It wasn’t a snake and Samuel L. Jackson (presumably) wasn’t there to save the day, but Spirit Airlines passengers on a recent flight had to deal with an unwanted stowaway. During a flight from Charlotte to Newark, a bat started flying around the cabin of the Spirit Airlines aircraft. It likely flew into the plane through an open cabin door at some point and hid out for a while, emerging halfway through the flight. The bat was likely as distressed as the people by its presence in that abnormal, confined space, so it flew around for a while, eventually being caught with a cup and a book, and locked away in a bathroom.

That’s a pretty good way to handle it if you can catch the bat without being bitten. Otherwise, leaving the bat alone makes the most sense, as it’s unlikely to land on or bite anyone, but the passengers would probably have been less impressed with that approach.

Upon landing, the bat was taken away by animal control.  It was presumably euthanized since releasing wildlife well away from where they originated is not commonly done, particularly due to disease transmission risks.

When bats are involved, rabies obviously gets discussed as bats are a prime source of rabies exposure in North America. But, what’s the risk?

  • For rabies to be a concern, the bat has to be rabid (prevalence is usually only up to a few percent in any given bat population) and you have to get bitten (largely avoidable). Aerosol exposure (breathing in rabies virus) is a concern is densely populated bat caves, but I can’t see a single bat (if it was infected) in a space that size, with that exceptional ventilation that is present on modern airplanes, posing any plausible risk.

Realistically, your biggest health risk is probably the concussion you might get from your neighbour who’s freaking out and frantically swinging his laptop.