There was nothing out of the ordinary about the November 26th US Airways flight from Bradley International Airport. That was until one passenger walked down the aisle with what has been described as a very smelly a pig. According to passenger Jonathan Skolnik, the woman then proceeded to take her seat and tether the 50-70 pound animal to the armrest.
From there, things went downhill, as the animal began to wander up and down the aisle. According to American Airlines (US Airways parent company) the woman brought the pig on board as an emotional support animal, but the flight crew asked her to deplane after the animal became disruptive.
In this case, the flight crew did the right thing. They followed the letter of the law.
Under the Air Carrier Access Act, US airlines are not required to accept “unusual” emotional support animals, such as pigs, if they determine that they are too large or heavy to be safely carried in the cabin, or if they would pose a direct threat to the safety of the other passengers.
I’m guessing that porky was a combination of both. Let’s face it, where is a 50-70 pound pig going to sit in coach? Room is tight enough as it is, and the animal certainly won’t fit under the seat. For safety reasons, the animal can’t sit in the aisle, and it was already walking up and down the aisle.
The flight crew probably feared another “pig incident”, like the one that happened on an October 2000 US Airways flight. That flight carried a 350-pound “therapy” pig. Although much confusion surrounded the exact events that transpired on the flight, there were reports of the pig squealing and running up and down the aisle. At that time, the ACAA rules for emotional support animals were not in place, and a US airways spokesperson promised that it would never again allow barnyard animals onto its flights
In my opinion, the flight crew of the 2014 flight acted proactively. And again, they were following the law.
The issue at hand is not whether a pig can be a emotional support animal (it can with proper documentation); but whether the airlines are required to carry it. And the law says they aren’t if it doesn’t behave accordingly.
Just for the record, service animals are also required to behave accordingly while on board.
And not to confuse the issue, but the Americans with Disabilities Act (which governs access issues on land) does not recognize any animals besides dogs and miniature horses as service animals.
In any case, three cheers to the US Airways flight crew who followed the letter of the law. It’s always a shame when a story like this taints public opinion against people with legitimate service animals.