"Excuse Me, Is That Your Pig In The Airplane Seat?"

By on May 11, 2003 in Current Events with 0 Comments

Fear of flying? Perhaps you are wondering why the person in the seat next to you is carrying a monkey on to a crowded airplane? Or, if you are really curious, why is the monkey actually occupying a seat in your row?

Older movies would sometimes create a scene about public transportation in foreign countries where people would carry their animals on board. The American passenger, not being used to encountering farm animals on board a bus or train, would be at times anxious and flustered if not shocked with these foreign customs.

But, if airline travel were not already harrowing enough, we may be moving in the direction of carrying our animal friends around the country with us at 30,000 feet.

Passengers who need emotional support for a flight can now take service animals with them. This can include typical animals that provide emotional support such as your pet monkey, a cat or a dog. But if you are relying on a pet rat or that friendly python that lives in your bathroom to help you get over those flight jitters, leave them at home because they can’t get on the plane.

These animals now fall in the category of service animals. Admittedly, we would have thought a service animal would be a guide dog to help someone who could not see. And, in fact, it does include guide dogs but it obviously goes much further.

Trained animals can help passengers with a variety of disabilities. That is where the animals necessary for emotional support come into play.

We were relieved to find that a miniature horse may not fall into the category of a service animal that can go into the passenger compartment but a small pig may be okay. These more unusual animals are to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

But, if you are reading this just before leaving for your local airport and are in need that extra emotional support, the relevant portion of the new regulation may help. It reads:

“Factors to consider are the animal’s size, weight, state and foreign country restrictions, and whether or not the animal would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others, or cause a fundamental alteration (significant disruption) in the cabin service. If none of these factors apply, the animal may accompany the passenger in the cabin.”

If you are a passenger on one of these flights, you may be wondering why there is a monkey actually occupying a seat next to you and a cat is under the seat of your fellow traveler. That would be because the new regulations say:

“A single passenger legitimately may have two or more service animals. In these circumstances, you should make every reasonable effort to accommodate them in the cabin….”

And what if the various support providers don’t fit under the seat? According to guidance for the airlines: “you should relocate the passenger and the service animal to some other place in the cabin in the same class of service where the animal will fit under the seat in front of the passenger and not create an obstruction….” If the passenger (the human passenger, not the animal) is disabled, the airline cannot charge for a second seat.

And, if you are late getting to the airport but haven’t told the airline you are bringing along your horse or pig, do you have to call in advance? Fortunately not. In fact, you probably don’t even need a health certificate. While advance notice would be nice, “airlines may not insist on advance notice or health certificates for service animals under the ACAA regulations.”

Enjoy your flight!

By the way, we are not making this up. You can see the original document below.

If you have comments or questions, contact damon.whitehead@ost.dot.gov.

Policy Guidance Concerning Service Animals In Air Transportation

© 2016 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.


About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters onĀ federal human resources.