Flight delayed after woman brings 'emotional support squirrel' on plane
Police escorted a woman off a plane Tuesday after she brought an unexpected furry friend on a Frontier Airlines flight from Orlando to Cleveland – a squirrel.
The woman informed Frontier Airlines she was taking an "emotional support animal" on the flight from Florida when she made her reservation, according to the Associated Press. However, she did not say the animal was a squirrel. The airline said they called Orlando police after they asked the woman to leave the plane with the animal and she refused.
"Rodents, including squirrels, are not allowed on Frontier flights. The passenger was advised of the policy and was asked to deplane," said Jonathan Freed, director of corporate communications at Frontier Airlines. "When she refused to deplane, Orlando Police were called and everyone was deplaned so police could deal with the passenger. Police eventually escorted the passenger off the aircraft and returned her to the main terminal."
The incident delayed the flight by approximately two hours, according to the AP.
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This incident comes after multiple airlines have tightened restrictions on emotional support animals during flights. Delta Air Lines announced in January that customers must provide 48 hours advance notice and submit three forms to bring an animal on board. United Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have all adopted their own policies on support animals in the last year, citing a sharp increase in the number of "comfort" pets on flights. In the past, flyers could present documentation at the airport.
Delta Air Lines also banned "pit bull-type dogs" as either comfort or service animals on flights after several workers were bitten this year, according to the airline.
Julia Papesch, a 22-year-old graduate student at Florida State University, tweeted a video of the woman being wheeled off of the flight.
In an interview with USA TODAY, Papesch said she initially thought the plane was experiencing mechanical problems.
"We all got on the plane, and then we were sitting there for a while. All of a sudden someone came over the intercom and said that we all had to deplane. I thought something was wrong with the engine," Papesch said. "I kept hearing things about a squirrel, so I was asking people around me and someone said we did have to deplane because of a squirrel."
Papesch added that, though some passengers were frustrated with the delay, most had a sense of humor about the situation.
"I think everyone was really confused," Papesch said. "For the most part, people found it funny."
Many were also puzzled by the incident on social media.
"I have heard it all now. "Emotional support" squirrels? SMH"