Southwest Airlines refused boarding to a pet fish, forcing a college student to make a difficult choice.
Lanice Powless was traveling home to California for the holidays. She is a student at the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs and has a pink pet Betta fish named “Cassie.” She checked with the TSA prior to flight, who told her that her fish was allowed through security with additional screening. Powless assumed that transporting her fish would be no problem on Southwest. But that prove to be a costly assumption.
At check-in, a Southwest agent informed her that she would not be permitted to take the fish onboard. According to Southwest, the airline offered Powless a seat on a later flight so she could find an alternate arrangement for her fish:
A Customer attempted to bring a pet fish onboard their flight from Denver to San Diego. Our Customer Service Agents informed the Customer about Southwest’s pets policy which does not allow for live fish to travel in the passenger cabin. Our Team offered to re-book the Customer for a later flight to allow them to make arrangements for their pet but the Customer refused that option. The Customer eventually traveled on their originally scheduled flight.
But Powless denies she was ever offered a seat on a later flight. Quite the contrary, she claims that Southwest gave her only one choice: dispose of the fish or don’t fly. She told USA Today:
I would have gladly taken another flight. I was in no rush to get home, I’m on break. If they offered me a later flight to drop off my fish, that would have been totally fine with me.
Apparently she tried to give her fish to another passenger, but the TSA would not let it through the checkpoint. Ultimately, she took her originally-scheduled flight sans fish.
I’m all for Delta’s new restriction on emotional support animals and any other policy that restricts abuse. But I tend to think Southwest went a bit too far, here. What’s the harm in a little odorless fish in a plastic bag?
Powless admitted that in the past she has just snuck the fish onboard (seems easy enough to hide it in your carry-on bag). She should have just stuck to that…
I cannot even believe that this is newsworthy.
Picture it…a Southwest flight…2018. Passenger brings fish aboard in plastic bag full of water and places it in overhead bin. Plastic bag breaks. Water everywhere. Fish dies. Passenger sues Southwest because it was a prize-winning show fish. That passenger? Darla. That fish? Nemo.
But really, WN says no live fish in the cabin. That’s the rule. They stuck to their guns because “pets” can be a liability. If they start making exceptions for one passenger it’s a slippery slope to allegations of discrimination because Pax A was allowed to bring their emotional support fish whilst Pax B was denied.
“What’s the harm in a little odorless fish in a plastic bag?”
Umm, watery living stuffs in a flimsy container in an airtight transportation, what’s the harm, right? And it’s not just the fish. Think about other passenger! Water (in this case, very clearly *unclean* water) can cause damage to other passengers’ carry-ons. And what if some kid decides that sipping on on the dripping water is a fun thing to do? (I mean, kids… What don’t they try to eat?) Or some passenger with some sensitivity? And the odor (living things needs to poop and pee, even into its own water). As a reminder, if shit hits the fan (and in this case, this is literal; fish poop in their water, no?), it takes at least 1/2 hour to land, plus how much money to fix?
And I also agree with the thing about slippery slope. We live in a strongly legal world (good thing), and the laws tend not to like exceptions (except when they are explicitly stated). If you let a small fish through, how about big fish? Octopus? Umm, giraffes with oxygen mask? (I know, exaggeration, still). A pet is a pet. The airlines can’t break their own regulations.
Last thing to note: it’s actually better for everyone involved for the passenger to sneak the fish onboard. If things happen, someone (the passenger) is clearly the culprit, to be sued to the last penny. If the airline lets the fish through, now it’s fun. Who’s at fault? The passenger? You think the passenger will be like “oh, yeah, my fish, let me take care of the damage”? No, s/he will be like “but you said I could, how can I take the liability?” Now what?
So, no fish, please. If you can’t arrange for someone to feed, drive. Or, well, sneak it ;-P.
I suppose there is no other way whatsoever that liquid gets onto an airplane or could be spilled on anyone or that a kid could drink that he’s not supposed to. Definitely not in the sodas, water bottles, toilets, or faucets on the plane. It’s the fish that’s really over the line.
Of course they should have permitted the fish. Unfortunately these people have neither common sense nor compassion. That said, the young gal wasn’t too smart either. She should be banned from acquiring another fish, having failed to look after this one.