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posted: 9/1/2013 5:00 AM

Surprises on flights drive passengers buggy

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Last week, Joel Woloshuk discovered he was flying with a bunch of maggots. He wasn't using derogatory terms to refer to his seat mates. He was talking about the added protein he received in a sandwich at Atlanta's International Airport. It wasn't an extra piece of turkey or roast beef. It was something that really bugged him. Literally. It was maggots. He discovered them while flying to Miami. He was so grossed out he took pictures of the little buggers enjoying his sandwich. Something he was not able to do.

This isn't the first time these insects curbed a traveler's appetite at 35,000 feet. Last year on a Quantas flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia, the in-flight service included individually sealed packets of a trail mix. But what passengers didn't realize was they apparently contained the same added protein Woloshuk received. The woman who discovered the unusual crunchy taste turned on her overhead light to see what was in the bag. When she discovered the live entertainment dancing in her snack, she probably lost it in more ways than one. I imagine that bag found another purpose besides housing maggots and trail mix. It's still a mystery how those little critters managed to hideaway in sealed snack bags.

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A couple of years ago, passengers became disturbed while taxiing for takeoff on a US Airways flight again at Atlanta's International Airport. It wasn't fear of flying that caused the brouhaha. It was fear of flying maggots. Apparently a passenger brought some spoiled meat onboard and placed it in an overhead compartment. When the plane began to move so did the bugs. They began to drop like flies. They landed on some of the passengers. And some of those passengers landed back in the aisle and refused to take their seats. The plane landed back at the gate for debugging. The spoiled meat was grounded. Hopefully, so were the insects.

But the maggots that took meal service to new heights happened many years ago on a TWA breakfast flight out of Las Vegas. We had just finished serving the first three rows of coach when a passenger announced his breakfast links had rhythm. Several other passengers agreed.

Convinced we were experiencing a slow decompression and passengers were suffering from a lack of oxygen, we waited for the oxygen masks to drop from the overhead compartment. But they didn't. The passengers were right. It was like the links were doing a line dance. Some of them wiggled their way right off the plate. One brave passenger surgically attacked the musical meat. He discovered maggots had taken up residency in the breakfast sausage. The meal service was a flying success.

Today's air traveler deals with a lot of flying debris. But maggots? That's enough to make you buggy.

Gail Todd, a freelance writer, worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years. She can be reached via email at gailtodd@aol.com.

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