on United Airlines flight 2038 settled into their seats for the three-hour trip from Tampa to Newark. The plane landed in New Jersey just after 1:00 pm, taxiing on the runway as usual.

As it approached the gate, however, conversations across the aisles came to a screeching halt. Screams erupted from the business-class seats as the passengers leaped onto their chairs, putting as much distance as possible between themselves and the floor below.

As the panic reached a summit and the flight attendants fought to calm the frenzied passengers, the source of the commotion was identified: a tiny garter snake slithering its way through the aisles. Crew members alerted the “appropriate authorities” right away, and when the plane door finally opened, airport animal control officers and Port Authority police officers were there to capture and remove the garter snake.

According to Port Authority spokesperson Cheryl Ann Albiez, there were no injuries, no impact to airport operations, and the plane later departed without issue. How the snake made its way onboard a commercial airline flight remains unclear.

Social Media Compares Gartner Snake Catastrophe to ‘Snakes on a Plane’

News of the little garter snake traveling over 1,000 miles sparked memories of the 2006 film Snakes on a Plane. “Omg. Snakes on a plane! For real!” one user wrote. “Looks like it might time to put Samuel L Jackson in charge of the airports,” another said.

The real-life incident, however, wasn’t nearly so dramatic. In the movie, dozens of highly aggressive, highly venomous snakes are released on a passenger plane. The deadly snakes, including a Burmese python, an eastern coral snake, and multiple rattlesnakes, killed multiple people onboard.

Meanwhile, a garter snake is completely harmless (not to mention there was just one of him). Stretching just 18-26 inches in length, garter snakes are toxic – to frogs. And other tiny animals. For humans, a bite from a garter would cause slight itching and/or burning at the very most.

The Infamous Aeromexico Python Incident of 2016

The terrified passengers onboard flight 2038 should consider themselves lucky they weren’t on the Aeromexico flight to Mexico City back in 2016. On that flight, passengers were shocked by a large green python suddenly slithering from behind an overhead luggage compartment.

Before passengers had a chance to comprehend what was happening, the python dropped down into the cabin. Though passengers did unbuckle themselves to escape the python’s path, they handled the sight far better than those in the presence of a garter snake.

After trapping the snake between two rows using blankets provided by a flight attendant, the passengers stayed calm for the duration of the flight. “It was a frightening situation,” Indalecio Medina, an Aeromexico passenger, told The Guardian. “But people remained calm because it didn’t get out of that space and nobody became hysterical. Some people got up to see what kind of reptile it was, but nobody got carried away.”