If you’ve flown on commercial carriers over the past 10 years and wondered, “Gosh, is this seat smaller and do I have less leg room?”
It is, and you do.
It’s called “high-density seating” and the airlines aren’t bashful about it:
High-density seating means airlines utilize smaller seats in rows that are closer together to allow for more seats.
Bottom line: More seats = more passengers = more profits.
Here’s just one example. The Airbus A380 – a very popular commercial aircraft – “has a typical seating capacity of 525, though it is certified for up to 853 passengers.”
If you put 853 people in the same space you’d put 525 people, something’s got to go.
What goes is seat room and leg room.
And we tend to just grin and bear it – well, not grin, but bear it – because we’ve got to get to New York for a meeting or we want to go on vacation to California or seeing the sun rise over Uluru has been on our bucket list for years.
I mention high-density seating for a reason:
This is a miniature horse. They generally stand between two and three feet tall and weigh between 150 and 250 pounds.
On an airplane, they don’t curl up in a pet carrier like a cat does. They don’t contort themselves into a small space at their owner’s feet, like a dog does.
But they do produce manure, like any horse does.
In August the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) confirmed that it was okey-dokey for miniature horses to be in all cabins of commercial planes.
I’m guessing no one at DOT involved in this decision ever experienced this:
These are high-density seats 20E and 20F.
You’re in 20F, the window seat, and so glad you paid extra to be adjacent to the bulkhead in front of you.
You have more leg room, and no fool sitting in front of you, about to drop his seatback into your lap for the duration of the 10-hour flight.
Yup, you done good, buying your ticket early.
You hear a bit of a commotion, and see passengers standing up to get a better look at something moving down the aisle. A few people are taking pictures with their phones.
Then you hear, “Ah. Here’s our seat – 20E.”
A passenger is talking to a small horse.
A horse. On your airplane.
The passenger smiles at you and says, “Hi! This is Parsley.”
The passenger then backs Parsley the horse into the space between the seats and the bulkhead, all the way in, until the horse’s ass is right under the windows.
And right in front of your knees.
Say hello to your seatmates for the next 10 hours.
OK: I want to be kind, and I want to be fair.
And in my research I learned that miniature horses actually can become effective trained service animals. According to an article in the 8/17/19 New York Times,
“…guide horses serve as a compelling alternative to guide dogs. The animals are mild-mannered and fast learners, with nearly 360-degree vision. They may also offer balance support to individuals with physical disabilities.”
As for ESAs – emotional support animals – I’ve never felt the need for one, so I can’t put myself in the shoes of someone who does.
And we know that there is an abundance of owners who are claiming their animals as “necessary” to their emotional well-being during a flight. Animals including pigs, lizards, ferrets, squirrels, hamsters, hedgehogs, mice, spiders, turkeys, monkeys, Dexter the peacock, kangaroos, and this…
And we’ve all heard the horror stories, like the ESA dog that injured a child on a Southwest Airlines flight, and the ESA dog that lunged at a seated passenger, attacking his face that leaving him with 28 stitches and a set of scars that may require plastic surgery.
And this story:
And it’s hard to be kind and fair when the flight attendant is walking down the aisle with this, instead of my martini:
Going back to the The New York Times article, it talked about a lady and her trained service animal:
“Mona Ramouni, 39, who is blind, has been traveling with her miniature guide horse, Cali, for the past 10 years. She has flown from Michigan, where she lives, to New York City and Georgia, among other locations.
“Ms. Ramouni has created a tidy defecation setup for long flights: When she senses that Cali needs to go, she signals the horse, who then goes into a deodorized bag.”
And if Cali’s butt is parked in front of my knees…
Better make that two martinis.
So the next time I’m on a commercial aircraft and my seatmates include a miniature horse, I’ll stay calm and take a deep breath. I’ll remind myself about “kind” and “fair.”
And that the horse could be a trained service animal. If it’s an emotional support animal, I’ll hope that it, too, has been trained.
And when the owner pulls out that deodorized bag, I’ll take another deep breath and…
Update: January 22, 2020
In mid-January the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the organization was seeking public comment on proposed amendments to its Air Carrier Access Act regulation on the transportation of service animals by air.
Or, as one flight attendant succinctly put it, “The days of Noah’s Ark in the air are hopefully coming to an end.”
“Noah’s ark,” meaning…
Yes, these are just some of the “emotional support animals” people have brought (or tried to bring) on airplanes.
It’s clear that airline passengers have been abusing the emotional-support-animals-on-planes situation.
According to the ABC News article,
“Southwest Airlines handles more than 190,000 emotional support animals per year. American Airlines carried 155,790 emotional support animals in 2017, up 48% from 2016, and United Airlines carried 76,000 comfort animals in 2017.
“The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed changes. Officials highlighted a few areas where they are most eager to get comments, including whether miniature horses should continue to qualify as service animals.”
So whether or not the above-mentioned Mona Ramouni and others will be able to continue bringing their miniature guide horses on commercial flights is subject to public comment, and then a Department of Transportation decision sometime in March.
I sure don’t know the right answer.
My sympathy is with Ramouni…unless she parks her horse in front of me.
Another article spelled out the proposed changes, if you’re interested in reading them:
- Define a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.
- No longer consider an emotional support animal to be a service animal.
- Consider a psychiatric service animal to be a service animal and require the same training and treatment of psychiatric service animals as other service animals.
- Allow airlines to require forms developed by the Department of Transportation, attesting to a service animal’s good behavior, certifying the service animal’s good health, and if taking a long flight attesting that the service animal has the ability to either not relieve itself, or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner.
- Allow airlines to require passengers with a disability who are traveling with a service animal to check-in at the airport one hour prior to the travel time required for the general public to ensure sufficient time to process the service animal documentation and observe the animal.
- Require airlines to promptly check-in passengers with service animals who are subject to an advanced check-in process.
- Allow airlines to limit the number of service animals traveling with a single passenger with a disability to two service animals.
- Allow airlines to require a service animal to fit within its handler’s foot space on the aircraft.
- Continue to allow airlines to require that service animals be harnessed, leashed, tethered, or otherwise under the control of its handler.
- Continue to allow airlines to refuse transportation to service animals that exhibit aggressive behavior and that pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others.
- Continue to prohibit airlines from refusing to transport a service animal solely on the basis of breed.