Southwest Airlines bans university student's pet fish from plane

Words: Elise Solé

A university student says US carrier Southwest Airlines banned her pet fish from flying with her, and now she’s lost her best friend.

Lanice Powless, a student at the University of Colorado, was barred from boarding a Southwest Airlines flight from Denver to California, with her pet fish, Cassie, on Thursday.

“This lady was just not having it,” Powless told San Diego news station KGTV. “So the supervisor comes and she said ‘Unfortunately, you cannot bring fish onto Southwest Airlines.’”

Powless bought the pink male beta fish at Petco last year to feel less lonely and was surprised by her affection for the animal, according to KGTV. “I put my finger in there, he’d 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.”


Cassie had flown with Powless on previous Southwest flights in a carry-on container. “Maybe they just didn’t make a big deal out of it at the time?” she told KGTV. 

To save her pet, Powless asked to keep Cassie at the gate, where her friend could pick him up in 30 minutes, but the staff said no. She found a volunteer to carry Cassie’s container on another airline that allowed fish but told KGTV that Southwest monitored them closely, preventing them from exchanging contact information.

“They were not allowing us to converse at all because they were thinking we were going to do some secret exchange throughout the airport,” she said. “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,” Powless 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?”

Southwest’s pet policy states that for a $95 (£75) fee per flight, passengers are allowed to store “small vaccinated domestic cats and dogs” under the seat in front of them. 

An airline representative told Yahoo Lifestyle, “On Friday, 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.”

But according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), fish can fly. “Live fish in water and a clear transparent container are allowed after inspection by the TSA officer,” reads the government website. A TSA spokesperson did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. 

However, Southwest tells Yahoo Lifestyle that despite TSA rules, “Each airline has their own policy regarding animals in the cabin.”

Powless did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.

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