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Otters Ignore Obamas Airline Flight Delays Tarmac Fines

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by editor

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In The News

One day after President Obama's announcement of hefty fines penalizing lengthy airline tarmac delays, legislation intended to address ongoing consumer complaints by airline passengers and flight delays, two sea otters have responded with a snub of the nose and a run down the runway. It seems the otters, at least, are viewing the $27,500 fine per passenger as one big circus. With one airline already hit with President Obama's fine, the otters at least aren't taking the fines seriously.
Ongoing U.S. airport problems, concerning severe or lengthy airline flight delays, has ended in President Obama's new legislation pertaining to airlines and hefty monetary fines of $27,500 per passenger in extreme cases. Tarmac delay violations by an airline must exceed 3 hours to be considered a violation, and the airline company must meet certain requirements to avoid penalty fines. The runway delay by Continental Airlines, and unexpected animal extravaganza on December 22, was unexpected by the company.
This time the airline won't be blaming mechanical delays or weather, only the sea. Two mischievous sea otters left Continental passengers stranded on the airline's runway, the flight grounded for nearly an hour and one-half past scheduled departure time.
Maybe the otters didn't like Texas, or instead preferred to return to Florida, from where they had arrived. Continental Airlines Flight 1492, a flight bound from Columbus from Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport in Texas, remained grounded an additional 80-90 minutes while sea otters (not TSA) inspected passengers' luggage and its contents. Caffeine was apparently on the list of preferred snacks, as one passenger later discovered.
Continental Airlines passengers were informed that the sea otters, at one time held in the plane's cargo area after flight arrival from Tampa, Florida, had managed to escape the cargo hold. Whether caffeine was involved before or after the runway incident may never be known, but a bag of coffee was claimed a casualty, as was the suitcase holding that coffee. Otter antics included a jaunt down the runway, and free access to contents of passengers' luggage, also traveling as cargo.
"People thought it was a joke at first, I think," said Continental Airlines passenger Nicky Devanny. In this case, truth proves stranger than fiction. This may just be the best excuse any airline could have for being grounded or seriously delayed. For airplane passengers stranded on a tarmac, it's probably the most entertaining reason. "We watched them take [the sea otters] off the plane in a box, and the next thing we know one of the [sea] otters got loose and took off across the tarmac," Continental Airlines passenger Harvey Bullock said. Frolicking either didn't begin or end there, since passenger luggage was also destroyed in the otter incident.
Hey, it's not Cirque du Soleil, but at least if you're going to be stuck on a runway it's better than bad weather. The downside: the delay wasn't long enough to result in passenger snacks or water being provided by the airline in accordance with Obama's legislation.
Arriving Continental Airlines passengers seemed generally patient about the delay and its cause, all considered, reporting their flight delay experience to television news crews and reporters upon arrival. Passengers may have expressed more patience than the otters themselves, which took advantage of that extra time on the Texas runway,using the delay to poke around in on-flight luggage. Gnawing curiosity apparently turned to gnawed suitcases. Houston's Channel 10 reported that  "a [male passenger] who had coffee in his suitcase found his bag open and covered in what appeared to be hay." The Continental passenger was transporting coffee which must have held intrigue for the traveling otters.
The media is having a hey-day (following USA Today's lead, that would be 'hay-day'). USA Today included the headline "Otter-ly ridiculous delay," straight from Continental passenger puns. It's difficult to determine which is worse: otter antics or passenger puns. It appears that at least some Continental Airlines passengers feel they've missed their calling on Comedy Central. Passenger puns, relayed to CNN following flight arrival, include: "other than sitting on the tarmac for an hour and a half being OTTERl-y ridiculous, the flight was uneventful." Another Continental passenger wanted to know whether he would be getting "an OTTER-matic upgrade to [Continental Airlines] First Class." Maybe if the otters had been traveling First Class this wouldn't have happened: it seems the animals didn't like their 'seats' or service.
The otters didn't seem to want runway frolics, or snacks, to end so soon. Obama's hefty $27,500 per passenger fine for airline runway delays would have been of no concern to the creatures, though Continental obviously wouldn't have appreciated institution of the President's fines for tarmac violations. Continental was able to shave the incident down to half of Obama's allotted 3-hour timeframe, so snacks and water didn't need to be served to passengers. Though injuries don't appear serious, a Continental Airlines employee was apparently hurt while trying to contain the sea otters.


Continental Airlines
Bush Intercontinental Airport-HOUSTON
Houston, TX
United States
29° 59' 36.3408" N, 95° 20' 24.414" W
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