If you haven’t chosen your seat on a flight there is always the worry that you’ll end up next to a snorer, behind an inconsiderate recliner or, beside a horse. Passengers on a recent American Airlines flight to Omaha, Nebraska, were shocked to find themselves sharing the aisle with a miniature pony. The emotional support animal, called Flirty, was seen boarding the flight from Chicago, Illinois with its owner last week. And it wasn’t long before passengers began sharing videos of tiny Flirty casually pottering through the airport on a lead. Another clip shows Flirty having a snooze with its owner onboard the flight. A Twitter user, who uploaded a video, joked: ‘At this time we would like to begin boarding with any active duty military, families traveling with children under the age of 3, and horses.’
Emotional support animals accompany owners who suffer from mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, and differ from trained assistance animals which are taught to guide those with disabilities. Flirty’s owner said on the animal’s Instagram page – which boasts thousands of followers – that she couldn’t have a support dog as she’s allergic and had spent years training horses. Although many were shocked to see the little pony on the aircraft, US citizens will have to get used to sharing their flights with animals following new government approved guidelines. Last month, the US Department of Transportation announced that passengers would be able to take animals onboard American aircrafts as long as they are registered as emotional support animals. Airlines could face fines if they separate owners from their animals. The US Department of Transport told CBS 62: ‘With respect to animal species, we indicated that we would focus our enforcement efforts on ensuring that the most commonly used service animals (dogs, cats, and miniature horses) are accepted for transport’.
But airlines will still be able to decide whether other support animals – that aren’t cats, dogs or miniature horses – are allowed onboard on a ‘case-by-case basis’. In the UK the laws are a lot stricter, with only a few airlines allowing support dogs on flights. However, some companies don’t allow any support animals in the cabin as they are not legally recognised as service dogs.