Tag: emotional support animals

Breastfeeding A Cat On An Airplane Pt. III

I’m just going to present this here without comment, because nothing I can say can possibly make this any better than it is. If you’re unfamiliar with the original saga of breastfeeding cats at 40,000 feet, read our previous post here.

Watch the four parts from top to bottom in order:

And to think, I was ready to write another post about how Americans are all going crazy on planes. 🙂

UPDATE: Airline Investigates Cat Breastfeeding Incident, Flight Attendant Speaks Out

When we first heard about an airline passenger grossing out her fellow travelers by breastfeeding her cat, we figured at least kitty was happy with the situation — but apparently not, according to a flight attendant who was involved in the incident.

Instead of purring and kneading in a milk coma, the cat — likely a Sphinx — wanted nothing to do with feeding from the woman’s breast on the flight in late November, flight attendant Ainsley Elizabeth said.

“This woman had one of those, like, hairless cats swaddled up in a blanket so it looked like a baby,” Elizabeth said in a video about the incident. “Her shirt was up and she was trying to get the cat to latch and she wouldn’t put the cat back in the carrier. And the cat was screaming for its life.”

“What does she do at home if she’s doing that in public?” Elizabeth asked. “And then security met the flight just to tell her that she couldn’t do that again, cause it was weird and gross.”

Elizabeth has since deleted the social media account she used to upload the video.

As we noted in our earlier post, the woman was uncooperative when flight attendants asked her to stop, prompting the pilot to send a message ahead to the destination airport via ACARS, short for Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System.

acarscat
An ACARS message sent from Delta Air flight DL1360 to ATL, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The bizarre incident happened aboard a Delta Airlines flight from Syracuse, NY, to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia.

Meanwhile, Delta airlines has begun an investigation into the Great Breastfeeding At 40,000 Feet saga, after the incident went viral last week and garnered headlines around the world — including newspapers in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and dozens of non English-speaking nations.

Initially the passenger was reprimanded, but an investigation could result in more serious consequences, like a ban on using the airline.

Airline aisle during flight
In-air confrontations have skyrocketed in 2021, mostly due to disagreements over COVID-19 safety rules such as wearing masks. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The story comes amid a general surge in violent attacks and tense confrontations aboard passenger jets — and now the FBI is getting involved.

As of Nov. 4, the FAA had logged 5,033 cases involving “unruly passengers,” including 37 that were referred to the FBI for criminal prosecution.

That puts 2021 on track for more cases than all other years combined, according to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. The majority of those incidents — as many as three out of every four — are related to confrontations over mask policies due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Teddy Andrews, a long time flight attendant with American Airlines, testified before a congressional committee in September, recalling an incident in which a passenger called him the n-word when Andrews asked the man to wear his mask.

“These days I come to work anticipating disruptive behavior,” Andrews told USA Today. “Our colleagues are anxious, fearful. What is going to happen on the next flight? How will this passenger react if I remind them to wear their mask? Will complying with airline policies set them off? Can I avoid engaging, or would that be an evasion of my duties?”

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Woman Breastfeeds Cat On Flight

As more airlines scoff at the idea of emotional support animals and banish pets to cargo compartments, selfish air travelers remind us why.

Like a woman on a Delta flight en route to Atlanta last week, who grossed out fellow passengers by breastfeeding her cat. Flight attendants asked the woman to stop and place her cat back inside its carrier, as per FAA rules, but she refused.

That prompted the pilot to send a message ahead to the destination airport via ACARS, short for Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System:

acarscat
An ACARS message sent from Delta Air flight DL1360 to ATL, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The pilot asked for a ground team to meet the passenger aircraft upon landing. It’s not clear if the woman was prohibited from traveling on the airline in the future.

Regardless, as press reports note, Delta has been dealing with an 84 percent uptick in emotional support animal-related incidents, which comes amid a dramatic spike in general incidents aboard passenger jets. As of September, there were already three times as many incidents compared to the whole of 2019, and the FAA had handed out more than $1 million in fines, a CNN report noted. (Data for 2020 isn’t particularly useful as a point of comparison because air travel remained restricted for months due to the pandemic.)

It’s gotten so bad that flight attendants are quitting and airlines are worried about being unable to staff flights, as most don’t have enough attendants to provide a full crew complement as it is. And who can blame these flight attendants, who are already overworked and perform an often thankless job that should not include acting as law enforcement at 40,000 feet?

One flight attendant told the New York Times she feels like her and her colleagues are “like punching bags for the public,” while others say the job has become dehumanizing.

“What really hurts are the people who won’t even look at you in the eye,” she said. “I don’t even feel like a human anymore.”

Emotional support animals are supposed to be fairly rare and reserved for people with extreme anxiety. Instead, we’ve had a parade of assholes in the past few years demanding they be allowed to travel with “emotional support snakes” among other ridiculous companion animals. A Delta spokesperson said the airline had fielded demands from people with “comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders, and more.”

Then there’s “Flirty the Emotional Service Horse,” whose owner also maintains an Instagram page for the animal which informs visitors that Flirty prefers the gendered pronouns “she/her.”

What. An. Asshole.

An "emotional service horse"
Above: A selfish person.

Speaking not only as a cat caretaker, but one who is very attached to my little dude, did I like the idea of leaving him back in New York for almost a month when I went to Japan before the pandemic? No. Of course not. I missed him terribly.

Did I enjoy the 14-plus hours it took to fly to Haneda Airport? Of course not. On top of existing anxiety issues I can’t vape on a plane and I don’t like confined spaces.

But boo fucking hoo.

The rest of us just get on with it. We’re already pampered and accommodated beyond what we deserve in most circumstances. We should all have empathy, and we should all have respect for people who suffer from anxiety, but your right to comfort yourself ends at the point where I have to smell a horse’s ass for the six hours it takes to cross from New York to LA. Are passengers just supposed to endure it when the horse defecates? Is a single person’s comfort more important than the discomfort of entire rows of passengers surrounding her?

There are animal welfare issues here as well. No one should be allowed to take a wild animal on a passenger flight, and there’s a strong argument to be made that bringing a damn horse — or even a duck, for that matter — onto a flight is tantamount to animal abuse. Given the choice, those animals would not be there.

We live in an era of living indictments of the American education system who think the Constitution grants them the right to shit all over everyone else as long as it makes them feel good. There is no such right.

And the more that people abuse the privilege of taking an emotional support animal on a flight, the greater the chance that the people who genuinely need them will no longer be allowed the option.