On Oct. 1, local TV station KTVA announced an Alaska Airlines policy change that took effect on that date. They reported that dogs, cats and ponies would be allowed to travel free of charge as service animals on future flights. I smiled at the thought of ponies on airplanes! I never considered this before.
The rest of the story, omitted by KTVA, was that the same policy decided that emotional support animals are now restricted to untrained dogs and cats only. This no-notice policy change affects me, others with disabilities, and those who rely on Alaska Airlines to leave their hometowns to fly elsewhere with emotional supports.
For the past eight years, I have achieved MVP status on Alaska Airlines flights because I routinely fly to Portland, Oregon, for VA care there. Appropriate VA medical care is unavailable for me at Anchorage's VA clinic. During my many flights to Portland, I have always traveled with my trained emotional support parrots in the airplane's cabin.
As of Oct. 1, this became impossible. Alaska Airlines now identifies all birds as "exotic" and therefore restricts them from the cabin. Birds can only travel in cargo; this adds $400 to each of my round-trip flights between Anchorage and anywhere. Even a short hop to Juneau.
KTVA should have provided better reporting on this unilateral policy change. And Alaska Airlines should have been more cognizant of the effect this change would have on those with disabilities who need additional supports during airline travel.
— Barbara Bachmeier
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