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FOUR escaped pythons have caused a Qantas plane to be grounded in Melbourne after airline staff failed to find them.
The young Stimson's pythons, four of 12 in a container in the Boeing 737-800's cargo hold, apparently escaped on Tuesday during a 2½-hour flight from Alice Springs to Melbourne.
With Qantas staff unable to find the escapees among the luggage in the hold, the aircraft was removed from service and a 4pm Melbourne-to-Sydney flight was cancelled.
Qantas spokesman Joe Aston said the 12 juvenile pythons measured about 15 centimetres and were travelling in "an appropriate" container. He said it was not clear how the four had escaped.