Southwest Passenger Leaves Pet Fish at Airport After It Was Denied Boarding

Dec 17, 2018

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A Southwest passenger is lamenting the fact that her pink beta fish and travel companion was denied boarding on a flight from San Diego to Denver on Wednesday.

The woman, Lanice Powless, attempted to board the flight with her pet fish, Cassie, but says an airline employee told her the fish could not be on the plane with her. Powless, who studies at the University of Denver, was confused because she says she frequently traveled with Cassie.

“I have traveled with it; I had it in my container too,” Powless told the ABC San Diego news station. “I’ve taken him everywhere with me.”

The Transportation Security Administration allows live fish in water to be carried on planes if they are in a clear transparent container and inspected by a TSA officer, it says on its website. Southwest’s pet policy, however, only allows for small vaccinated domestic cats and dogs to travel in the cabin if they fit underneath the seat.

Powless claims she never had trouble bringing her fish on Southwest flights until the incident on Wednesday. “The supervisor comes and she said ‘Unfortunately, you cannot bring fish onto Southwest Airlines,'” she told the ABC station. Powless asked the desk agents if she could leave the fish on their counter so a friend could come pick Cassie up, but they said no.

So, Powless scrambled to find someone to take her fish, eventually passing off Cassie to a stranger whose airline allowed fish onboard. But airport employees separated the two of them, so Powless never got the other passenger’s name or information. “They were not allowing us to converse at all because they were thinking we were going to do some secret exchange throughout the airport,” she said.

Southwest confirmed the incident to TPG and said that Powless didn’t want to change her flight to make other plans for her fish. “Our Team offered to re-book the Customer for a later flight to allow them to make arrangements for their pet but the Customer refused that option,” an airline spokesperson told TPG in an email. “The Customer eventually traveled on their originally scheduled flight.”

Powless says she originally bought the fish to help combat the loneliness she felt beginning college in Denver. “I put my finger in there, he come up and nibble my finger,” she said. “He was a cool fish. I even got him a heater, because it gets so cold in Colorado.”

The tale is a good reminder for all passengers to double check airlines’ pet policies because the industry has a patchwork of rules, and carriers’ regulations can greatly differ. Delta, for instance, recently banned all emotional support animals on any flight longer than eight hours, as well as all emotional support animals under four months of age, regardless of flight length.

As for Powless, she realizes some people think her fishy predicament was not truly a debacle, but she disagrees. “Everyone’s laughing at me,” she said. “Yes, it’s a fish. I know. But dang, it was my pet. And just because it wasn’t a cat or dog, it wasn’t as important?”

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