United Airlines Flight Delayed For Hours Due To Tick Infestation

Ew! United Airlines 1178 was delayed 6 hours because a passenger spotted a tick hitching a ride in coach during a previous flight from Washington D.C. to Denver. The airline isn’t sure how the plane got tick infested, but had to temporarily pull the plane out of service while a crew cleaned it.

United’s spokesperson Robin Urbanski, says the airline found “between one and three” ticks on the flight, and that she wasn’t sure what kind they were or how they got there.

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to find that out,” Urbanski said. “When possible, we do try to look into those type of things, and hopefully try to look for its origin.”

No ticks were found on passengers.

Ticks on a plane: insects delay United Airlines flight from Denver to Des Moines [Star Tribune]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Jenng says:

    wonder if the ticks were charged any baggage fees.

  2. MissTicklebritches says:

    It seems like at least once a day, this site makes me itchy.

  3. EmperorOfCanada says:

    Between one and three? Could it be….. two?

  4. B says:

    wait, wrong Tick.

  5. kepler11 says:

    how in the world do you search for ticks? What a pain to have to deal with something like that.

  6. tande04 says:

    @kepler11: Well since it took 6 hours it seems like the answer is; very slowly and methodically.

  7. Walrii says:

    @kepler11: That is, I think, the point. You really can’t properly search for ticks (unless there is an elite squad of tick-sniffing dogs I don’t know about). It’s more to make people feel better / avoid lawsuits.

  8. Murph1908 says:

    I was confused about this story, until I heard that the city of origin was Washington DC.

    There are so many parasites in that city, “between 1 and 3” hopping a plane was inevitable.

  9. MercuryPDX says:

    @kepler11: very carefully… especially with a “loud” patterened seat background.

    Hopefully they didn’t have time to lay eggs.

  10. theblackdog says:

    Honestly, I’m glad they went over the plane to make sure it was clean.

  11. SaveMeJeebus says:

    Tick clearing fee: $5.00

  12. Rachael says:

    6 hours for tick cleaning, eh?

    I understand the scare regarding lyme disease but having grown up in an area where ticks are plentiful, I’m kind of baffled as to why it merits a reaction this strong. Oh well. I guess we live in an age where it’s better to react like this than to deal with the hysteria later when a passenger finds out that an insect from the wild has actually TOUCHED them!

  13. RChris173 says:

    Just one or three? :|

  14. So do I have to pay extra to fly with no ticks?

  15. womynist says:

    I smell a new Samuel L. Jackson movie coming soon… “Ticks on a Plane”

  16. Snakeophelia says:

    Ticks are a very big deal. They carry more than just Lyme Disease (see [usachppm.apgea.army.mil] for more info). Given that most people aren’t wearing DEET repellant on planes and some people who are flying may have compromised immune systems, I’d say the caution was warranted here.

  17. @MumbletyEmma:
    I’m kind of baffeled by the response too.
    I’m a little confused by the term “tick infestation.” Ticks aren’t like cockroaches or silverfish. They don’t typically “infest” areas. The brown dog tick will populate an area that has enough warm bodies to suck off of — kennels, vets office, sometimes homes… but it’s not a rapid infestation like cockroaches. It seems more likely that a passenger who owns a pet brought a couple of friends on board OR that the airplane has had a long standing tick problem… In which case, is it the responsibility of the airline to notify past passengers that have flown on a plane that was infested with ticks and they should check their person, luggage, and homes for signs of infestation.

  18. BlueTraveler says:

    @Walrii: A tick sniffing dog would be interesting. I do know they have bed bug sniffing dogs.

  19. kimshot says:

    @kepler11: No kidding, it’s bad enough to try to find them on my body.

  20. Youthier says:

    @JamieSueAustin: And I don’t really see 1-3 as an infestation.

    I know Consumerist sometimes likes “sensational” headlines but I saw other outlets bill this as an infestation as well.

  21. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Wait for it…wait for it….

    TICKS ON A PLANE!!!!!!

    Was it a round-trip tick or a one-way tick?

  22. backbroken says:

    I’m guessing you clean the plane by getting as many people to sit in those seats as possible for an hour or 2, and then collect them off your body.

  23. backbroken says:

    Don’t ticks get around by hitching rides on the backs of rats? Hmmmm.

  24. Orv says:

    @JamieSueAustin: My guess is the ticks probably came on board *on* a dog — either a service animal or a a dog small enough to be taken in a carrier in the passenger cabin.

  25. freepistol says:

    you can find three ticks in a day on any given dog , and sometimes children in some areas… i have never heard of three of anything being an infestation.

    i see three fruit flys and i dont assume my kitchen is infested with bugs, i just toss out the old fruit they are circling and swat them with a paper.

    i pull three ticks off a dog and say , “poor doggy stay out of the bushes”

    ticks can ride in on anyone or anything whos been near any outdoor foilage, which means even city goers can become “infested” *gasp*

  26. Vastarien202 says:

    Blecch! I have had the misfortune to live in a house that had a tick problem, not once, but twice(neither time was my doing.)! Those things are soooo freakin gross and nasty, you can’t imagine what it’s like to have the walls crawling with grey lumps and having to check everything you wear for the little brown males before you go anywhere. Horrifying!
    If they only took 6 hours to clean the plane, it wasn’t enough.

  27. Verklemptomaniac says:

    Damn dirty bloodsuckers…

    Oh, and the ticks are bad too.

  28. opsomath says:

    Faugh. If you can see the ticks, they’re not the kind that carry Lyme disease anyway. I would be pissed if my flight was canceled for this; it’s not important enough to worry about.

    Ticks like the kind shown, you’ll catch crawling on you after walking in the woods any day in the South in summer. They’re really not a big deal.

  29. backbroken says:

    @freepistol: Yeah, you can find cow shit on a farmer’s shoe any day as well. Doesn’t mean I’m ok with cow shit on my plane.

  30. Japheaux says:

    I think it was Al-Qaeda…..3 ticks heard on the plane: tick, tick, tick

  31. emington says:

    Ticks spread more than just Lyme disease, plus I’m sure there’s some sort of law preventing the spread of different species of ticks to where they are not extant.

  32. halbowitz says:

    As a long time sufferer of Lymes Disease I think they did the right thing.
    Its a horrible disease.

  33. smakdphat says:

    as a long time sufferer of Lemon’s disease, I sour at the idea of ticks on a motherf**king plane.

    relax. 3 isn’t an infestation.

  34. Bourque77 says:

    @smakdphat: According to the headlines it is. I guess my house is infested by dogs.

  35. Leohat says:

    {sarcasm on}

    Just take the plane up to altitude and pop a hatch and let the depresuration suck all the dirt and crap out the hatch. Fly around for awhile while everything freezes solid then land and clean as normall.

  36. papahoth says:

    Deer ticks carry lyme disease! The problem was dog/wood ticks that can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. In fact Virginia is one of the worse places for wood ticks and wood ticks that carry spotted fever. One important difference with a wood versus deer tick is they are very easy to see. And like the deer tick, they must be sucking your blood for 24 hours to get spotted fever or lyme disease. I found one on me that got into the house in the middle of the night. One day while hiking in the woods in VA, I pulled 14 off of me (only one was sucking blood).

  37. TangDrinker says:

    Yeah, the Lyme Disease ticks are Deer ticks- teeny, tiny ticks. Like the head of a pin sized ones. (I grew up near Lyme, CT – the birthplace of the disease and am the only family member lucky enough NOT to have had this horrible illness).

    I’m glad they pulled the plane, but I wonder what type of bug bomb they set off to kill them all?

  38. mewyn dyner says:


    Out of all the flora and fauna on this good green earth, the one thing I can’t stand is ticks. If I even find one on me, I get the heeby-jeebies for hours and I’ll be constantly swatting at every slightly moved hair on my body.

    I’m glad they took the time to clean the plane. Honestly, outside of disease hotspots, lyme disease and rocky mountain spotted fever are not all that common in ticks, and they need to bite a specific infected animal at the right molt time. Chances are, a bunch of them either hatched, for bigger tick varieties, or a bunch molted on the plane.

    BTW – to kill these little buggers… pyrethrin. Low toxicity to humans, breaks down when in contact with human skin (making it rather safe for us) but kills ticks, bed bugs, mosquitoes, and many other nasties on contact. You can pick it up at many hardware stores (for application on the ground) or sporting good stores (for clothing application).

    I know all of this because I believe in the phrase know your enemy. ;)

  39. yardissimo says:

    Hmmm… Did United Airlines check for a very special passenger? Maybe a nice-and-cool Poochie was flying around ;)

  40. Trai_Dep says:

    What I don’t understand is how they test the TSA personnel’s eyesight so effectively that they can tell whether the ticks removed their itty-bitty shoes before entering the secure area.

  41. @womynist: damnit, i wanted to make a SoaP reference :/

  42. oneandone says:

    @mewyn dyner: I was thinking that pyrethrin would be the best candidate as well – especially since I’m 90% sure that’s what the flight attendants used on an Air France flight I was taking out of Cameroon last year.

    It’s quite disconcerting seeing the flight attendants put on breathing filters, whip out two large spray canisters each, and march down the aisles emptying them into the direction of the overhead bins. When my parents later used pyrethrin for exterminating roaches at their house, it smelled the same. I wouldn’t be surprised if the unmarked Air France canisters were industry standard – at some point most international airlines will have a flight leaving from somewhere where extremely undesirable insect / arachnid stowaways are likely.

    On the other hand, if United had them, it wouldn’t have taken 6 hours….

  43. Speak says:

    @BlueTraveler: Thank God it wasn’t bedbugs! I’m not sure how they’d even get rid of bed bugs if they happened to infest a plane (which seems possible if the bedbugs are hitching rides in people’s luggage).