The public relations team for United Airlines must be working overtime (make that triple time) this week. After video footage went viral of a passenger, Dr. David Dao, being violently dragged from one of their planes, United has spent the better part of a week trying to salvage an already battered public image. (Was it only two weeks ago that two girls were barred from a United flight because they wore leggings?) Now, new reports allege that another United passenger was bitten by a scorpion while en route to Calgary.
Richard Bell was on a flight that left from Houston on Sunday. Seated in business class, Bell was eating lunch when he felt something fall on his head. Brushing it off, the scorpion fell onto his dinner tray, where Bell tried to grab it. That's when the scorpion stung him. The creature got swiped off again, and fell into the aisle. Another passenger apparently noted, "Oh, my god, that's a scorpion." (Just what every traveler wants to hear.) This happened on the the same exact day that Dao suffered substantial physical damage during the course of being forcibly hauled from a United flight.
In a statement, United said, "Our flight attendants helped a customer who was stung by what appeared to be a scorpion on a flight last week." Flight attendants were put in touch with a MedLink team and followed the instructions they were given. This resulted with the scorpion being contained and later meeting its end by being flushed down one of the airplane's toilets. United also ensured there were medical personnel waiting for the flight when it landed in Calgary. Scorpion stings are not considered life-threatening, although Bell was offered a Benadryl from another passenger, in case of allergic reaction.
United has apologized to Bell and his wife, and offered them travel vouchers for future flights.
Spider bites on airplanes aren't a regular occurrence, but they have happened before. As Chuck Johnston points out on CNN, a flight returned to Los Angeles in 2015, after a woman was bitten by a scorpion while en route to Portland. A British man on a flight to Qatar nearly lost his leg after being bitten by a brown recluse spider. A 2015 Delta flight was canceled after a flight attendant saw a tarantula on the plane.
But for United, the news of Bell being bitten could hardly have come at a worse time, as the airline is already immersed in major damage control over the scandal involving Dao.