Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Delta Reservations. How May I Help You?
When you leave the restaurant after stepping over mini-road apples on your way to the airport, consider this: Watch your step as you go down the aisle of that jumbo jet, lest you step in some used pig food or trip over Porky. I'll bet you didn't know there was an Air Carrier Access Act. And if you did, you probably thought they were talking about wheelchair access, or access for the sight-impaired. But it's much bigger than that.
Here are the words from the final draft of the Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel Assistance Manual: "Swine must be allowed on airplanes if they are determined to be service animals." The airlines have always allowed too many swine on their planes, but they previously weren't the four-legged kind. The manual then goes on to provide airline employees with helpful tips on how to determine if the animal is a service animal or just a plain old pig.
"A passenger arrives at the gate accompanied by a pot-bellied pig. She claims that the pot-bellied pig is her service animal. What should you do?" I know what I'd do, but then I would be an ex-airline employee. They are told to ask: "What tasks or functions does your animal perform for you? What has its training been?" They forgot to add: "Keep a straight face." It goes on: "If you are not satisfied with the credibility of the answers to these questions or if the service animal is an emotional support or psychiatric service animal, you may request further verification."
What if the employee is still not sure? There's always that supervising bureaucrat to call in for help. "You should call a CRO (Complaints Resolution Official) if there is any further doubt as to whether the pig is the passenger's service animal." I suppose the CRO will then ask questions such as: "Are you so emotionally-crippled that you have to fly cross-country with a pig?" If the passenger weepily says "yes," then all aboard.
Now I see some discrimination that hasn't been addressed here. What about the pig's credentials? Since political-correctness says that pets no longer exist, and there are only non-human companions, the pig should have to answer a few questions as well. For instance: "Are you carrying or have you ingested any explosives in the past 24 hours?" Or: "Have you at any time in the past year disguised yourself as a sheep in order to make contact with Al Qaeda or some other terrorist organization?"
Wendy Ponzo of the North American Potbellied Pig Association says the pigs can be used as service animals because they also seem to have a sense if the owner is not feeling well to stay by them." And do what? But I'm nitpicking. At least they can be trained to use a litter box, though I'm not sure where on the plane they would put it and who's responsible for cleaning and dumping it. And after all, they're small--right? A pot-bellied pig can weigh up to 300 pounds.
I'm also a little curious about how the employees and their CROs are going to handle it when an angry group of Yemeni Jihadists board the plane and get their first sight of Porky occupying a seat in first class. The feds insist that other farm animals are excluded, such as horses (but not mini-horses), cows, mules, sheep, goats, spiders and snakes. But if Porky is allowed today for emotional support, can Betty Boa be far behind? "Betty, do you provide emotional support for your human companion?" Answer: "Yesssssssss."
You've heard the expression "the camel's nose under the tent." Well, meet "the pig's snout under the trough." All aboard the Petticoat Junction express!