PeacockGate: The Perversion of Commercial Flight Comfort Animals

Well, you knew I couldn’t let this one pass without comment. Last week’s ludicrous attempt to claim a peacock as an emotional support service animal on a United Airlines flight in New York has finally drawn public disgust to the very issue I’ve been bitching about for two years (to anyone who would listen). The service animal concept has not only jumped the shark. It has officially joined the cow in jumping the MOON. (And isn’t it only a matter of time before someone tries bringing a live, gasping-for-air shark on board to alleviate their flavor-of-the-month emotional issue?) Most of my friends with flight anxiety just pop a Xanax. And no, I don’t condone cavalier opioid usage — far from it — but they have ‘scrips so they can fly without drawing the ire of a sky marshal with their twitchy behavior.

The stern, unfriendly face that I would never wish to awaken to on a flight. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

If you’ve ever spent time around peacocks — and I have, from a safe distance — you know they are extremely LOUD animals. Your noise-dampening Bose headphones could never drown out a peacock’s cacophony. So…does the flight remain grounded until the passengers can actually hear the flight attendant’s instructions, being drowned out by a verbose peacock? And how will this affect the airlines’ on-time arrival stats? Give that peacock a Xanax, stat!

A year ago, I was writing an article for a corporate travel management client. They wanted a piece on the rules and regulations of service animals. I had Starbucks with some flight attendants to get their subject matter expertise. I was gobsmacked by what they shared. (Oh, and the mile-high club is alive and well, I’m here to report. That detail didn’t make it into my article.) Most people, in their opinion, were simply avoiding paying for their animals’ flights by deeming them “service animals.” One passenger literally brought a service pony — not a typo — on one of their flights. Another, a goose.

My friend Mike Baron, creator of the famed comic, “The Badger” just shared that this is HIS support animal of choice…hmmm…

Anyone who knows me, knows of my extreme bird phobia. In this new, weird era of the .000001% minority having the greater influence and the louder voice, I have to wonder…at what point does my phobia override the emotional issues of the service animal-dependent passenger? Or my allergies? I’m allergic to animal hair (hence Jonesy, my hairless cat, whom you may have met in my previous blogs.) And I know I’m not alone in that. Somehow, airlines have lost sight of this. They’ll bend over backwards to ensure no one violates another passenger’s nut allergies with a random PBJ, but what of my issues and allergies? Will they matter?

I’ve heard the halt to this recent peacock invasion was due more to the space the bird’s tail feathers required–at least 2 seats–than the disruptive nature of the beast in question. All I know is, I miss the days when common sense prevailed, and we as a society weren’t catering to the obscure desires of the .000001%.

I’m hoping PeacockGate has raised enough awareness to put a stop to this insanity. But if this service animal trend continues its reckless trajectory, I’ll be next in line for a Xanax ‘scrip.





Spirit Airlines, We Salute You

Dedicated to Spirit Airlines, who made sure we sat on the tarmac at ORD for exactly 1 hour and 50 minutes so as not to refund our airfare.

Dedicated to Spirit Airlines, who made sure we sat on the tarmac at ORD for exactly 1 hour and 50 minutes, so as not to hit the 2-hour mark and activate the rule refunding our airfare. Photo taken at 12:50 a.m. after a VERY long day of travel.

Let me tell ya’, flying Spirit Airlines was a real treat this past week. My friends and I just wanted a cheap flight to Vegas. Spirit Airlines just wanted to shake us down. It was good that I printed my boarding pass at home, since there’s a fee for that. I got to O’Hare Airport two hours early, but it didn’t matter.  I’ve only seen lines like Spirit’s baggage line during Thanksgiving and Christmas. I ran outside looking for a Sky Cap, to no avail. This no-frills airline was the aerospace equivalent to Tonya Harding. And oh yeah, there was an extra fee for the luggage, which was cheaper if you pre-paid for it at home. They also charged for carry-on luggage. By the time we added in all of the extra fees, it would have been cheaper to fly United or American.

The O’Hare Airport official shepherding us unwashed masses told me that often times, the Spirit Airlines passengers missed their flights because the baggage line is far too long, and the passengers might not get rebooked for another week. Wow.

I grabbed my window seat, lamenting that I was sitting nowhere near the Sister Wives. I dug into my Chris Farley biography, trying to ignore my discomfort. By the time I hit page 26, I was laughing so hard, my seat was quaking and tears were rolling down my cheeks. I really tried to hold it in, but the woman pressed into my right side gave me a look. I’d like to think it was concern, but it was more like horror, as in, “Fucking great. I’ve hit the mile-high jackpot with yet another mentally imbalanced seat mate.”

TJ Hobans mom had surprised me with a gift of hummus, crackers, and bottled water from O’Hare before we boarded. It  was a good thing, since there was no free water or free snacks on this interminably long, uncomfortable Spirit Airlines flight, where my 5’5″ frame pressed into the seat before me. I had indent marks on my knees by the time we landed. I wondered how tall people survived it.

On my return flight, the Sister Wives and I all sat together, thank God. We paid $25 for extra leg room. Across the aisle from me sat a grizzled old man. He was diabetic and in pre-anxiety attack mode because we landed on time, but we sat on the tarmac in no air conditioning for one hour and 50 minutes. He made it clear–to anyone within listening distance–that he really wanted to borrow a Xanax. Or two. Or three. I texted Sister Wife Gina, sitting directly in front of me, that it was a lucky for the old man that she was a nurse. Here is what she texted back:

Screenshot 2015-09-23 12.48.47Screenshot 2015-09-23 12.48.57

I made a loud comment about Sister Wife Gina being an FBI profiler. She began interrogating the old man. He shared that he was a used car salesman, and that he went to Vegas 10 times last month, each time flying on Spirit Airlines, and each time, sitting on the tarmac at O’Hare for precisely 1 hour and 50 minutes. He informed us that Spirit only had two gates at O’Hare, so this was de rigueur. He continued waxing poetic about Vegas, sharing that he stayed way outside of Vegas to be “near the mountains.” In my naiveté I believed him, but on our exhausted drive home from O’Hare at 3 a.m., street smart Sister Wife Gina clued me in, using that slow speak you do with children, the hearing impaired, and English-as-a-second-language folk. The used car salesman was an aging Joey Buttafuoco, hiking the Appalachian Trail.

It was storming hard outside of our humid little plane on the tarmac. The pilot would have had a great career in writing fiction–he audaciously announced that we couldn’t deplane because “If there is lightning within a 5-mile radius of the airport, it’s against the rules to deplane.” The balls on that guy! Magically, we deplaned an hour later, as the lightning continued.

Sister Wife Maura flew back on Spirit Airlines the day before, and texted us this image of the tray table in front of her–she carries Clorox wipes with her everywhere, so she was well prepared for Spirit Airlines’ hygiene issues.

The tray table facing Sister Wife Maura on Spirit Airlines this past week.

The tray table facing Sister Wife Maura on Spirit Airlines this past week.

I told the Sister Wives I was writing this blog, and they all said in unison, “If Spirit Airlines offers you free apology passes to fly anywhere, just refuse them!”