The response above from Mascal is lacking knowledge of our disease -- this issue isn't about 'putting up with things we don't like', it is an acute health issue which can lead to emergency situations that must be addressed. I suspect many don't understand the issue at hand.
Case in point:
I flew from Norfolk, VA through Chicago-Midway to LAX yesterday. For each flight I asked the gate agents if there were any pets on the flight. Their immediate response was "Not that I know of," to which I replied "Well you would know because they have to pay, right?" The agent for ORF-MDW said "What is this about?" I said, "I have asthma and need to know if there is a situation I need to worry about/manage." She then seemed to look at her computer and said "There are no pets on this flight." A similar story happened on the 2nd leg. On the first flight I started having allergic reactions during the long flight (flight # 541 ORF-MDW on 7/15/09) and guess what I discovered once we landed and were getting off of the plane -- there was a cat in the row in front of me! This is the worst possible scenario on the plane for me. I left the plane wheezing and sniffling. The symptoms from this exposure developed into a full-on asthma attack within the hour w/ great difficulty in breathing and violent sneezing during the 2nd leg of my flight home (a 4.5 hr flight). This was a dangerous situation. Today I am at home miserably sick with asthma and allergy symptoms. It is hard to breathe, my chest and back are exhausted from having to try so hard to breathe, I'm sneezing my head off, sniffly, headachy, and with a red nose from so many tissues. Exposure to allergens can affect those susceptible long after the offending pet/allergen is removed from the scene. Note that my asthma is clinically well managed, I had had all the preventative medicine prior to the flight, and took emergency asthma medication during the flight. I have to avoid pets to avoid such a response and to be placed in this dangerous situation was both unnecessary and worsened by the agent's lack of care or knowledge about how to assess the situation prior to me boarding the plane. Southwest, I am one of thousands with allergies and asthma who will encounter similar situations if this the new pet policy isn't modified. Please look into this. We had turned to you in the past as our only safe haven, and for the time being that safety is gone.
-- From a 100+ flights/year Southwest flyer.
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Anonymous — Thu, 06/04/2009 - 14:43 makes a good point. For a short flight one could imagine putting the animals in the back and allergic people in the front. That is still a compromise in that some allergic people will still have a reaction and arrive at their destination wheezing (hard to breathe), sneezing, sniffling, watery/swollen eyes or some combination of these symptoms. For longer flights (e.g. the LAX - Nashville trek I have coming up) the likelihood of an asthma attack and/or allergic reaction is even greater and more dangerous, even if I'm in Row 1 and the animal is in row 32. How about having all pets either in checked bags or in bags checked at the jetway at least and kept in the cargo area? Southwest you are so creative and concerned with your customers, I'm sure you can think up some alternatives rather than follow the horrible policy of the other airlines in this matter. Please!!! This is one ~100 Southwest flights/year passenger that wants to keep flying Southwest without worrying about an asthma attack on board. Please consider us too...
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I wish that airlines would recognize and easily accommodate allergies to pets. I have asthma and allergies to cats/dogs/birds/you-name-it and it is a potentially life-threatening problem to end up on a flight next to someone who has a pet as their carry-on. Other airlines have generally not shown concern about reseating me as far as possible from a pet. When they do I usually get stuck in the back row. With Southwest's open seating policy (which I love!), I don't know how this is going to play out. I may be already seated (as an A-lister) and then a person w/ a 'C' may end up right next to me. Then there will have to be reshuffling of people at the last minute to get me away from the animal. It would be best if people with pets were all kept together, ideally at the back of the plane. That way allergic people could get as far away as possible (in the front). Southwest should in that case make an announcement that there will be pets on board and allergic people could show a doctor's note stating their allergy/asthma to get priority seating in the front away from the animals. I wish airlines showed concern and procedures to help those of us with asthma due to animals -- I want to arrive at my destination breathing and not headed off to the E.R.
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