I am going to resist the urge to sensationalize this story and instead put the following up for discussion–should asthmatic airline customers be able to veto whether you bring your pet onboard? How about where you sit if you travel with your pet?
While waiting to board a flight on United from Baltimore to Chicago, Donna Wiegel noticed a passenger with a cat in the gate area. She immediately asked a gate agent to ensure she was seated as far away from the feline as possible.
She told NBC News, “I have a lot of respiratory problems and asthma and cats are a trigger that I have to avoid at all costs.”
But onboard, she discovered she was only a few rows away. She demanded that the cat be moved but FAs refused, telling her she could find a passenger to swap seats with. So she did.
Moments later, however, she claims she was escorted off the flight by the FAs and they broke her bag in the process. The reason given for her removal? FAs feared a “medical incident” if they remained onboard.
She was rebooked on another United flight, driven from Baltimore to Washington Dulles and eventually reached Chicago five hours later than planned.
You can watch her interview here.
“The cat got to Chicago in plenty of time. He could have gone out for dinner!”
I see two problems with this story. On the one hand, I believe FAs should have been more accommodating in helping Wiegel find alternate seating. On the other hand, I believe that making demands to move other passengers is invariably counterproductive. I have no idea what her onboard demeanor was, but her self-entiltment may have made FAs less likely to help.
Let’s aside the issue of service animals. I do believe we can all agree that service animals must take priority over allergic passengers. But what about emotional support animals or the fools who don’t label their onboard pets emotional support animals?
While it is regrettable this woman was removed, her hyperventilation at least gave FAs a reasonable indication that a midair medical incident was foreseeable. Had she remained calm, there is no doubt she would have remained on the flight.
Ultimately, I look at it this way — if I have an allergy that makes it impossible to fly near cats or dogs, I expect reasonable accommodation. Unfortunately, that may mean that I must wait for a later flight. Asking FAs not to serve peanuts is one thing, asking that another passenger be removed or placed in a horrible seat because of my allergy is another.
What do you think? How should an airline handle passengers who are allergic to pets?
(H/T View from the Wing)