Flying with Emotional Support Animal

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Pets are comforting companions for kids and adults alike. There is no denying that pets keep us healthy and relieve stress. They play with us and show us unconditional love.

Lately keeping a pet as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)– an untrained companion of any species that provides solace to someone with a disability, such as anxiety or depression is becoming , should I say “fashionable’ for lack of a better word.

And an increasing number of pet owners have of late been taking their pets  into public spaces including travelling in airplanes , more so in the cabins -rather than the holds—simply by claiming that the creatures are  their licensed companion animals and are necessary to their mental well-being.

The list of weird and wondrous beasts that have accompanied their owners on scheduled flights in the US includes a turkey, a kangaroo, and a duck by the name of Mr. Stinkerbutt and a miniature Appaloosa horse.

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There was also a peacock, who was turned away by United for not meeting its guidelines of weight and size, despite of the owner who offered to buy a separate ticket, and Hobey the pot-bellied pig took a pre-takeoff dump in the aisle of an American Airlines flight and both pig and owner were ushered off – proof that peacocks and pigs really can’t fly.

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Luckily the good citizens of the US of A have the law on their side. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

As noble as it is intended, the purpose of the law is to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, including equal rights of employment, housing and also the same rights to transportation aboard public entities such as airlines.

If a disabled person requires the assistance of a service animal the airline must accommodate the service animal, but there’s more to it than that. The key difference between a service dog and an emotional support dog is whether the animal has been trained to perform a specific task or job directly related to the person’s disability. For example, service dogs are trained to alert a hearing-impaired person to an alarm or to guide a visually impaired person around an obstacle.

So when pet owners insist on taking along an animal for want of emotional support all they need is an exemption- a letter from a certified healthcare provider, stating that the animal provides emotional support that eases one or more of the symptoms or effects of the disability, to substantiate their claims and Bingo! – They are legally entitled to take their friend along when they fly.

The United States – Air Carrier Access Act entitles passengers to fly with their E.S.A. at no extra charge, although airlines typically require the animal to stay on the lap or under the seat.

But Airlines are now fighting back. Between 2016 and 2018 the number of passengers taking their ESA on a flight in the US has increased from 561,000 to more than 1 million. And with that, the number of incidents involving ESAs pooing, peeing or biting other passengers and cabin crew have also increased.

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Many airlines have changed their policies when it comes to flying with an emotional support animal. Which is why most carriers are now either banning ESAs from flights over eight hours or putting in stipulated conditions for flying with ESA’s such as-

  • Banning specific animals from the cabin, including amphibians, ferrets, goats, hedgehogs, insects, reptiles, rodents, snakes, spiders, sugar gliders and any animal with tusks, horns or hooves.
  • The animals must be able to fit at the passengers’ feet, under the seat and are small enough to “fit fully on the passengers’ lap without touching any part of the seat or adjacent customers.
  • The animal cannot be seated in an exit row, block aisles, occupy seats or eat from tray tables.
  • The animals will have to remain leashed throughout the flight.

Airline employees are now able to exclude animals they consider to be a safety risk. While airlines might have thousands of trained service animals flying in a month, they may need to accommodate much more as untrained support animals in the already constrained cabin. Untrained animals have not only attacked trained service dogs, but also bitten flight attendants and other passengers. Not to mention, pets could also be the reason for spreading certain allergens.

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Whether one truly and genuinely needs a support animal travelling with them needs to have strict and proper guidelines/rules to ensure access to service animal assistance for people with disabilities , while maintaining the safety, health and security of all other passengers and crew onboard planes.

 

 

 

 

PC:The Sun;CNBC;United Airlines;CBS News;LoyaltyLobby

Let’s put the Heart in the Smart

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) to me is daunting. Every time I read and research about AI, I feel like I am entering a maze. I find myself getting pulled into the vortex deeper and deeper, with no way out. Yes, it scares me, but it also excites me at the same time.

AI is not something you can ignore. It is everywhere.

……When you download an app,

…..When you order stuff online,

….When you book your flights and hotels through web portals,

AI is there like a watchdog, keeping track of you through all the data you have entered. This post on AI will be just one of the many I will be writing about, considering the vast amount of work AI is doing through the various applications used within and about the Travel and Hospitality industry.

Thanks to the combination of enormous data stored on the expanding processes and applications of AI, and the ever up-and-coming technological capabilities, we are embarking on a journey where you can expect radical changes in how people get on and off planes, and how airlines get their planes in and out of airports.

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The travel industry has always been at the forefront of technology adoption, either through computerised reservation systems (CRS), online bookings, social media presence or direct messaging. And now with AI being at the helm of things you can expect a lot more personalised online interactions and marketing intelligence to revenue management and ticket pricing.

Emerging Trends for Hospitality Industry - SoftwareSuggest

For instance working through its core model of a digital travel booking website, AI is able to access and collect historical data about millions of fare searches going back several years and create a algorithm, capable of predicting the future price movements seasonal trends, predicting travel choices, manage in trip and post trip needs , special airlines offers and deals.

Today, a traveller has all the information he needs at the click of a button.  Travellers can plan where they want to go, compare options, weigh budgets and make bookings and cancellations.

At the airports, AI addresses more serious issues such as flight disruptions, baggage handling, complex embarkation and disembarkation processes or lost cargo consignments.

Airline travel requires repeated scrutiny of travel documents both at departure and arrivals by different sets of people. Facial recognition technology brings an end to the tiresome paper-bound processes. On my recent trip to Singapore the immigration at Changi Airport got over in a breeze thanks to facial recognition and bio-metrics.

With facial recognition, travelers can seamlessly move through airports, immigration, customs and board aircrafts without the need for having travel documents scrutinized at each step.

Most hotels and resorts rely heavily on delivering excellent customer service to build their reputation and AI technology makes this happen in a wide variety of different ways. For example, a robot concierge service is being offered at some hotels. The robot gives real-time recommendations for visit-worthy sites and attractions and answers customer queries on the spot. A robot can also offer tailor made recommendations and guarantee fast response times, in the absence of staff.

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Hotels and airlines have used AI to sort through customer feedback from surveys, reviews and online polls, in order to build a clearer picture of current opinion. Service Providers who redeem themselves after a bad experience almost always win back the customer trust and get repeat business.

In an industry where time is critical, and information is constantly changing, AI reduces the time taken to complete tasks while improving the accuracy of processes and outcomes.

Models such as Airbnb and Uber are proof of the successful usage of AI in travel and hospitality.

Having little or no human interaction may be the calling card of the future, but let’s not forget one thing here. We are beings with numerous emotions running through our veins. We may adapt to being ‘handled’ by a robot, but only so much. At the end of the day we would however love to see a smile and feel understood.

I believe that technology is just amazing, but let’s never forget to

“Put the heart in the smart”

If you think there are more revolutionary ways in which AI will transform the travel and hospitality industry, please share your views in the comments below. TIA

 

🙂  Madhavi

 

 

 

 

PC:Pixabay ;Techopedia;Airport Show