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‘Stowaway bat’ hiding in overhead bin flies through Spirit Airlines cabin

(Washington Post illustration; Keith Srakocic/AP; iStock)

Few things come without an extra fee on Spirit Airlines, but some passengers got a free shot of adrenaline this week when a winged creature flew up and down the cabin.

Videos posted to social media showed passengers on a flight to Newark screaming, laughing, offering suggestions and yelling “It’s the Batmobile!” as what appeared to be a befuddled bat flew up and down the cabin last week.

In an email Friday night, Spirit Airlines spokesman Derek Dombrowski confirmed the “stowaway bat” found its way onto a flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Newark. He said the company believes the bat flew into an overhead bin in Charlotte while crews performed maintenance overnight. USA Today reported that the flight left Charlotte at 6 a.m. July 31.

Passenger Peter Scattini wrote on Twitter that the bat emerged “WHILE WE WERE 30 MINUTES INTO OUR FLIGHT” (the capital letters were his).

One video includes audio of people riffing as the critter flies to the front, back and then front of the plane. At one end, a woman watches from the partially open door of a bathroom. Remarkably, one passenger appears to sleep through it all.

“It’s the Batplane," a man says.

“It’s the Batmobile!” a woman replies, before adding, “Hey, Batman!”

On another video, a woman can be heard saying that she had spotted the bat five minutes earlier. “I thought I was, like, hallucinating,” she said.

One man didn’t have to wonder if what he saw was real: He said he literally got hit in the head. In a response, Spirit asked for his reservation information so it could investigate, assuring him: “We want to raise your Spirit-s!”

It wasn’t clear how long the flying mammal was free to roam about the cabin, but Scattini said someone finally found a way to contain it.

“Eventually someone trapped it between a book & a cup and then locked it in one of the restrooms for the remainder of the trip,” he wrote. He added that the carrier offered reimbursement for the flight and a $50 voucher.

In his email, Dombrowski confirmed that that bat was “corralled into a lavatory" and taken away by animal control officers once the plane landed. “As a precaution,” he said, workers searched and disinfected the plane.

“No one was hurt in this incident, including the bat,” he wrote.

On Wednesday, however, it became clear that the outcome was not so rosy for the bat. In response to questions from The Washington Post, Dombrowski said New Jersey’s health department was “evaluating” the creature to determine whether there was a rabies threat to the passengers. The good news for the plane full of people was that tests were negative.

“Therefore, none of the flight’s passengers need to receive any medical care related to the bat,” Donna Leusner, director of communications for the New Jersey Department of Health, said in an email. She added that merely being in the same area as a bat is not a risk for rabies; the risk only comes if someone is bitten by a rabid bat.

The bad news for the bat is that the test was conducted on its brain. It was not clear when or how the bat died, but after being removed from the plane in Newark, it was transferred to the Port Authority Police Department, Leusner said. It was kept in a refrigerator there until it was taken, already deceased, to the health department’s rabies lab for testing. That test was conducted Tuesday.

Read more:

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