Passengers were forced to evacuate a plane after its airline refused to let a woman fly with her ’emotional support squirrel’.
Police escorted the woman off the Frontier Airlines flight after she brought the animal onto the flight from Orlando to Cleveland yesterday, October 9.
Although the passenger had already told the airline in her reservation that she would be bringing an animal onto the flight, she did not state it was a squirrel. According to the airline’s policy, the only support animals allowed on domestic flights are ‘Domesticated dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, or small household birds’.
Despite being told of the airline’s policy, the woman refused to leave the plane when asked to by staff. In the end, police had to be called, which also meant every other passenger on the flight had to disembark as well.
In a statement provided to ABC News, the airline said:
The passenger noted in their reservation that they were bringing an emotional support animal but it was not indicated that it was a squirrel. Rodents, including squirrels, are not allowed on Frontier flights.
The airline added:
When she refused to deplane Orlando Police were called and requested that everyone be deplaned so they could deal with the passenger. Police eventually escorted the passenger off the aircraft and took her to the main terminal.
Video from passengers shows the moment police eventually escorted the woman away.
One person wrote:
I just want everyone to know that all passengers had to deplane my flight to cleveland because this woman brought a SQUIRREL ON THE PLANE
i just want everyone to know that all passengers had to deplane my flight to cleveland because a woman brought a SQUIRREL ON THE PLANE pic.twitter.com/TAdzUuKRWe
— Julia Papesch (@julia_papesch) October 10, 2018
The airline’s rules for bringing pets in the cabin for flights reads:
Only certain animals are allowed in the cabin: Domesticated dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, or small household birds may be carried on flights within the United States. Sorry, no reptiles or arachnids (and please, no lions, tigers or bears).
Only domesticated dogs and cats may be carried to or from international destinations.
As for emotional support animals, Frontier are updating their policy. As of November 1, 2018, emotional support animals will be allowed on flights, but they must be either a dog or a cat, and notice must be given to the airline at least 48 hours in advance.
Travellers with emotional support animals must also provide documentation to the airline, signed by a registered medical professional.
The airline policy also states that the emotional support animal ‘must be trained to behave properly in a public setting and remain under the control of the handler at all times. An ESA that engages in disruptive behavior may be denied boarding.’
Examples of disruptive behaviour include barking, scratching, excessive whining, urinating in the cabin and biting.
The flight from Orlando to Cleveland eventually departed, two hours later, without the woman or her squirrel on board.
Earlier this year, an emotional support peacock and an emotional support hamster, named Pebbles, were also both refused permission to fly in the US. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a happy ending for Pebbles. RIP buddy.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.