An airport official smuggled a hive of bees on to a plane, panicking passengers when they escaped mid-flight in one of a series of lapses at the provincial Blagoveshchensk facility in Russia, reports said yesterday.
The bees made a break for freedom during a flight to Moscow from the far eastern city after they were illegally stashed in a box in a coat locker in business class, a spokesman for the Yakutia airline said.
"It was frightening. The passengers were in shock," Andrei Savostin said.
"The crew showed heroism. The (flight attendants) managed to tape up the cloakroom doors to stop the bees flying out."
The incident on May 28 was exposed yesterday in a front-page story in state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta which alleged systematic failures at Blagoveshchensk airport.
Carrying insects aboard a plane is banned under Russian aviation rules, but the bees were carried on by the airport's deputy director, Anatoly Smirnov, who skipped security checks, Rossiiskaya Gazeta alleged.
The passengers included officials from Moscow, who were seen off by the deputy governor and seated in business class, it reported.
Blagoveshchensk's transport prosecutor told Rossiiskaya Gazeta that the incident had been investigated and the airport management had been sent a letter of warning.
The prosecutor, Denis Mazein, declined to answer questions by telephone.
At the same airport earlier this month, an airliner overshot the runway on landing, seriously damaging the plane and prompting the regional governor to reprimand the management for decrepit equipment and security lapses.
Lax security at Russian airports was exposed in 2004 when two suicide bombers bribed their way on to flights at Moscow's Domodedovo airport, despite lacking valid tickets.
In June a woman was caught at the same airport, Russia's busiest, after managing to board a plane without a ticket, documents or any luggage.