A passenger on the Venice-to-Newark flight Monday described the scenario in a series of tweets and photos. Charlotte Burns, a New York-based writer and editor, claimed she was bitten by the ants after a passenger sitting in front of her opened his carry-on bag.
“The guy in front pulls down his case (which btw isn't zipped shut, as middle aisle guy notes to me in an aside) and ants ants ants spill out, running in every which direction,” she wrote. “This is absolutely heeby-jeeby-goose-bumpy-get-me-a-gin-gross.”
A United spokesman said the plane was sidelined once it reached Newark so it could be cleaned and exterminated. He said the ants were isolated to one bag and did not originate in the plane itself.
“We are concerned by the experience our customer reported on United Flight 169 from Venice to Newark. We had been in contact with the crew during the flight, where they advised the ants were isolated from a customer’s bag in the overhead bin, and was contained to a limited area of the cabin,” Robert Einhorn, a United spokesman, said in a statement to North Jersey Media Group.
"The airplane landed at Newark this afternoon and has be taken out of service for extermination. We followed proper protocol by notifying customs, immigration, as well as agriculture of the issue."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.