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Aviation

An amazing tail: this airline passenger wanted to bring her peacock on board for ‘emotional support’ but was turned away

A spokeswoman for Chicago-based United says the peacock didn’t meet guidelines for several reasons, including its size and weight

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 January, 2018, 11:53am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 January, 2018, 3:28pm

A United Airlines passenger who tried to take her emotional support peacock with her on a cross-country flight has had the bird turned away by the airline because of health and safety concerns.

New York City-based photographer and performance artist Ventiko bought a ticket for her peacock, Dexter, so he would have his own seat on Sunday’s flight from New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport to Los Angeles.

A spokeswoman for Chicago-based United says the peacock didn’t meet guidelines for several reasons, including its size and weight. Spokeswoman Andrea Hiller said the issues had been explained to the passenger three times “before they arrived at the airport”.

Dexter’s Instagram account notes his “human friends” will be driving him cross-country.

The airline also noted that passengers are required to provide proper documentation from a medical professional at least 48 hours in advance of boarding that specifies the passenger’s need for an animal.

Video shows the bird’s arrival at the terminal at Newark Liberty International Airport, along with photos – replete with visible bird droppings, some online commenters suggested – of the grounded peacock.

I really think that the whole emotional-support animal thing is just getting out of hand
Bobby Laurie, TV host

Bobby Laurie, co-host of travel television programme The Jet Set, said he had spoken to flight attendants and airline staff who said the woman had tried on several previous occasions to fly with the peacock, including an attempt from JFK, and had been turned away. At Newark, the woman’s ticket was refunded, and the airline even gave her taxi fare back to the hotel, Laurie said.

“I really think that the whole emotional-support animal thing is just getting out of hand,” Laurie said. “Granted, there are the folks out there who truly do need it, but a lot of people are now, I guess, just testing the waters to see what it is you can do and what you can get away with. As a flight attendant myself, I’ve had someone try to board with a pig and a turkey.”

In his experience, the pigs were fairly well behaved. The turkey … not so much.

“I’ve actually not had a situation where we had something go terribly awry with an emotional support animal, aside from a cat. I had a cat get loose and start running through the cabin,” Laurie said. “At least it was just a cat.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press