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“Call It a Comfort and Support Dog,” United FAs Flout the Rules for Coworker

“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 airline 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 airline 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.”

[Photo: Shutterstock]

Comments are Closed.
closecover August 9, 2017

No one cares about the rights of allergy sufferers who up until recently were allowed to travel free of the fear of suffering a debilitating reaction because someone slapped an "emotional support" tag on a prized pooch. All dogs belong in the cargo hold.

Lakeviewsteve August 8, 2017

Dogs are great and should never ever be blamed for anything. Their caretakers should make sure they obey all rules. I'm glad they let it fly in the cabin. United has had a rough time of transporting dogs in the hold lately. Another one recently died while traveling on United. I"m glad this dog got treated very well and it certainly deserved to be.

liztravels August 7, 2017

"the words “emotional support turkey” only really make sense in reference to a sandwich." That is a beautiful line and should not go unappreciated

TonyBurr August 7, 2017

UA employees have always looked out and given benefits to other employees and friends before paying passenger. When they look to upgrade, employees often receive it before their frequent flyers. This is just one more example of the UA cutlure.

AlwaysFlyStar August 6, 2017

Did the dog comply with whatever rules United has for emotional support animals? If so, then direct the anger to the rules, rather than those following them. Can this passenger truly know that the form from the doctor was not filled out? Just because he didn't hear any mention of it being a support animal before somebody came round to ask about it. No mention of any bad behaviour from the dog. So did this really affect the complaining individual's flight? Or just looking to kvetch about something?