Heartbroken Woman Forced By Southwest to Leave Pet Fish Behind

Everyone eventually has a fish story. Now Southwest Airlines does, too, since one of their passengers is telling the story of how the carrier separated her from her pet fish in Denver, a pink male beta fish named Cassie.

She says she travels with it everywhere, but on this day the Southwest employees she ran into wouldn’t allow it. And she loved her fish.

Her freshman year in Colorado, Powless admitted she was lonely and wanted a pet. She considered getting a dog or cat but her mother convinced her that a fish would be a better fit. She got Cassie at the local Petco, but did not realize she would end up falling in love with him.

“I put my finger in there, he come up and nibble my finger. He was a cool fish,” she said. “I even got him a heater because it gets so cold in Colorado.”

As with the hamster, the TSA is fine with fish. The college sophomore asked Southwest if she could leave the fish at their counter and have a friend pick it up, but they wouldn’t allow it.

She found another traveler to give the fish to, but didn’t get contact information so she could check up on her fish and know that it was alright. Airport staff “separated them” wanting to make sure the Southwest passenger wasn’t going to take the fish back once they had cleared the checkpoint. Now she’ll never know what happened to it.

Takashi Ono, son of Jiro, at Jiro Roppongi

She was followed through the airport, and says she felt humiliated,

Even after I was no longer in possession of the fish, they still continued to have security around us, and follow us through the airport and escorted onto our plane, as if we brought something bad onto the airport.

…Everyone’s laughing at me. 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?

For its part, Southwest says their staff were following policy — and that they offered the woman a later flight. It seems to me she could have waited with her fish until a friend came to pick it up, since she was asking Southwest staff to babysit it for ‘an hour’ to allow that to happen anyway.

Earlier this year Spirit Airlines told a cancer patient she’d have to flush her emotional support hamster down the toilet if she wanted to fly that day out of Baltimore. While the TSA was happy to screen the pet, Spirit Airlines is just too classy to carry rodents on board or as cargo.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Where else in the world besides the US can airline passengers bring their pet pigs, geese, snakes, lizards, and everything else onto the plane, claiming that they are “emotional support animals”, without any verification whatsoever? I’m looking forward to the new genetic manipulation techniques to be able to bring a pet velociraptor “emotional support animal” on the plane, to deal with the DYKWIAs!

  2. This is nothing, I was given the harsh choice of buying extra seats or being forced to leave 2 of my multiple personalities in Biloxi

  3. Zero sympathy. (1) Find a pet sitter, which usually is not too tough for a beta fish. Yes, more difficult at college but not impossible (2) Wait an hour for the next flight. This should have been feasible as it did not sound like she was attending a wedding or funeral. (3) How hard is it to get contact info – text message, email etc? Takes about 30 seconds to send on a phone.
    Bringing a fish to the airport does not strike me as a bright idea – the fish is better off in its tank with a caretaker. Beta fish live maybe 2-3 years and cost about $2-10 so not a huge loss here though I don’t doubt the emotional attachment.

  4. Both pets should not have flown. The fish and its environs would have been more than 4 ounces. And no airline allows hamsters (or other rodents) to fly in case they escape and get into the wiring and chew on it.

  5. This lady is entitled, and seems to believe the world should revolve around her. Serves her right for not what is and isnt allowed prior to reaching the airport. The ground staff offered her a fair option, which she chose not to take

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