“View from the Wing” blogger Gary Leff used his most recent column to share the tale of “the most egregious emotional support dog” story ever.
It isn’t news to frequent flyers that the number and variety of emotional support animals in the cabins of commercial passenger planes has nearly reached a breaking point recently. Now, it seems airline employees (who have claimed for years that their hands are tied when it comes to stopping passengers from abusing the system) are becoming part of the problem themselves.
There are plenty of reasons to suspect that passengers might be gaming the system when it comes to bringing pets on planes in guise of being support animals. An emotional support duck hardly seems like a medical necessity. There must be a better way of coping with anxiety than introducing a 70-pound pig to an already cramped airplane cabin and the words “emotional support turkey” only really make sense in reference to a sandwich.
Of course, flight attendants who call shenanigans on dubious claims that pets are federally protected animal assistants can put themselves in the hot seat. Spirit Airlines, for example, made unwanted newspaper headlines when a crew removed a disabled military veteran from a flight because of her emotional support pit bull companion.
The accusation levied by travel writer Gary Leff in this week’s “View from the Wing” column is especially troubling because it involves United Airlines cabin crew members allegedly bending already-abused rules about pets on planes for their own benefit. Leff relates an eyewitness’s account (complete with photographic evidence) of a pet bull dog being treated to premium class accommodations simply because the dog’s proud owner was an off-duty United Airlines flight attendant. While pets are (by air lines regulations) not permitted in the forward cabin of the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Boston Logan International Airport-bound Boeing-757, cabin crew members on the flight reportedly found a not-quite-above-board loophole for their traveling colleague.
According to one passenger’s account, the playful pit bull unceremoniously became an emotional support animal at the off-duty employee’s urging. The solution seems to have worked out well for the air lines employees involved – as well as the first class pooch.
“Periodically, working flight attendants come by to chat and see the dog,” the whistle-blowing passenger reported. “A few hours into the flight, a flight attendant who later comes back with a phone with photos of a bulldog of her own on it spends a few minutes petting the dog, who is now in the lap of the traveling flight attendant.”