A San Diego–area college student is accusing Southwest Airlines of forcing her to leave her pet fish at Denver International Airport.
Last Wednesday, University of Colorado sophomore Lanice Powless was getting ready to fly home for the holidays with Cassie, a pink male beta fish she has owned since her freshman year.
“I’ve taken him everywhere with me,” she told San Diego station KGTV.
Although the Transportation Security Administration website says live fish are allowed on planes as carry-on luggage, Southwest employees told Powless only small cats and dogs that fit in an under-seat carrier are allowed.
This surprised her, she said, because she has taken numerous trips on Southwest with Cassie.
“I have traveled with it. I had it in my container too. Maybe they just didn’t make a big deal out of it,” Powless told the station.
After a gate agent refused to hold the fish at the counter for 30 minutes so a friend could pick it up, Powless was forced to ask random passengers on other airlines that allowed fish if they could care for Cassie, according to Fox News.
Although she found a willing party to take care of Cassie, she was unable to get that person’s name or other contact info.
“[Airport staffers] were not allowing us to conversate at all because they were thinking we were going to do some, like, secret exchange throughout the airport,” Powless told KGTV. “Even after I was no longer in possession with the fish, they still continued to have security around us and follow us through the airport and escorted onto our plane, as if, like, we brought something bad into the airport.”
A Southwest representative told USA Today that while fish aren’t allowed on flights, employees “offered to re-book the Customer for a later flight to allow them to make arrangements for their pet but the Customer refused that option. The Customer eventually traveled on their originally scheduled flight.”
Powless is home for the holidays but said it won’t be a happy time.
“Everyone’s laughing at me,” she told KGTV. “Yes, it’s a fish. I know. But dang, it was my pet. And just because it wasn’t a cat or dog, it wasn’t as important?”
In August, Southwest Airlines announced it was limiting passengers to one emotional support animal per person ― and only dogs and cats are permitted.