Airport worker suspended for allowed more than THIRTY animals on plane

It could have been an otter disaster! Airport worker is suspended after it’s discovered he’d allowed more than THIRTY animals onto plane where otter and rat ran rampant

  • The mobile menagerie included rats, otters 28 baby tortoises and a marmot
  • Footage showed the otter rolling around beside a frightened passenger

A Thail airport has suspended one of its workers after a traveller smuggled more than 30 live animals – including two baby otters – onto a flight to Taiwan.

The mobile menagerie, which also included 28 baby tortoises and a marmot, was seized when the Thai Vietjet flight landed at Taipei’s Taoyuan airport on Wednesday.

Local media reported that the unusual cargo came to light when several of the animals escaped and were found crawling around the plane’s cabin.

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport said the animals slipped through screening due to human error.

‘We have examined the CCTV and found that the smugglers were two foreigners who had their luggage scanned through an X-ray machine,’ the airport said in a statement issued late on Thursday.

‘One of the staff was suspicious so they assigned another to open the luggage. However, they didn’t check the luggage and allowed the passengers to go through.’

Shocking video footage showed the moment an otter and a rat smuggled in sparked panic after they ran free on the flight – with the rat savagely biting one of the crew members on the hand. 

A frightened passenger can be seen trying to avoid the otter as it moves around on the floor. The otter rolls about on the carpet before it is captured by cabin crew

The 30cm long otter that caused pandemonium on the flight

Taiwanese authorities said they were investigating the suspected smugglers.

Thailand is a major transit hub for wildlife smugglers who often sell the animals on to China and Vietnam.

Alarmed passengers noticed a giant albino rat with glistening red eyes when they walked to the bathroom on the Airbus A320 flying to Taiwan.

Flustered air hostesses searched the plane and noticed a second wild creature – a foot-long otter under a seat.

Footage shows the otter rolling about on the floor by one of the seats before crew members frantically tried to resolve the situation, with passengers cowering in their seats as they watched the chaos unfold. 

The crew can be seen tying up a black bag that appears to have at least one of the animals inside it.

The otter is then shown moving about in a container at the airport in Taiwan before it is transported. 

Shockingly, a box of 28 live turtles was also found when police searched the plane upon landing in Taipei following the three-hour and 45-minute low-cost flight operated by Vietnamese carrier Viet Jet.

Officials launched an investigation into how the creatures were smuggled through the security checks at the notoriously corrupt Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Thailand.

A shocked passenger who recorded the scene said: ‘The flight took off as scheduled and the pilot announced the seatbelts could be released. I walked back from the toilet and my friend whispered softly to me, ‘there’s a rat on the plane’.

‘I was confused so he said again, ‘pet rat, pet rat, it has a white body and it’s not small’.

‘I told the cabin crew and they checked the plane. That’s when they found the big otter under one of the seats. 

‘They kept looking for the white rat and an employee caught the rat. It bit them on the hand while they carried it back to the kitchen at the back of the plane.’

Footage shows the rat moving around on the floor by a passenger’s seat. One of the air stewards then makes her way up the aisle as other flyers watch as chaos ensues

The cabin crew reportedly made an announcement ordering anyone who had brought animals on the plane to make themselves known. 

The person filming said that several seats were searched before a Chinese passenger ‘asked for a refund’ and allegedly admitted the animals belonged to her.

Staff then appealed for a passenger who could ‘speak Chinese fluently’ to help them discuss the situation with the woman, who is believed to have bought the creatures from a market in the Thai capital.

The person filming, who did not want to be named, said that ‘every bag’ was searched when the aircraft landed at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

Police found a bag that allegedly contained 28 star turtles, a snake, one marmot, two otters and two other unknown rodents. The creatures were seen being removed from the aircraft.

The Taoyuan Branch of the Defense Inspection Department said yesterday that the star turtles will be kept in quarantine and the rest will be sent to Pingtung University of Science and Technology for confirmation before disposal.

The cabin crew can be seen discussing the incident. They use plastic gloves to tie up a black bag that appears to contain at least one of the animals

Police said the suspect was being questioned and could be fined up to NT$1 million (£25,532) in accordance with the provisions of the Prevention and Control of Animal Infectious Diseases.

Bungling airport chiefs today admitted that security staff noticed live animals in a passenger’s hand luggage – but waved through the bags on the conveyor belt. 

The rat and otter were among the haul that also included turtles, a snake, a marmot, and other rodents that were in an X-ray of the bag when it was checked at Suvarnabhumi International Airport. 

But the guard on duty – who has now been suspended and is being probed by police – did not open the bag and handed it straight back to the passenger without even questioning them, officials admitted today.

The airport said in a statement posted online: ‘In response to information has been published on social media, in the case of a passenger smuggling animals onto a Thai Vietjet flight departing from Suvarnabhumi International Airport on October 4, 2023 at 3:32 p.m., for the destination at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the Royal Thai Police has inspected the work of the security company searchers.

‘Police and airport staff have checked the closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera system, and it was found that the passengers who brought the animals on board were two foreigners.

Video shows staff at the airport loading containers that are holding the animals from the flight. The otter is then shown moving about in a container at the airport before it is transported

‘Their bags were taken through the X-ray machine at the search point at approximately 1:45 p.m. by the image analysis staff. The staff member was suspicious, so he handed the bag to another employee to open the bag, to check whether the item in question was a dangerous or prohibited item or not. 

‘However, the said employee did not open the bag for inspection and allowed the passenger to pass through the security checkpoint and continue boarding the plane.’

The statement continued: ‘The Royal Thai Police would like to emphasise that the technology system used within the Royal Thai Police’s search points can work according to standards and clearly defined procedures for checking of prohibited items. But this case occurred due to the mistake of the employee who opened the bag inspection and did not follow the prescribed operating procedures.

‘The police station ordered the employee performing such duties to stop working immediately. And if the results of the investigation are found to be negligence of standard operating procedures, they will be punished according to law.

‘In this regard, the Royal Thai Police would like to remind all Thai and foreign travelers not to commit illegal acts by taking animals or animal carcasses, both living and non-living, on planes into and out of the country. 

‘If you wish to bring your pet on the trip, please request permission correctly. Otherwise, there will be a risk of breaking the law, both Thai and foreign laws, and there must be punished with both a fine and imprisonment.’

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