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…