x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Airline says 'baby crocodile' on plane was a desert lizard

A stowaway that caused panic on a flight to Abu Dhabi was a victim of mistaken identity.

ABU DHABI // It did not wreak the kind of havoc seen in the Hollywood thriller Snakes on a Plane, but a rogue lizard aboard a flight to Abu Dhabi was enough to spark a safety investigation, airline officials confirmed yesterday. The creature - which, contrary to previous reports, was not a baby crocodile - caused panic among travellers on EgyptAir Flight 916 from Cairo when it began darting around the cabin early on Friday.

Reports put the extra passenger at between 15cm and 30cm in length. Yesterday, Wafa al Zahed, the general manager of EgyptAir in Abu Dhabi, suggested that the reptile could have been stowed in the cargo hold before wriggling free. "Maybe inside the cargo door," said Mr al Zahed. "In the cargo door there is baggage. Or maybe the animal came from some plant in the aircraft." None of the passengers had admitted to taking the creature on board, he added.

Mr al Zahed said the airline's Abu Dhabi station manager, Mohammed Saeed, had sent an initial report to EgyptAir's head office in Cairo. He added that a final report was likely to be released next week. Initial reports described the errant lizard as a "baby crocodile", but Mr al Zahed said: "It's not a baby crocodile. It's not even a crocodile. It was some other animal, I don't know exactly what, but not a crocodile."

He said it looked like a desert lizard known colloquially in Egyptian Arabic as a "borse". The state news agency, WAM, said it was 1.44am when the EgyptAir cabin crew cornered the creature and alerted authorities on the ground. It has handed to waiting vets at Cairo Airport and will reportedly be kept at Giza Zoo. mkwong@thenational.ae