Before Belen Aldecosea flew home from from college to South Florida, she twice called Spirit Airlines to ensure she could bring along a special guest: Pebbles, her pet dwarf hamster. No problem, the airline told her.
But when Aldecosea arrived at the Baltimore airport, Spirit refused to allow the tiny animal on the flight.
At A Glance: Emotional support animals have become a lightning-rod for controversy in recent years. While most emotional support animals have been of the canine variety, a plethora of animals have been claimed as support animals including peacocks and hamsters. In this particular case, it was a hamster that ran afoul of Spirit Airlines’ guidelines.
What Happened?: Belen Aldecosea was returning home from college to tend to a medical emergency. Prior to leaving for her flight, she called Spirit Airlines twice to make sure her emotional support hamster, Pebbles, would be allowed on the flight. She was told the hamster would be a welcomed guest. Upon arriving at the airport, she was told otherwise. Long story short, she ended up flushing Pebbles and taking the flight.
What Aldecosea says: According to Aldecosea’s account, an airline representative advised her to flush the hamster down the toilet or set it free outside and continue her flight plans. Aldecosea chose to flush her hamster.
What Spirit says: Spirit Airlines admits its agents gave Aldecosea bad information when they told her the hamster was allowed on the flight. However, the airline says none of their representatives suggested flushing the hamster down the toilet as an option.
Standard Practice: While each airline has its own policies regarding different animals, the standard practice does seem to be not to allow rodents on flights due to health and cleanliness concerns.
Questions: Obviously, a story like this raises several questions (and eyebrows).
- Is it possible that a Spirit Air representative sarcastically suggested flushing the animal?
- If the rodent in question was an emotional support animal, why would its owner choose to flush it?
- Should the airline have taken responsibility for the fact that they did inform a passenger that the hamster would be allowed on-board and either made an exception, allowed the hamster in the cargo area, or provided a rental car or a ticket on an airline that might allow the hamster?
“N534NK Spirit Airlines 2008 Airbus A319-132 (cn 3395) “Home of the BARE FARE”” by TDelCoro is licensed under CC BY-SA