Peacocks on a Plane

United Airlines' last Boeing 747 on its final voyage.

By Jonathan Spira on 7 February 2018
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It took a peacock to bring everyone to his senses.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t the pig, the duck, the snake, the spider, the chicken, the rooster, or the turkey that brought the pot to a boil.

It was the peacock.

As most people know by now, an over-entitled woman tried – albeit without success – to bring a peacock onto a United Airlines flight out of Newark in January, claiming that the peafowl was an emotional support animal.

Given that you, dear reader, spend a significant amount of time in the air, you’ve likely seen your share of pigs, monkeys, birds, snakes, and of course dogs taking up space intended for other passengers, causing kerfuffles with passengers who are allergic to some animals, defecating in the aisle, and simply behaving like, well, animals.

Then there was an emotional support dog on Delta flight 1430 from Atlanta to San Diego that mauled another passenger, and other passengers who, when they indicated they were allergic to dogs, were asked to deplane while the dog and owner remained behind.

Amidst the social-media maelstrom following peacock-gate, United decided to follow Delta Air Lines’ lead and clamp down on passengers who take untrained, possibly aggressive, animals on flights under the guise of them being service animals.

The airline said it is taking these steps due to “a lack of regulation that has led to serious safety risks involving untrained animals in flight.”

While this all seems to have come out of nowhere, it was long in the making. A 1986 law, the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, prohibits “discrimination against handicapped individuals” and meant to ensure that disabled individuals could travel with their service animals. It also allowed for emotional support animals, but some pet owners began to realize that there was no reason to pay $125 for Fido to travel in a kennel (or below deck) when, with a few wags of the tail, it could be credentialed as an emotional support animal.

Here’s where things went afowl, quite literally. As more and more pet owners became aware of how to game the system, a cottage industry sprung up of companies that sell emotional-support animal vests and doctors that will certify a patient over the Internet as being in need of such an animal.

As a recent story in the Washington Post put it, the effectiveness of emotional-support animals “is poorly substantiated through studies but widely embraced by the public.”

The new and stricter rules adopted by Delta and United should curtail many of these abuses and it’s likely that other major airlines such as American and Southwest will follow their example.

Until then, I’d strongly advise not to walk around the airport carrying raw meat.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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