A California man was stranded in Austin for four days after being kicked off a flight. He was trying to get home with his possum. And he did everything right.
- He wanted to make sure he’d be good to fly on JetBlue with a possum
- He “called the Department of Transportation, cleared it with them”
- Then he called JetBlue and says he was told it would be fine
- And indeed he had no problems flying JetBlue from Long Beach to Austin
Credit: Cody Pope via Wikimedia Commons
Gerald Tautenhahn flew with his opossum Zatara from Long Beach to Austin for Thanksgiving. After the trip he boarded his flight home, was seated and ready to go and a flight attendant asked him off of the plane. He was told he couldn’t fly with the pet.
He was rebooked onto another flight, but JetBlue was waiting for him to check to see whether he had the animal again or not. JetBlue refused to take him on any aircraft with the opossum. He bought a new ticket on United and flew home to LAX.
According to the airline,
JetBlue gladly accepts small dogs and cats only in an approved pet carrier. On the customer’s return trip, our crewmembers in Austin witnessed the opossum come out of its carrier and saw that it was not a cat or dog. The crewmembers informed the customer that the opossum would not be able to travel on the flight and worked to assist the customer with his options.
JetBlue’s travel with pets page talks about accepting small dogs and cats in-cabin, but doesn’t say other animals are excluded. You can click through the page to their FAQ which does say other animals aren’t accepted.
The airline’s service animals page says they’ll accept dogs, cats, and miniature horses as emptional support animals – though I don’t believe that’s consistent with Department of Transportation guidance which says airlines can’t categorically refuse to transport many kinds of animals but can “continue to deny transport to snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders” however an opossum is not a rodent.
For an airline to refuse to transport an animal it needs to be “too large or too heavy, poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, or would cause a significant disruption in cabin service.”
JetBlue followed its policies, but those seem unclear and Mr. Tautenhahn says he was told in advance it would be alright – and indeed it was for his outbound trip. Had he declared his pet an emotional support animal JetBlue might have refused him transport, but that appears to be contrary to current final guidance from the Department of Transportation.