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Tuesday night’s Frontier Airlines Flight 1612 from Orlando to Cleveland nearly had an unauthorized passenger on board.
The flight was delayed for about two hours after an unidentified woman’s pre-approved emotional support animal turned out to be a squirrel, not a dog or a cat.
Airline personnel ended up having to call the Orlando airport police for assistance after the woman refused to deplane. All of the passengers were also required to exit the aircraft, and the woman was sent away from the gate in a wheelchair. Bystander video shows the woman giving the middle finger to fellow travelers and telling them to “shut up.”
Frontier Airlines is one of numerous carriers that only allows cats and dogs on board. Furthermore, Frontier also bans rodents — including squirrels — on its planes.
Frontier Airlines stated that the passenger did note in her reservation that she had an emotional support animal to declare, but did not indicate that it was a squirrel. “On Flight 1612 from Orlando to Cleveland yesterday evening, a passenger boarded the aircraft with a squirrel saying it was an emotional support animal,” a Frontier spokesperson 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 TSA stated that the animal was screened per standard protocol, and that individual airlines have final say over which animals they permit on board. “The TSA will screen animals brought to a checkpoint if it does not pose a danger to our officers,” the TSA said in a statement. “The squirrel was screened the same way someone’s cat would be screened. The container was sent through the X-ray machine while the passenger carried the squirrel through the walk-through metal detector. In this way we could be sure that there were no explosives or other prohibited items hidden inside the container. Once the TSA determines that an animal and its carrying case do not pose a threat to the aviation system, then it is up to the airline to determine if the animal may fly or not.”
2018 may likely go down in commercial aviation history as the Year of Emotional Support Animal Fiascos. Earlier this year, United Airlines banned a peacock from boarding a Newark flight, while Pebbles the Hamster became a flushed fatality after an airline-passenger misunderstanding. In response, several carriers quickly implemented stricter policies around emotional support animals, including breed restrictions and size requirements.
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