Sunday, January 24, 2016

Passenger of the Day: Emotional Baggage

Penguin in Denver
At the airport in Denver, I was waiting at the gate for my next flight when I saw a woman approach the counter. Under her arm was an over-sized, cute, stuffed kitty. It was white with pink ears and paws and it seemed to be smiling at me from the across the gate room, even though the kitty was upside down under her arms.

When I first started flying, pets were allowed in the aircraft cabin only if in carriers. When I was hired, Adelie and Kipper, my two fur babies, lived in Houston with my father while I was in training. After getting settled in California, I flew to Texas to retrieve them, flying them to their new home in 2 small carriers. The flight was not full and the captain, upon seeing my boys, saved space in the first class closet for them. During the flight, he even came back to my seat in coach to let me know he just looked in on them and that they were doing fine.

Today, humans are full of emotional baggage, and needy, selfish Hollywood socialites have glamorized traveling with small dogs wherever they go. With the
Air Carrier Access Act bringing fines of up to $150,000 for refusing someone with a legitimate emotional need, people now search for unscrupulous doctors for fake emotional pet notes. Some then purchase fake animal assist collars and vests just so they can bring Fido on board and avoid paying the airline fees for pet carriers. What's worse, some passengers are now allowed to bring Fido out of the carrier and sit them right on their lap during flight. Fido isn't always well behaved.

Supposed service animals have pooped, bitten others, gotten loose, and humped people's legs while on aircraft. More and more people take advantage of the system and it upsets those who have serious reasons for needing a support animal, not to mention that it can be stressful for pets. Today, there are groups trying to reel in the abusers, but everyone is afraid of stepping on the exposed nerves of someone who really has issues.

I startled a dog half to death once. She was settled between the owner's leg and the side of the seat in first class. I had no idea the dog was there, hidden under a thin blanket! I reached down with a ramekin of nuts, pulling out the small tray to set them down. I'm not sure who jumped more, the pooch or me!

Flying during the holidays, I sat next to a woman who had Jesus at her feet. Jesus was a little Chihuahua they had taken in from a neighbor. The woman was explaining to her daughter on the phone how it cost over $100 for Jesus to fly with us today, but she was going to contact a doctor when they got home to get a note so Jesus could fly for free.

I love seeing pets on my flights, especially the kitties. I'm seeing more and more animals (actual animals, not just people acting like them) and usually the animals stay in the carriers during the entire flight. For the most part, no one ever knows they are there. Only a few times have I had issues with other passengers who have allergies, but we usually accommodate them easily enough by moving the affected person away from Whiskers or Fido. So far, I've not seen the more exotic passenger pets, but I've heard tale of turkeys, pigs, miniature horses and even penguins gracing the aisles of aircraft.

As I sat in my window seat watching the goings on outside my aircraft window, the woman with the kitty walked down the aisle and began eying the empty seat next to me. As she sat down, I commented on how cute the cat was. She hugged it tight and smiled. No hissing, no allergies, no mess. Just a woman and her stuffed animal. I miss the simple days when people traveled with stuffed animals.

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