July 1, 2010— -- Just when you thought air travel couldn't get any worse, maggots falling from an overhead bin on a US Airways flight out of Atlanta this week forced the plane to return to the gate.
A container of spoiled meat stored aboard the Atlanta to Charlotte, N.C., flight apparently included some maggots along with it, creating a brief panic among passengers before the pilot turned the plane around.
Passenger Donna Adamo said she noticed some flies when she boarded the plane on Monday. When the plane was taxiing the woman seated behind her, Desiree Williams-Harrell, begin to shout and refused to sit back down, screaming: "There's one over here."
Shortly after, Adamo noticed something on her clothes.
"I thought it was a piece of lint but when I went to flick it off, it was squishy," Adamo said.
After a flight attendant opened the overhead bin with the spoiled meat -- and quickly closed it again -- the pilot announced that there was "a minor disturbance" and the plane was heading back to the gate.
"We were ordered to sit in our seats as maggots were dripping on us," Adamo told ABC News. "It was only five to seven minutes, but it felt like 30 minutes."
Williams-Harrell said said it was "very disgusting" and has yet to hear from the airline.
"I had to have other passengers check my hair and back of clothes to ensure maggots weren't still on me," Williams-Harrell told ABC News.
A cell phone video shot by Adamo as passengers deplaned shows a small white maggot wriggling across a seat.
"I felt skeevy, disgusting. I felt trapped. I don't know what the right decision would have been but it shouldn't have been to force me to sit where there are maggots dripping on me," she said. "It's one thing when they are at the bottom of a garbage can, but when they are sitting on you, it's so gross."
Once the plane reached the gate, all of the passengers and bags were taken out of the cabin. US Airways crews "thoroughly and completely cleaned and scrubbed" the plane before loading the passengers back aboard for the flight, according to airline spokesman Morgan Durrant. The cleaning took about an hour, according to Adamo, and all customers have long since made it to their final destinations, Durrant said.
The flight then went to the airline's hub in Charlotte, where the plane was taken out of service and fumigated.
The Transportation Security Administration does not specifically prohibit meat on planes, and a TSA spokesman said traveling with meat is a safety issue, not a security issue. He referred questions to the Federal Aviation Administration.
"We don't have any rules that deal with raw meat or any other kind of meat," said FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown. "Our rules deal more with size and weight of baggage and having it properly stowed. We also have hazmat restrictions, but I don't think the meat probably qualified as hazmat."
Maggots in Overhead Bin Delay US Airways Flight
The unidentified passenger who brought the spoiled meat onboard did not get back on the plane and was put on another flight. US Airways held some flights in Charlotte so the passengers could make connections.
"We welcome customers from all walks of life, their baggage and even small dogs and cats onto our aircraft, but we don't welcome insect larvae or pupa of any kind," Durrant said.
John DiScala, a travel blogger known as Johnny Jet, said that the airline can't be blamed for this one.
"They should ban that guy from flying for stupidity," he said, adding that US Airways did the right thing taking the plane out of service for cleaning.
"This is just a story about how stupid some passengers are and what flight attendants have to deal with," he said.
Bill Miller of travel site, CheapOair said this is a rare instance.
"It's interesting to see the eccentric items people try to transport," he said.
George Hobica, president of airfarewatchdog.com, simply said: "Eeeew."
"I've heard of snakes on a plane, but this is the first maggots on a plane incident," Hobica said. "It looks like US Airways did everything it could to rectify the situation as quickly as possible. Maybe the TSA should start screening for creepy crawlies in passenger carry-ons."
Adamo also questions why the TSA didn't see the maggots when the passenger's bag was being screened.
"How did they not catch that through security?" she asked. "I don't know what type of meat there is in Atlanta that you can't buy in Charlotte."
Today, Adamo is home in the Syracuse, N.Y., area and said she is doing fine.
"I'm glad it's over," she said, "but I'm going to take another shower because every time I talk about it, it skeeves me out."