Snake on a United Airlines Plane! Yes, This Really Happened

Yep, you read that correctly. There was indeed a snake on a plane last Monday.

United Airlines plane on a runway
United Airlines B757 | Photographer: Harry Lee Russell

You might be thinking of the movie Snakes on a Plane. Thankfully, this incident was nothing like the film. Instead of the flight being taken over by hundreds of snakes, there was a single snake that was found and quickly removed. Undoubtedly, the person who first discovered it most definitely has a great travel story to tell now.

Another reason to hate Mondays

It was a typical Monday morning flight for the passengers and crew of flight UA-2038 until one of the passengers noticed a snake slithering near their feet. The flight they were on is a daily service that usually flies out of Tampa International Airport (KTPA) in Florida at 10:50 a.m. The flight route ends at the Newark Liberty International Airport (KEWR) in New Jersey. It normally lasts two hours and fifteen minutes. However, on the day of this incident, the flight took off with a ten-minute delay.

Once in the air, flight UA-2038 was a typical flight for all onboard, until they landed in Newark. The plane departed using runway 19R in Tampa, Florida. It took off and reached Newark without incident, aside from cruising a little bit low (FL270) in the early phases of the flight. The plane landed in Newark on runway 22L, just four minutes shy of its normal duration.

Flight map of route between KTPA and KEWR - as flown by UA-2038
UA-2038’s route from KTPA to KEWR | Great Circle Mapper

Snake on UA-2038

The snake was not noticed until the plane landed in Newark. While the United Airlines 737 Max was taxiing to gate 113, a passenger noticed the snake beneath their feet, and according to other travellers on board, “passengers in business class started shrieking and pulling their feet up.” The flight crew was promptly notified about the uninvited guest by the cabin crew. They then alerted the airport authorities in Newark. The Newark airport actually has its own wildlife operations staff, who then came to the rescue.

business class seats on United Airlines plane
United Airlines | Photographer: Alan Light

Animal Planet who?

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey released a statement stating that the airport staff has released the snake “into the wild.” It was a garter snake, also known as a “garden” snake. These snakes are non-venomous and are, in general, harmless. Regardless, the sight of any snake during a relaxing flight would be cause for distress. Garter snakes can grow as long as 50 to 75 centimeters (20″ to 30″), which is more than enough to cause a reaction. Surprisingly, this incident is not the first time a snake, or remnants of one, was found on an aircraft.

Once the snake was removed, the United aircraft and its crew proceeded with their route and continued their departure to Fort Myers, Florida. They undoubtedly had a laugh about what had happened that morning.

What would you do if you were one of the passengers that saw a snake on their flight? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!

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Jared Harvill
Jared Harvill
Aviation Reporter - Jared enjoys analysing topics of interest and connecting them to current issues and ideas. Currently, his passion is travel; It’s his favorite thing to do, with a love of the industries that are adjacent to it including Aviation. Since graduating with a degree in history, Jared has worked in the travel industry.


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