One turkey recently escaped its natural fate on Thanksgiving, emerging on a Delta flight–reportedly as a “support animal” for a nervous passenger.
A picture of the turkey was posted on Reddit user biggestlittlepickle, whose friend, a flight attendant, snapped a photo of the ungainly bird on the flight – in its own seat.
Delta spokesperson Ashton Morrow told USA Today, “Delta complies with the Air Carrier Access Act by allowing customers traveling with emotional support animals or psychiatric service animals to travel without charge in the cabin. While we can’t always accommodate all pets, Delta employees made a judgment call based in part on extensive documentation from the customer. We review each case and make every effort to accommodate our customers’ travel needs while also taking into consideration the health and safety of other passengers.”
The Air Carrier Access Act states:
Carriers shall permit dogs and other service animals used by persons with a disability to accompany the persons on a flight. Carriers shall accept as evidence that an animal is a service animal identification cards, other written documentation, presence of harnesses or markings on harnesses, tags, or the credible verbal assurances of the qualified individual with a disability using the animal. Carriers shall permit a service animal to accompany a qualified individual with a disability in any seat in which the person sits, unless the animal obstructs an aisle or other area that must remain unobstructed in order to facilitate an emergency evacuation.
In order to bring a “support animal” on a flight a passenger must obtain a recommendation from a mental health professional and pay a fee of between $70 and $200.
Horses, pigs and dogs have been used as service animals.
Delta and other US-based carriers prohibit snakes and other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders from being claimed as service animals. Delta permits domestic birds to fly; what bird is more native to the United States than a turkey?
Some skeptics argue that passengers bring their pets as “support animals” to avoid paying the rates for shipping them. Airlines must be cautious in refusing service; they could incur fines as high as $150,000 if they refuse requests for legitimate support animals.