Tiny Turtle Makes AirTran Return To Gate, Girls Forced To Get Rid Of Pet Before Reboarding

Maybe it was Michelangelo and they were afraid he would eat up all the in-flight pizza. A 10-year old girl’s teensy turtle posed enough of a risk to an AirTran flight that the plane was forced to turn around and return to the gate. The girl and her sisters were told they could not get back on the plane with the turtle.

Security and gate personnel and a flight attendant were cool with them having the turtle but then one attendant wasn’t. A company spokesperson said that their company policy bars animals from the cabin except for cats, dogs, and birds.

The girls put the turtle in the trash so that it would be easier for their father to find it later. and it was eventually reunited with the girls.

Prompted by the girls’ mother, PETA sent AirTran a letter insisting on an investigation and disciplinary action.

Tiny turtle causes taxiing plane to return to gate [AP] (Thanks to everyone who sent this in!)

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  1. Alvis says:

    Birds? Seriously? That sounds like the worst thing you could bring on a plane.

    A turtle is probably the least objectionable animal to bring in a cabin. THAT SAID, airlines are in the people-moving business, not the making-judgements-on-pets industry, and having a short, no-nonsense list of approved animals makes perfect sense.

    Also, how would you NOT think to check ahead before bringing ANY pet on a flight?

    • Megalomania says:

      A short no-nonsense list makes great sense, but what would be even better would be having staff who had judgment about when it’s time to make a big deal out of something and when it isn’t. While the plane is at the gate? Sure, who cares about a turtle, get the thing off the plane. When the plane is getting ready to take off (or worse yet, in the air)? That’s when you decide that there is no trouble that stupid reptile could cause that would be worse than making everyone on the plane super pissed off at the company you work for.

      As for checking ahead, the fact that the gate agent and security were okay with it makes me think that it was a “wait and see” sort of thing where the father would have taken it out immediately had they been told to.

    • Fallom says:

      Here’s the complex, lengthy judgment you have to make: “Ok, it’s just a turtle. That’s fine.” It doesn’t take a court of appeals to be a human being.

    • FerretGirl says:

      When I went on a long trip I tried to bring my bird on a JetBlue flight. I searched their website and I found a guideline on sizes and types of pet carriers that were airline approved but I didn’t find a pet policy. Not finding a policy I assumed that any animal was ok to bring with me.

      Wrong. You can’t bring birds on JetBlue flights. I had a cover over her small cat carrier so that the noises and sights of the airport didn’t scare her. After boarding a flight attendant said, “Ohh! What animal do you have in there?” all excited. I pulled the corner of the cover off and the bird blew kisses at her.

      The flight attendant smiled and then left. A few minutes later another attendant came over and told me that the policy forbid birds but since the gate agent hadn’t said anything to me they’d let me fly to the trip but that I couldn’t fly back home with them if I brought my bird with me.

      I complained on the website and they said, “Oh, here’s a link to the page that says that.” Sure enough, it did, but it wasn’t linked to from anywhere else on the site and it didn’t show up in the site search. I told them that and they said, “Well. It’s on the site.” It’s worthless to anyone if something is on your site but nobody can get to that page!

      So. That’s my (very long) did the research, still got screwed story.

    • FerretGirl says:

      When I went on a long trip I tried to bring my bird on a JetBlue flight. I searched their website and I found a guideline on sizes and types of pet carriers that were airline approved but I didn’t find a pet policy. Not finding a policy I assumed that any animal was ok to bring with me.

      Wrong. You can’t bring birds on JetBlue flights. I had a cover over her small cat carrier so that the noises and sights of the airport didn’t scare her. After boarding a flight attendant said, “Ohh! What animal do you have in there?” all excited. I pulled the corner of the cover off and the bird blew kisses at her.

      The flight attendant smiled and then left. A few minutes later another attendant came over and told me that the policy forbid birds but since the gate agent hadn’t said anything to me they’d let me fly to the trip but that I couldn’t fly back home with them if I brought my bird with me.

      I complained on the website and they said, “Oh, here’s a link to the page that says that.” Sure enough, it did, but it wasn’t linked to from anywhere else on the site and it didn’t show up in the site search. I told them that and they said, “Well. It’s on the site.” It’s worthless to anyone if something is on your site but nobody can get to that page!

      So. That’s my (very long) did the research, still got screwed story.

  2. El_Fez says:

    Ungh – I hate agreeing with PETA, but come on – it’s just a turtle.

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      I hate to disagree with PeTA, but turtles harbor salmonella and children are notorious for not washing their hands.

      http://www.cdc.gov/features/turtlessalmonella/

      • Big Mama Pain says:

        Oh give me a break; diarrhea is one of the most contagious illnesses you can catch from someone who hasn’t washed their hands, but you don’t see airlines banning people with the runs. Same goes for people with obvious flu/cold symptoms. It wasn’t like they were carrying the turtle in their pocket, it was in a mini aquarium.

      • ARVash says:

        It’s a plane flight, the turtle is going to be in a cage, nobody is required to wash their hands before going on the flight. For all you know their hands could have been in sewage 10 minutes prior to boarding the flight. This argument is both lacks rationale and is invalid. lol

        I hate agreeing with peta too ;___;

      • DorsalRootGanglion says:

        How many people do you know that, on a plane, will run up to someone else, break into her luggage, lick the enclosed item, and put it back? Because that’s what you need to do to contract salmonella here.

      • Aesteval says:

        A turtle stored in an appropriate travel cage and that is not handled will not transmit salmonella. I also find it more likely that PETA took issue with an airline employee telling the girls to throw the turtle away as opposed to not letting them fly with it in the first place. But I don’t think any of us have seen PETA’s letter, so who can say for sure.

      • The Porkchop Express says:

        so when they threw out the turtle, did they throw out the hands? also would that be airborne?

  3. Xero says:

    I like turtles.

  4. yessongs says:

    Oh No TURTLES ON A PLANE!!!!!!

  5. Mike says:

    “Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfu*king turtles on this motherfu*king plane!”

  6. nakkypoo says:

    “insisting on an investigation and disciplinary action” seriously?

    What is it that should be investigated and what sort of disciplinary action should be taken? Sounds like the airline followed their policy. Better make sure some heads roll!

    • ellemdee says:

      How much money and time do you think it cost to TURN THE PLAN AROUND? The airline had to pay for turning the plane around, it probably made the flight get to its final destination later which, in turn, could have delayed other flights. All because one turtle-hatin’ power-trippin’ flight attendant felt so threatened by a little turtle. Remember, “security and gate personnel and a flight attendant were cool with them having the turtle”. Yeah, it’s against policy, but what do you think is worse and will cause more bad stuff to happen, taking a turtle on a plane (with security’s OK) or turning the plane around over the little guy?

    • Aesteval says:

      Actually, I have to agree with PETA on this one. Insisting that the turtle be “thrown away” is really cruel.

  7. Cicadymn says:

    In the trash? Really? They couldn’t just get someone at the front desk to hold onto it (not even literally, just have the tiny turtle in the turtle container next to the turtle holder to wait for the turtle owner.

    • axhandler1 says:

      Nope. In the article, the gate attendant refused to hold on to it until the father came to pick it up. Delta made it quite clear that she never expressly told the girls to do anything with it(i.e. put it in the trash), but told them repeatedly she was unable to hold it for the father. Then some airline employee felt bad it was in the trash, took it home, and then brought it back when the father came looking for it..

    • ellemdee says:

      I know! In the trash? It would be so easy for it to get tied up into the bag and thrown away. :(

    • Steeb2er says:

      Exactly. They won’t allow the turtle on the plane, but no one has a problem with leaving a suspicious package unattended in/near a garbage can.

      The turtle-rrists have already won.

  8. SideshowCrono says:

    As the owner of a turtle, these aren’t something that SHOULD be on a plane. EVER.

    They are incredibly messy and somewhat violent. I dunno about that turtle but mine will bite you if given the opportunity. Granted it may be because I hand fed it as a baby so it doesnt know the difference between fingers and food but I digress. These aren’t pets that you should travel with.

    Not a huge issue but a general hassle nonetheless.

    Oh and they stink.

    • tbax929 says:

      There’s something funny to me about the concept of a violent turtle.

    • Megalomania says:

      I agree that pets should be kept off of planes whenever possible, but once it’s on the plane and you’re leaving the airport, it’s time to pick your battles and just have it stowed under the seat in an (other than airholes) sealed container.

    • Fallom says:

      Really? Really? The story didn’t mention the part where the turtle was roaming around the cabin. My pet turtle just spends most of his day sleeping, and since when are dogs and cats less violent and dangerous than a turtle?

      • OmnipotentMLE says:

        the turtle was obviously not in a cage if the only solution was to put it in the garbage. You can’t bring unrestrained cats and dogs on a plane either.

        Different states have different laws regarding turtles. In NJ there are some laws about turtles (dont remember if its illegal to own or to sell)

    • whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

      Oh, come off it. I had a snapper as a kid, about twice as big as the one the kid’s holding in the linked article. Yeah, I certainly wouldn’t have risked letting someone touch it who didn’t know what it was, but if it was in a ventilated box it would have been safe and offensive to no one. And there was no way that thing could produce a smell anywhere near as offensive as a sedated and therefore incontinent cat.

      It doesn’t even sound like you have the slightest cause to think they’re violent. You admit that trained it to associate fingers and food. That’s not violent, just simple and eternally hungry.

      • Fidget says:

        This is beautiful, for so many reasons. “Simple and eternally hungry” is filed under prospective blog titles now.

    • backinpgh says:

      It was like a 2inch long turtle though, not a freaking giant tortoise.

    • Pinkbox says:

      Pfffftttt-haha! I owned several turtles as a kid, both land and aquatic.

      I don’t think any of them would have qualified as violent… especially not a quarter sized red eared slider. (which I also owned.)

    • DorsalRootGanglion says:

      Wait, you have violent turtles? I’ve had red eared sliders (juveniles) and adult southern painted. The most violent they have gotten is hissing at me when annoyed. With the exception of snapping turtles, the average temperment of semi-aquatics is pretty bland.

      If your turtles stink, it’s because you’re doing a terrible job with them. The tank shouldn’t stink. It should be at least 10 gallons per inch of turtle (1 6 inch turtle ~ 55 gallon tank), have a good filter running in it, AND have monthly water changes at least. Food should be fished out if it’s not being eaten.

      You probably have an overstocked tank that you’re overfeeding. Maybe that’s why they’re “violent”.

      • SideshowCrono says:

        Violent might have been an overstatement, let’s just call him ‘ornery.’ He’s a RES I received as a gift roughly 6 years ago at this point. He has the personality of a grumpy old man and I don’t think he’d enjoy flying much.

        I have a 100 gallon tank with an adequate filter and frequent water changes. But no matter what you do, turtles tend to smell more then a cat or a dog. Turtles have special needs too, probably shouldn’t fly and at the very least are a potential source of salmonella.

        If you have an adequate set-up, you can certainly leave a turtle alone for a bit so its a non-issue for most vacations. I once saw four turtles with ninja weapons take down a whole army of bad guys too so do we really want these types of animals roaming the ‘friendly’ skies? I vote for no.

        • Fair&Balanced says:

          I had a pet turtle years ago and it did not stink.
          You just need to take care of yours better.

    • acasto says:

      What in the world kind of angry turtles do you have? I’ve jumped into streams and grabbed snapping turtles out from under stumps with my bare hands, and yeah, they’re a little cranky, but they have a right to be. I find baby snapping turtles to be quite friendly and have never had any problems with them. People claim they can grow up to make decent pets. But I’m getting off topic and I doubt this girl carried a snapping turtle through an airport. Though if the turtle was wielded by a chipmunk things could have gotten bad: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adamcasto/2075109929/

  9. PanCake BuTT says:

    Salmonella on plane is a serious offense! Imagine the havok! Far more dangerous than snakes on a place for shizzzZZzzz o_0

  10. veg-o-matic says:

    These must be the Saturday to Sunday turtles that take over when the Monday to Friday snakes are finished for the week.

  11. balthisar says:

    Rules are rules.

    (Just to point out that I’m not a troll, small turtles aren’t food as are rabbits.)

  12. llsee says:

    Yet one more example that common sense has fled the country!

  13. Tim says:

    Disciplinary action for whom? AirTran or the children?

  14. tasselhoff76 says:

    See, given that I’m allergic to dogs, cats and birds, I am so much less likely to have a problem with a turtle on my plane than any of the aforementioned animals.

  15. hypochondriac says:

    Was the show TMNT so long ago that you had to hyperlink Michelangelo? Now I feel since I know what you were talking about

  16. Floppywesl says:

    I think that turtle was larger than 3.5 oz

  17. RomeoCharlie says:

    I’m tired of these MONDAY-to-FRIDAY turtles on this MONKEY-FARMING plane!!!

  18. mewyn dyner says:

    Don’t turtles carry a fair amount of salmonella, especially if recently picked up out of the wild? I don’t know if that’s something I’d like to have on a plane.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      I think so. Lizards do and I won’t touch one if you paid me. Being a kid playing with frogs and turtles I am somewhat amazed that I didn’t get sick from the things. Maybe it isn’t as bad as I thought.

    • DorsalRootGanglion says:

      I think it’s just the opposite: wild turtles are far less likely to carry salmonella than pet ones. Pet turtles are usually bred in disgusting conditions by the thousands. These sort of situations encourage bacteria growth, including salmonella. Home-raised pets and wild turtles are going to be cleaner.

    • LandruBek says:

      I found this article interesting. What I learned: apart from a few rare exceptions, (1) Yes, *all* turtles and lizards have Salmonella in the gut, just like we all have E. coli in the gut. (2) It’s harmless to them. (3) With proper hygiene you can keep from ingesting any. (4) Kids lack hygiene, lick turtles.

  19. Emperor Norton I says:

    If the turtle was either Leonardo, Michelangelo or Donatello, there wouldn’t be a problem, but if it were Raphael, then look out, all hell is going to break loose!

  20. evnmorlo says:

    Some people are a little extreme in their aversion to cooters.

    • jeffbone says:

      I don’t think that word means what you think it means, at least in this context…

      • Bonster says:

        Look up Pseudemys

        I think there should be a rule that you can’t have multiple people okay a child’s pet, then make a plane turn around and refuse to help small child, thus forcing them to abandon their beloved pet in the trash and continue with their trip, not knowing if the creature lived or died, or if they would ever see it again.

  21. oldwiz65 says:

    Maybe the flight attendants were convinced it was an terrorist ninja turtle?

  22. Pax says:

    The rules are the rules.

    Perhaps they should change, but … if the rules prohibit reptiles and amphibians from the passenger compartment, then, reptiles and amphibians are prohibited from the passenger compartment. Period.

    Honestly, I think ALL animals should be barred from the passenger compartment. Can you imagine how much it would SUCK to be allergic to cats or dogs, and then find yourself seated next to someone’s favorite fuzzy-wuzzy Snookums for a four-hour flight … in an ENCLOSED volume of air? O_O

    • DD_838 says:

      That flight attendant is a real A’Hole. There is always at least one in the bunch.

    • DD_838 says:

      I would never place my dog in a cargo hold. In most cases in borders on abuse. If they loose your dog, as far as the airline is concerned….. ooopsies!!!

      If you (or who ever) has to sneeze for a few hours, to bad.

    • Fidget says:

      Brachiocephalic cats and dogs especially should never be put in the cargo hold (and responsible airlines won’t allow them to be put there at all during the summer months). Sneeze all you fucking want, if someone has to travel with a pet or service animal, that animal’s life is more important than your mild discomfort. And if you’re allergic enough for it to be beyond that, then the pet hair on the owners will bother you just as much.

      • Pax says:

        Sometimes, an allergy is not mere discomfort. Anaphylactic Shock can **KILL**.

        Nice assumption you made there, though.

        • erinpac says:

          If pet hair will kill you, you would likely die due to the owners in the cabin even if the pet were in the hold, or due to people walking dogs in public, or any number of things.
          With guide animals, and hair on people’s clothing, no public place is sanitized of animal hair. The airlines will clear a three row area between any pets and anyone allergic, if you note allergies when booking the flight – this is much like their policy for peanuts and other allergens.

        • JulesNoctambule says:

          If you’re that allergic to pet dander, you might want to avoid public places entirely just in case a pet owner is in the same room as you at some point.

          • OmnipotentMLE says:

            exactly. I have flown with a cat in the cabin, and she had to be kept in her cage under the seat in front of me the whole flight. The chances of being exposed to pet dander in those situations is pretty low. (Also, there was a limit on how many animals could be brought in the passenger cabin at one time).

      • aja175 says:

        ” then the pet hair on the owners will bother you just as much.”

        Why yes, in fact it does.

    • Lividity says:

      Ok, I am that person allergic to Every Single Thing on the planet. Ya know what though? I don’t leave it up to the public to stop wearing stinky allergenic cologne. I don’t want your beloved pets to be stored like cargo away from you, and I hate that this little human was forced to learn that her pet turtle was worthy of a garbage bin.

      I am prepared for things on the planet that might make my throat close, or make me sneeze. I don’t want to die because someone slept with 12 cats last night. And you know what? I won’t. I would sleep with 12 cats if I could too ;)

  23. Draw2much says:

    Alright, yes, turtles are not allowed. OK, I understand that. But these girls weren’t hiding the turtle. They weren’t sneaking it in. They had several employees tell them it was alright and to stow it under the seats after they boarded. How were they to know they shouldn’t bring it on board with everyone saying it was fine up until AFTER they boarded and were getting ready to take off?

    If anyone should be punished, it should be the employees that let the turtle on the plane in the first place. This whole problem could have been avoided if someone had had the sense to say “I’m sorry. I know it’s a small turtle, but rules are rules. You can’t take it on board.”

    And turning the plane around? For a 2 inch caged turtle? That’s just stupid. ~_~;

  24. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Turtles? That’s an odd name. I’d have called them “chazzwazzers”.

    • LaziestManOnMars says:

      They’re in the lift, in the lorry, in the bond wizard, and all over the malonga gilderchuck!

  25. LaziestManOnMars says:

    “Maybe it was Michelangelo and they were afraid he would eat up all the in-flight pizza.”

    Oof… Someone open a window after that one.

  26. absherlock says:

    I would have just told them it was a service turtle. Easy Peasy.

  27. gman863 says:

    If their flight attendants would take the same approach with screaming babies I’d be an AirTran customer for life.

  28. sopmodm14 says:

    yea, turtles are a threat

    they need to be leashed (cuz they cause havoc with wild, aggressive, fast manuevers), muzzled (because they incessantly bark and/or bite), spay/neutered

  29. OnePumpChump says:

    How teensy was it? Some of those little fuckers can draw blood.

  30. DorsalRootGanglion says:

    I disagree with the airline’s actions but the fact is the turtle is probably better off somewhere else. These turtles grow big…12+ inches big. Most people think that the turtle will stay tiny and cute forever. Then, the turtles outgrow that little 10 gallon tank and people try to dump them into waterways (illegal, bad for native wildlife, and cruel to a domesticated animal), sell them to other unsuspecting people, foist them on nature preserves, or give them away on craigslist.

    I hope the sale of these turtles is banned, mostly for the sake of the animals. A lot end up dying in terrible conditions due to clueless owners.

  31. fuceefacee says:

    Enough is ENOUGH! I have had it with these mother&%&*in’ TURTLES on this mother&%&*in’ plane!

  32. Bativac says:

    I read that the flight attendant’s name was Oroku Saki and that he demanded the aircraft be rid of all “vile reptiles.”

    His career has been in a downward spiral since the mid-1990s…

  33. cephalo786 says:

    All the salmonella comments are moot. The airline says it allows pet birds on it’s planes, and pet birds harbor salmonella just as easily as pet reptiles. Plus, if they really concerned about the transmission of disease, they’d ban children from their flights way before turtles.

  34. erinpac says:

    The girls threw him in the trash, an airtran employee rescued it and took it home, and then they flew it in cargo for free… and the mother wants them investigated? I mean, it’s too bad it caused such a problem, but I doubt the flight attendant would have been allowed to make an exception in the rules, and not allowing it to fly isn’t cruelty that would concern PETA…. the girls leaving him in the trash, maybe.

  35. chrisgoh says:

    10 year old girl, accompanied by 22 year old (ADULT) sister, who should have been intelligent enough to make the judgement call that the right thing to do was to take the offer for the free later flight and to wait for the father to get back to the airport. PETA should be investigating the 22 year old as she is the responsible party hear for allowing the child to throw the turtle in the garbage.

  36. Shonky McShonk says:

    yes i want a squawking bird or barking dog on a plane but not a quiet turtle.

    hell naw!!!!11

    • brinks says:

      Seriously.

      Like anyone’s going to notice? I’m sure they noticed the delay this stupidity caused.

  37. brinks says:

    “AirTran company policy bars animals other than cats, dogs and household birds in the cabin, said spokesman Christopher White. “

    If all employees were aware of this policy and were told to strictly enforce it 100% of the time, incidents like these would never happen. When you leave things up to personal judgement, you’re asking for trouble.

  38. MrsLopsided says:

    A tiny turtle in a big cage?

    Nothing in the article says that the girls were unattended minors – so it was the adult in the group who decided to throw out the turtle rather than take the offer of a later flight.

  39. MrsLopsided says:

    Nice Dad. He dumps his daughters at the airport and drives off before the plane has even left the gate.

  40. OmnipotentMLE says:

    Well, what if the turtle were an endangered species? I think they’re trying to make a one-size fits all policy (say, if they discovered an animal smuggler with birds on his person). I don’t know about turning around, I would think they would just head to their destination but call Customs and the Fish and Wildlife service to have them meet them at the gate. Even if the flight is domestic, states have different laws regarding animals and it might cause big headaches.

  41. common_sense84 says:

    Airline is 100% wrong. Allowing birds debases them on any claim against any other small animal.

    They are wrong here, and someone should be fired.

  42. drburk says:

    Rules are rules, you cannot just carry on a pet if you want to, use common sense and call the airline before hand. Why would you think a turtle (or any smell, dirty animal) can be brought on a plan in a cheap plastic container. Where were you going to keep in anyway, under your seat or in the overhead container. And when the plastic turtle bin broke and your turtle peed on my luggage what would you do?
    I feel bad for the pilot he made the right call (not with the throwing in the trash bit but that seems exaggerated). We would be all over him if the turtle got out on the plane and someone got sick.

  43. reckoner23 says:

    Are they sure it wasnt a accompanied by three of its turtle brethren and a rat? And how big where these turtles? I smell a conspiracy.

  44. pot_roast says:

    And the truth lies somewhere in between.

    http://www.insideairtran.com/?p=2819

    There’s FAA regulations in here as well. They were offered a later flight free of charge, but the 22 year old sister who was in charge of the kids refused and apparently she’s the one that pitched the turtle into the trash can.