Monday, October 30, 2000

The Pig Flies First Class

My favorite story of the week is the 300-pound pig that flew first class from Philadelphia to Seattle.

Note that when I say “300-pound pig,” I’m not talking about a large human being. I’m talking about a porcine being. A pig. A hog. The other white meat.

How did it get into first class of US Airways flight 107 on October 17th? The airline let two women bring the porker along as a “companion pet.”

You’ve heard of seeing-eye dogs, who can go anywhere with their human master to help them negotiate their way through life. Well, this is a "therapeutic-companion pig." The women claimed that they had a note from a doctor that required them to fly with the animal. No word on whether they made the reservation for the pig under the name Kevin Bacon.

Now, picture this. It took four people to wheel the pig into the airport, through security -- I don’t know whether the pig walked through the metal detector or had to be scanned on the conveyor belt to determine that it wasn’t concealing a weapon -- to the gate, and onto the plane. How would you like to be in line behind that?

“We’ll now begin our pre-boarding process, for anyone traveling with small children or huge farm animals.”

The flight attendants, as you’d expect, freaked when they saw this thing entering the plane’s doorway. They objected to having it onboard (“this is not kosher!”), but someone in the airline’s legal department cleared the pig for takeoff. Please, be sure your tray table is up and your tail is locked in the curly-Q position.

The pig was placed on the floor of the first row of first class (it was not in a cage or carrier) and was so big it stuck out into the aisle, a little too large to fit in the overhead compartment or beneath the seat.

Amazingly, very few passengers complained, which should tell you all you need to know about the state of air travel in America today. Once you’ve sat squeezed in the middle seat in coach next to some double-wide in a muu-muu with bad breath, the thought of an actual hog on the floor of first class isn’t all that bad.

The porker slept through the whole flight, just like a pig in a blanket, if you’ll pardon the expression. But when the plane landed, the bump woke Porky up. It started squealing and running up the aisle, at one point even trying to get into the cockpit (“okay buddy, turn this plane around right now, this is a sty-jack!”), before wedging itself into the food galley. This was a clear violation of FAA regulations, as this occurred while the plane was taxiing and before the two-bell signal had sounded, signifying it was safe for the pig to go berserk.

Finally, the two women who had brought the pig on board managed to lure it out of the plane -- I’m guessing a trail of Purina Pig Chow -- and into the jetway, where it completed the perfect travel experience by dropping a huge load of you-know-what.

As for US Airways, they don’t have much to say about the whole incident, other than, “We can confirm that the pig traveled, and we can confirm that it will never happen again.”

So, what will the ladies do for a travel companion on their return flight? I understand they now have a doctor’s note giving them permission to fly with a couple of honey-baked hams on their laps.