If the title of this story sounds fishy, it’s because it is. A story published by the USA Today outlines a college student who was forced to abandon their pet pink betta fish, Cassie before boarding a Southwest plane.

California resident, Lanice Powless is a student at the University of Colorado. She was trying to bring her pet fish on a flight from California to Denver when a Southwest Airlines employee stopped her. Lanice  told her local TV station that Southwest staff refused to let her leave Cassie at the counter for 30 minutes while a friend came to pick up the fish. Lanice found a passenger on another airline to take the fish but, she never even got the person’s name. It’s unclear where the fish is now.

Pet policies have been a big point of contention this year, as almost every airline has made adjustments after the passing of Kokito, a french bulldog that died after it was put into an overhead bin by request of a United Airlines flight attendant. According to Southwest Airlines’ website, only small cats and dogs are allowed to travel as pets. And, they have to be stowed in carriers under the traveler’s seat. Cassie did not meet any of the Southwest requirements.

The Transportation Security Administration says live fish can travel in carry-on bags, just not checked luggage. The TSA requires the fish be in clear containers, which are subject to inspection. It’s unclear how many oz. of water the fish are allowed to be in, although you can refill the bowl after clearing security.

Image result for betta fish tank

A Southwest representative said, “A Customer attempted to bring a pet fish onboard their flight from Denver to San Diego. Our Customer Service Agents informed the Customer about Southwest’s pets policy which does not allow for live fish to travel in the passenger cabin. Our Team 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.”

This isn’t the first time that a pet has been left behind in an airport. Earlier this year we learned of another individual who flushed their live pet hamster down a toilet at Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) after Spirit would not the animal fly due to its pet policy.

In either case, the individuals seems to be recklessly selfish and the airlines seems to do a bad job of displaying empathy. At the end of the day if you truly care for an animal, a life is more important than a flight. The real problem is that front line employees are not empowered to make a decision to accept a fish that will cause no passenger discomfort, over say an emotional support Peacock. I don’t think Southwest was wrong in proactively offering re-book to a later flight so the student could find proper accommodation but it also wasn’t right in allowing the customer to give away a pet.

What do you make of Southwest’s actions and policy?

Feature Image via Flickr courtesy of Tomás Del Coro