We get a fair number of e-mails from civilians complaining that air travel is not as elegant as it once was. OK, that’s a given. Perhaps we ought to have some minimum dress rules aboard aircraft. Perhaps we ought to close down bars at airports. Perhaps we ought to have odor detection machines and available showers for those who need them.

But lest you get frustrated, dear reader, we want you to know that our government is doing its part to make flying the elegant affair it once was in the days of the Pan Am Clippers.

Our Department of Transportation has proposed new guidelines that will broaden the types of service animals’ disabled travelers may bring aboard domestic flights. It turns out that there is something of a discrimination issue here as the rules, heretofore, seemed to apply specifically to approved guide dogs. But, it turns out, a fair number of disabled travelers do not use dogs for assistance when they fly.  

It is true that travelers boarding with approved “service animals” most often have physical limitations such as sight or hearing loss. They rely primarily on well trained dogs. But there is another kind of disabled traveler who may suffer from mental rather than purely physical liabilities. It turns out that some of these travelers rely on non-canine animals to sustain them during times of stress.

For that reason, the DOT wants to permit “pot-bellied pigs, miniature horses, and monkeys” to be permitted to fly in the cabin as designated “service animals.” So, in effect, the government is preventing animal discrimination by making “service animal” a more inclusive term, opening up travel to a greater range of travelers requiring assistance.

Disabled travelers ought to be shown every possible courtesy. But, having lived on farms, we wonder if this new definition of service animal will work well. A member of our staff  had a friend who adopted a monkey and was forced to part with him four days and $10,000 worth of furniture damage into the experiment. We  just can’t envision a loose monkey on an airbus bound for Paris. The miniature horse is also tough to imagine.  What would happen, we wonder,  should the horse end up in the line to use the rest room. And exactly whose role will it be to clean up after the excited horse? We are just not quite sure the various flight attendant unions will embrace this new directive.

              We became  interested in the wording of this new directive, originally uncovered by CNSNews. It instructs airlines that “You must permit a service animal to accompany a passenger with a disability to the passenger’s assigned seat and remain there if the animal does not obstruct the aisle or other areas that must remain unobstructed.”

              So the mentally disabled passenger must converse with their pig, or small horse, or, if you prefer, monkey, explaining that wandering the aisles will not be permitted. And, I wonder, how will the introductions to one’s seatmate proceed?

              “My name is Jason and this is my horse, Shorty. Would you mind not eating your sandwich so close to his mouth”?

              If, the directive advises, there is no space for the animal, the airline staff must speak to other passengers to either switch seats or “share foot space with the creature.”

            We don’t know which airline the DOT rule makers fly, but the last time we flew  United, our seatmates would have required just a squoosh more room to accommodate a small horse.

              Now we know that each of you, dear readers, is kind and understanding. We are  sure you all think this is a great idea. But we do want to point out that the DOT does have its limits. They are still going to permit airlines to reject certain kinds of designated “service animals”. These include ferrets, snakes, rodents, and spiders. Nice to know that our government knows how to apply common sense to its directives related to passenger comfort. Pig on Plane