Traveling with animals can be tricky—especially if your pet is, say, a giant peacock. Over the weekend, United Airlines reportedly denied an emotional support peacock access to a flight, claiming that the animal did not meet size regulations.
People seem to have mixed feelings about the airline’s decision, but this comes at a time when some carriers are re-evaluating their rules for bringing emotional support animals on board. Delta recently announced it would be enforcing a stricter set of guidelines beginning in March.
“The rise in serious incidents involving animals in flight leads us to believe that the lack of regulation in both health and training screening for these animals is creating unsafe conditions across U.S. air travel,” John Laughter, Delta senior’s vice president for corporate safety, security and compliance, said in a statement.
So, the new guidelines for Delta require pet owners to vouch that their animals are well-trained and vaccinated. In fact, Delta will require owners to provide proof of training and vaccinations 48 hours before the flight, but that is not the case for all airlines.
United’s current rules require a doctor’s note indicating that the passenger does, in fact, need the emotional support animal. The note is needed 48 hours in advance of the flight. In many cases, emotional support animals are helpful for those with mental disabilities, psychological disorders or a motor skill disorder, according to the ESA Doctors website.
“United is dedicated to providing convenient and comfortable service to all of our customers,” the airline said in an email to Fox News. “We know that some customers require an emotional support animal to assist them through their journey.
But in the case of the passenger with the peacock, she was not permitted to board with the animal, despite reportedly paying for an extra seat. Photos of the peacock patiently waiting at check-in (and not making it past that point) were posted to Facebook—and you have to see them to believe it!
After the incident, United released this statement:
“This animal did not meet guidelines for a number of reasons, including its weight and size. We explained this to the customers on three separate occasions before they arrived at the airport.”
Online reactions to the news have been mixed. There are some who believe people who take advantage of the option to bring animals on airplanes can ruin travel for those who truly need emotional support animals. Examples of these opinions poured in on Twitter:
Now we're making a mockery of emotional support animals and the people who really need them. Just because I like my pet doesn't mean that it is an emotional support animal. Not ok!
— Alice O. (@aliceoforever) January 31, 2018
Many people voiced their support for United’s decision in this case:
United Airlines got this one astronomically R.I.G.H.T!!!
— VESPER MARTINI 🍸 (@HeartWithThanks) January 31, 2018
Others wondered what kind of animal might show up next at the airport:
There is gotta be a line between customer safety and abusive passengers. I second @united. What’s next? A Lion?
— slsv (@Tafetan7) January 31, 2018
Of course, there are also those who can see the woman’s side of the story and hate to see someone denied support if they need it. People took to Twitter to share those opinions as well:
pretty sad when you have to go to a peacock but, support is support. Did she really think she would get that on the plane ???
— DEBBIE( Franks) HOLSINGER (@BAMBI321) January 31, 2018
Some even pointed out that peacocks on planes may be safer than having dogs on board:
Others jumped in to vouch that not all emotional support animals are dogs:
Don't make it sound like every emotional support or psychiatric service animal is from an online scam. My REAL psychiatrist prescribed my hypoallergenic, leash-trained cat who is extremely helpful to my PTSD.
— Oma El (@ElntheSolutions) January 30, 2018
This incident has caused United to re-evaluate its policy, just as Delta recently did.
“In our effort to better balance protecting our employees and customers while accommodating passengers with disabilities, we are reviewing our existing policy and plan to share more soon,” the airline told Fox News.
What are your thoughts on the rules about emotional support animals? Should this peacock have been allowed to fly?