The days when air travel was considered luxurious and well behaved passengers dressed in elegant fashions for pampered flights have vanished. Flying today is the equivalent of bus travel in the sky. It is a soul-sucking experience of being herded like cattle into boarding pens by demoralized airline employees with many passengers looking for any angle to break free to board early.
One trend that has emerged in recent years is the proliferation of comfort pets as a way to cheat the system and board early. Some passengers have a legitimate need for a comfort pet to help them cope with everyday life and years ago you would see a dog or cat with a blue comfort pet vest or carrier marked accordingly. But today it seems to have gotten out of control with all kinds of “comfort” pets marching onto these flying arks.
Let’s face it, a pot belly pig is not appropriate onboard an aircraft filled with several hundred passengers, many of them weary business travelers. Yet, the airlines are overly cautious not to violate the federal regulations drafted in 2012 covering comfort pets. A woman traveling with her pig was initially allowed to board the flight but then thrown off because the animal was being disruptive “hogging space” and stinking up the plane with its relentless parade of flatulence.
Cats, dogs, mice, rabbits, birds, snakes, hedgehogs, rats, mini pigs, ferrets, miniature horses, monkeys, and others all qualify as comfort pets or as they are known in regulations Emotional Support Animals. But if you look back five, ten or twenty years the only legitimate service animals around were seeing-eye dogs.
These Emotional Support Animals not only are qualified to be onboard an aircraft they also appear to qualify for early boarding with those that are disabled as well. That is the appeal for some that want to board a flight early and don’t want to have to place their pets with friends or in a pet hotel while they are traveling.
These behaviors are a byproduct of the limited amount of bin space for luggage. When the airlines started charging for checked baggage there was a direct increase in passengers bringing on carry luggage. If you are unlucky enough to be in the last group to board the plane then you are likely to be forced to check your luggage often for free at the gate. Thereby, if you board early you will get bin space for your luggage, hence the use of Emotional Support Animals.
It is certainly sad to see a slender swimsuit model with a small dog-carrier push past an elderly woman struggling to walk so that she can board early. Travel decorum appears to have gone to the dogs—and monkeys, pigs, birds, cats, etc!