Typically, I take precautions before I begin a commercial airline trek.
Better to be prepared—or at least numb—should any untoward event occur.
As a universal rule, babies are cute (unless you happen to be visiting the Hamptons with the Seinfeld clan).
And, as everybody knows, twins are at least twice as cute.
Or, so goes the rule.
Imagine my astonishment as I waited to board a recent Southwest Airlines flight from Portland, OR, to Sacramento, CA, when I caught a glimpse of what, in all honesty, could only be characterized as a couple of really ugly babies being pushed up to the boarding gate in a side-by-side, tandem stroller.
They had big ears, they were really, really hairy (even more so than me…albeit just barely), and they had huge noses (even bigger than mine…albeit just barely).
They almost looked like a couple of dogs, sitting upright, all cutesy in their stroller, and waaaaiit a minute…THEY WERE A COUPLE OF DOGS.
So began my education as to the regulations regarding allowances to be accompanied by what are known as comfort animals.
As you can see in the pictures, these animals do NOT have to be contained in a cage, but can have their own seat, or sit on their master’s lap.
(Although, I might question, who has whom trained?)
Without much effort, I learned that for a mere $129 you can purchase,
The Standard Kit Includes Official Vest With official Patch, Universal ID Card, Certificate,Tag For Collar & Clip On ID Holder.
The vest, ID card, and certificate are all official. It must be because it says that in the online advertisement.
The website includes the federal law verbiage that—according to them—”makes it clear” that it is official.
My favorite part is,
“emotional support dogs do not have to be professionally-trained to perform any task. Service dogs can be trained by their owners or in any other manner the owner desires.”
Great. I’ve been trying to get my dog to fetch me a gin and tonic. That would certainly provide me tremendous mental comfort on a long flight.
If any airline insisted on something a little more significant (with an emphasis on “little’) as to a medical justification, an article in the New York Times mentioned that for $99 a psychotherapist in Marina del Rey, CA,
“provides an hour of her time, over the phone or Skype, and a clinical assessment, along with a prescription letter.”
The Times story went on to say that the certification is not limited to just dogs. and could include,
“a cat, a monkey, a horse or even a potbellied pig.”
I am not sure how that psychotherapist conducts her clinical review over the phone or Skype.
I guess she must get it right from the horse’s mouth.
(Sorry, how could I resist that one?)
Pet Travel .com expands the list of allowable animals to include,
“parrots, elephants, and lizards”
What the…??? An elephant?
And you thought that guy sitting next to you on that one flight was taking a tad more room than was comfortable for you.
Eventually, I made it to the official, “official” determinant of, at least, Southwest Airlines policies, and did find out that these free range critters in the aircraft are not allowed in the exit rows.
Must have something to do with their inability to open the exit hatch or understand simple instructions from the flight crew, although I question the capability of some of the travel masses to do so.
(Clearly, they cannot comprehend the carry-on baggage rules, nor understand the need to GET THE HELL OUT OF THE AISLE when we are attempting to board the airplane!!!)
The Southwest Airlines animal rules also prohibit having your pet travel without you onboard, should you entertain the thought of sending Fido on a fun trip to some faraway forest, or, if you have “joint custody” with an “ex” who now lives across the country somewhere.
In other words, no unaccompanied iguanas allowed.
Back to the horses mouth, I found a story about a horse that actually did fly on a Southwest Airlines fight.
I assume if they allow horses, they must also accept related animals, because, when it comes to my mental contentment and comfort, I really appreciate my ass.
Just mind where you step.