Delta and United Airlines have instituted more stringent rulings pertaining to the flight of comfort pets. The controversy surrounding this issue is hinged on free passage and security. Passengers who claim they need their pets to fly are not charged a fare for their seats. However, the fear of sitting next to on-board animals and travelers with serious allergies have voiced complaints over the years.
Air Carrier Access Act of 1986
In 1986, legislation was issued to amend the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. Its purpose was to prohibit air carriers from discriminating against handicapped individuals. The law allowed physically disabled people to travel with service animals. It also applied to nonphysical disabilities, such as children afflicted with autism.
Fake Comfort Animals
Of recent date, it appears that the appeal for some passengers to escape paying extra fees and having their pets cage-free while in flight is too great to pass up. This has led to the practice of bending the rules.
In other words, more and more folks are faking it. While they will tell you their accompanying pets are support animals or psychiatric service animals, they often board planes with no official documentation.
With this trend escalating, when Delta Air Lines spokesperson Ashton Morrow was asked about this issue, she said she could not disclose the number of service animals per flight.
On the other hand, Eric Goldmann of Atlanta who travels frequently weighed in with a more insightful response.
"When I see a dog in the airport, I befriend them," Goldmann said recently. "I like dogs. I'm allergic, but I like them."
Goldman noted he's been traveling several times a week for business for about 15 years, but only in the last few years has he seen the number rising. He had taken 142 flights this year by the end of October and said he saw so-called emotional support animals on about 40 percent of the planes he had flown.
Now that’s a lot of pets!
Peacock brings issue to a head . . .
The last few weeks may have brought this issue to a head. Dexter the Peacock was barred from a United Airlines flight from New York City to Los Angeles recently, when the airline refused to allow him on board, whether or not his owner labeled him as "an emotional support animal."
Pet owner and New York City-based photographer and performance artist who goes by the name “Ventiko” feels she was being discriminated against. Instead of asking for free passage, she actually bought a ticket for her bird, but was turned away at the gate for allowing him to board.
A spokeswoman for Chicago-based United stated the peacock didn't meet their guidelines for several reasons [above and beyond their comfort animal guidelines,] including its size and weight. Spokeswoman Andrea Hiller said the issues had been explained several times before Ventiko arrived at the airport.
A predictable social-media storm went viral, both pro- and anti-peacock -- and was aptly labeled "L'Affaire Dexter." As a result, United Airlines decided it had enough with this dilemma and announced their tighter new policy. Dexter, unwittingly, may have struck a blow for sanity?
Individual Preference vs Need?
Are the recent rulings by United and Delta warranted? Have passengers abused the comfort animal travel guidelines for their own selfish reasons versus bonafide need? Or should a special allowance be made for birds purchasing fares on a plane? After all, on a recent Etihad Airways flight, a Saudi Arabian prince purchased individual airfares for over 80 falcons recently, and actually secured passports for each.
According to David Leonhardt of the New York Times, he questions whether one of the “downsides of a modern culture too often fetishes individual preference and expression over communal well-being.” Do you agree? Comment below and let us know if you've incurred similar practices when you've flown with your support pets?
Primary Source: It's Time To End The Scam Of Flying Pets