Before heading to the airport, people ask themselves, “Am I forgetting anything?” We can’t imagine a time someone might exclaim, “Oh, my pet turkey!” but we seem to have arrived there. And now major airlines, including Southwest, are saying enough is enough.
Southwest is the latest among the majors to tighten its rules regarding which animals passengers can bring with them on flights. The changes take effect Sept. 17 and will limit most passengers to travel only with dogs or cats. They also must produce a letter from a physician or a licensed mental health professional, attesting to the need for the pet.
Look, we’re not unsympathetic toward people who rely on pets for comfort and support. That said, when most people think about turkey, it typically involves whether they want white or dark meat on Thanksgiving. They’re not expecting to see one in seat 21B on their flight from Dallas to Denver.
Industry group Airlines for America says the number of support animals flown on U.S. carriers increased 80 percent in 2017 from the previous year. It has reached a point where airlines must specify the types of animals not allowed to fly with passengers. For Southwest, that includes rodents, spiders, reptiles, hedgehogs, rabbits and more. Alaska Airlines explicitly prohibits animals with tusks, in case anyone thinks about bringing along a pet warthog.
It’s difficult for us to disagree. There are stories of people flying, or attempting to fly, with a duck, a turkey, a 70-pound pig, a monkey, a peacock and even a kangaroo. As with so many other privileges, once people begin to abuse them, the powers that be must take steps to restore order.
Flying is already, at times, an unpleasant experience. Traffic on the way to the airport, long lines for security screening, crowded terminals and flight delays all make for frustrating travel. Adding having to sit on a plane next to an animal one expects to find at a petting zoo is a bridge too far.
Southwest officials made the right decision. They had to consider not only the comfort of the majority of their customers but also their safety. With the number of animals that passengers bring on board continuing to increase, it wouldn’t take long before someone suffered an attack by an angry ferret.
There is a place for service animals and, in some cases, emotional support pets. Southwest is not banning the practice outright. But its effort, along with that of other airlines, to put in place some semblance of normalcy concerning their traveling pet policy is one with which we agree.