Airline shows a lot of heart...

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Terry Allan Hall

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Pet turtle causes taxiing plane to return to gate
By KATE BRUMBACK (AP) – 2 days ago

ATLANTA — A caged, 2-inch turtle traveling with a 10-year-old girl caused a crew to turn around a taxiing plane, take the girl and her sisters off the flight and tell them they couldn't bring their pet along.

The sisters threw the animal and cage in the trash and returned to their seats crying Tuesday after AirTran Airways employees on the jetway said they couldn't care for the turtle while their father drove to retrieve it. Two days later, however, Carley Helm was reunited with Neytiri even though at first the family thought the pet was emptied with the trash.

Carley was heading home to Milwaukee after visiting her father in Atlanta with sisters Annie, 13, and Rebecca, 22, when the flap unfolded.

Rebecca said the three were led onto the jetway and told they'd have to get rid of the baby red ear slider — named Neytiri after the princess in the movie "Avatar" — if they wanted to reboard.

"I asked, 'What do you mean get rid of it?' and they said throw it away," she said. "I was very sad, and I felt bad for my littlest sister because it was her first pet and she was planning to take care of it herself."

While the sisters say they were told to put the animal in the trash, AirTran says they chose that themselves, despite an offer to fly later at no extra charge.

AirTran company policy bars animals other than cats, dogs and household birds in the cabin, said spokesman Christopher White. White cited a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that says the reptiles have been known to carry salmonella bacteria.

The sisters say they made it past security screeners and an AirTran gate agent before boarding. One flight attendant told them to stow the cage under their seat, they say.

But with the flight rolling toward its takeoff, an attendant told them the turtle wasn't allowed in the cabin.

Rebecca Helm called their father, and he began driving back to the airport. She asked an AirTran employee to make arrangements with her father to look after the pet until he could get there, but the employee refused.

"I basically had to make a really fast decision because the whole plane was being delayed," Rebecca Helm said. The bin wasn't very full and she thought the turtle could be found easily once her dad arrived, she said.

Rebecca twice declined the offer to take a later flight, White said.

"We don't have the personnel or the facilities to care for people's pets," White said.

Rebecca asked if throwing the pet away would allow for them to get back on the flight, White said. The gate agent did not tell the sisters what to do but said they could not get on the plane with the turtle, White said.

"At no time did any AirTran Airways crew member order or suggest that they put the turtle in the trash," he said.

Half an hour later, the sisters' father called, saying he wanted to come look through the trash, White said. The gate agent looked, couldn't find the turtle and assumed it had been emptied, he said.

The airline discovered Wednesday that the ramp supervisor had rescued the turtle from the trash "out of his own compassion" and given it to another crew member, who took it home for her 5-year-old son, White said.

AirTran told that crew member the original owners wanted it back, and the airline arranged for the turtle to fly as cargo to Milwaukee on Thursday, White said.

The sisters' mother reported what happened to animal rights group PETA, which sent a letter to AirTran demanding an investigation and disciplinary action.

For their part, Rebecca Helm says her sisters "are very happy to have the turtle back."

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Am I wrong thinking this airline is begging for some negative publicity? :(
 

Motara's Mom

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I think this was the fault of the parent who should have called and checked to see about shipping a turtle.

Also the airline offered them a later flight so they could wait for the dad to come get it.
 

turtletania

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I saw a show here called Airline USA... about NorthWest Airlines I think. There was a family trying to fly with 2 small RES to Chicago. They asked everyone and it was the pilot who finally said "as long as they aren't let out for exercise" then they could fly. It was a great story.
 

Madkins007

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One point that went completely unmentioned is that the turtle was too small under federal law. Granted, the law applies to the sellers, not an owner, but it would have been nice to see a reminder to not do business with stores that break the law so openly.

I was appalled at the 'throw it away' choice. There were several other options. I got a sense from the story that mom may have gone for the most emotionally awful choice.

I was also bothered by the fact it got that far without being intercepted- security screeners, gate ticket checkers, etc.- where were they in this?
 

terryo

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They thought so little of this poor babies life, that they put it in the trash. In a few weeks when the water starts to smell in the little tub they have it in, or if it does have the opportunity to grow, which I really doubt, they will throw it in some local pond, because it's too big to care for. An every day occurrence around here....VERY SAD. They never should have gotten it back IMO. Things like this really disgust me, as I have taken in so many rescues like this through the years, from parents who's kid thought the "little bitty turtle" was so cute, and they bought it for them. Gets me sick to hear stories like this. :(
 

Tom

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Don't get me started on those damn airlines and their crap. UNITED AIRLINES flew me and my dogs to Pittsburgh and then refused to fly us home due to a lack of bedding in my one dogs crate (he'll eat it.) I've flown all over the country and literally the world with that dog in that crate and never had a problem until some A*****E decided NOT to let me fly home to my family for Thanksgiving. DELTA AIRLINES was extremely helpful and apologetic (for the OTHER airlines' lunacy) and gladly flew me home with no problems.

Don't use United. They don't follow their own rules. They don't serve their customers. And they have no problem stranding people in far off places even around family holidays.

Okay, enough ranting... In this case I think it was handled poorly by the turtle owners AND the airline.

I do have to say, however, that its pretty stupid that I can fly with my JRT or Chihuahua in my lap, but not a small turtle or tortoise.
 

kimber_lee_314

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But why couldn't they have just quietly put it behind a counter until the dad came? To throw away a living creature like that is disgusting!!!! At least they could have called the human society. People who are mean to animals should rot in you no where!
 
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