If you were contemplating a non-stop flight to Australia who or what would you take for support? Your partner or an entertaining companion? A couple of good books? A pre-loaded ‘box set’ of your favourite TV series? One of those inflatable neck supports?
Or maybe a duck.
For a number of years now, airline passengers in the USA have been entitled to travel with an ‘Emotional Support Animal’ to help them with the trauma of domestic flights and the occasionally interesting interpretation of ‘in-flight service’ by some US airlines. All that was required was a certificate from a doctor or medical professional to say that you couldn’t possibly travel without your favourite pet and all was good.
The airlines may have expected that ‘ordinary’ domestic animals such as cats and dogs would be the support animals of choice, but they may also have grossly underestimated the ingenuity of the American consumer.
The first inkling of this came in 2016 when Daniel the Duck became a brief internet sensation, providing emotional support for his owner on a US domestic flight. By all accounts he was adorable and very-well behaved. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of all such travelling companions, and as the number of animals carried on US flights has rocketed, so have reports of animals vomiting, urinating and defecating on the aircraft and fellow passengers. Even more seriously, in June 2017, a passenger on a Delta flight was allegedly bitten on the face by a Labrador mix, in February a child on a Southwest Airlines flight was allegedly injured by a dog.
However, the airline’s reluctant tolerance of non-human passengers in the cabin may have finally been exhausted when a passenger turned up at Newark airport for a flight to Los Angeles in the company of an emotional support peacock.
The airline inexplicably decided that Dexter (the peacock) wasn’t going to fly with them, for various reasons including not meeting weight and size guidelines. Dexter’s owner was apparently unimpressed, but must have some very good friends as she later reported that friends were going to drive her (and presumably Dexter) cross country instead.
Not surprisingly most US airlines are now revising and tightening their rules on the carriage of animals for emotional support. All we need now are similar rules for other people’s children…