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‘There’s a rat on the plane’: Passengers shocked by suitcase of animals on flight from Thailand

A baby otter was discovered under a seat on the flight to Taipei.
A baby otter was discovered under a seat on the flight to Taipei. Copyright Newsflare via Reuters Connect
Copyright Newsflare via Reuters Connect
By Euronews Travel with Reuters, AFP
Published on Updated
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A security worker at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport has been suspended, as police investigate the smuggling incident.

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A rat and an otter that were smuggled in a passenger's hand luggage sparked chaos when they escaped mid-air and bit an air steward’s hand.

Shocked passengers noticed the giant albino rodent with glistening red eyes when they walked to the bathroom on the Airbus A320 flying from Bangkok to Taiwan on Wednesday afternoon.

Flustered air hostesses searched the plane and noticed a second wild creature - a 30cm long otter under a seat.

Footage shows the chaos onboard the flight operated by Vietnamese carrier VietJet as the crew battled to catch the animals.

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

Dozens of other animals were also brought on board

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.

Officials have now launched an investigation into how a Chinese-speaking female passenger allegedly smuggled the creatures through the security checks at the notoriously corrupt Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Thailand.

A bewildered passenger who recorded the scene said: “The flight took off as scheduled and the pilot ordered 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 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.”

How did the cabin crew handle the live animal situation?

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

The filmer said that several seats were searched before a Chinese passenger “asked for a refund” and allegedly admitted they were her animals.

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 filmer, who did not want to be named, said that “every bag” was searched when the aircraft landed at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

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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 today 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.

Passenger who brought animals on flight could be fined €30,000

Police said the suspect was being questioned and could be fined up to NT$1 million (31,000 USD, almost €30,000) in accordance with the provisions of the Prevention and Control of Animal Infectious Diseases.

Officers said they did not know how the animals were taken on the plane.

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The passenger who is believed to have smuggled them on the aircraft “has not been co-operative.”

Thailand airport worker suspended after animals got through security

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."

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The staff member who failed to inspect the bag properly was suspended while a probe was carried out, the airport said.

Taiwanese authorities said they were investigating the two suspected smugglers.

Watch the video above to see more.

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