Frontier Kicks Grandmother Off Plane, Claims Her Pre-Approved Pet Carrier Was 2" Too Long

Frontier airlines kicked a cancer-surviving grandmother in her sixties, Julie Fishback, off their plane because the pet carrier holding her Jack Russell Terrier was two-inches too long. This surprised Julie, who had made the two-hour trek to the airport several days before to confirm that she would be allowed to fly with the “universally accepted” carry-on pet carrier she had recently purchased.

According to Julie’s daughter, the Frontier flight attendant who booted Julie from the plane claimed that the Jack Russell Terrier “was a safety hazard for the other passengers.”

“I had to go the parking lot and cry, I didn’t know what to do,” Fishback said. “They were rude, they didn’t accommodate me … it was just a dreadful experience.”

Tired of fighting, she turned around and went home.

“I think these people just don’t care,” Fishback said. “No one is held accountable for their actions.”

Frontier spokesman Joe Hodas apologized Monday for what happened.

“Our goal is to make sure that when people fly, 100 percent of our customers are happy with the experience,” he said. “Obviously, with Mrs. Fishback, we missed the mark.”

Before Nov. 5, Frontier flights didn’t allow pets to be carried on at all, Hodas said, so the rules are still fairly new to everyone. He didn’t know exactly how the mistake was made, but said the employee who originally checked the case might have either mismeasured it or just “eyeballed” it and thought it was OK.

Frontier refunded Julie’s fare and is looking for “an incentive of some kind to help make up for the inconvenience.” What can any airline really offer to compensate for a ruined Christmas trip to visit your daughter?

Grandmother stuck at home on Christmas [Longmont Times-Call]
(Photo: Ty Holland)


Edit Your Comment

  1. youbastid says:

    Ugh. While this sucks, there’s no need to further villify the airline by throwing in the fact that she was a cancer survivor. What does that have to do with anything? Did Frontier see a “cancer survivor” sticker on her ID and decide to treat her worse?

  2. headon says:

    Board the damn dog at a vets office or something. Get someone to take care of it for you. You don’t have to haul the thing around the country like a living security blanket. Grow up. I have three dogs and wouldn’t subject any of them to the hassle and discomfort of flying. And get a life, fluffy will make it a few weeks without your doting on it. Give it food water and a place to crap, thats doggie nirvana.

  3. Bladefist says:

    Not to take anything from this story, because she did indeed get screwed. But when traveling with pets, drive. Poor animals getting put in the back of the plane alone, scared to death, no where to go to the bathroom.

  4. Quellman says:

    I agree with previous. Unless the dog was a companion dog that alerted her to possible re-growth of cancer cells, her being a cancer survivor has nothing to do with the story.

    The real issue is why was she told it was acceptable, and then on traveling day it was not? Oh yea, training and consistency.

  5. emilymarion333 says:

    Why did she have to bring her dog anyways??

  6. FatLynn says:

    Also, is the pet carrier being sold as “universal” or “accepted on all airlines”? If so, the company that sold it is at least partially to blame.

  7. jamesdenver says:

    Agree. Cancer and grandmother are completely irrelevant. No one should be treated different if they’re a pompous rich asshole versus a kind grandma.

    FYI Frontier is an excellent low fare carrier. They’re on par with jetBlue for in flight comforts, and being hubbed in Denver I fly them often. Never had a problem with staff and/or service.

  8. brianala says:


    I’ve traveled with pets before and was able to carry them on and stow the pet carrier under my seat. They’re not always “put in the back of the plane, alone, scared to death” so it’s not like they are necessarily being neglected.

  9. youbastid says:

    @headon: @emilymarion333: Leaving your dog at home isn’t so easy.
    First of all, Headon, dogs are not cats. They don’t like being left alone. And how do you propose giving them “a place to crap?” Unless they’re a shivering little toy dog, they don’t use litter boxes. Using a doggie door is not safe if you’re leaving your house.
    Second, it makes no mention in this story how long she was going away for. Was it 2 days or a month? And she was flying from AZ to CO. Not a long flight. When I fly home for 2 days I find a sitter. A month, I’ll bring my dog with me.
    In regards to your “get a life” comment, if you read the article you’d see that the dog was her only companian since both her husband and son are in Iraq.
    @Bladefist: She was flying with a carry-on pet carrier.

  10. Trauma_Hound says:

    @youbastid: Actually if this is a work dog they are in violation of the ADA.

  11. Trauma_Hound says:

    @headon: I think it’s you that needs to get a life.

  12. Bladefist says:

    @brianala: @youbastid:

    ahh it was a carry-on. Well that negates my original argument. I didn’t know you could carry-on pets. I’m allergic to cats, so I’m not sure how much I love that rule. Then again maybe its completely surrounded so that its not an issue.

  13. SadSam says:

    While I love dogs (and own one myself) having sat in close proximity to a carry on dog who barked, either in fear or pain, an entire 3 hour flight I can’t say I’m a fan of the carry on pets.

  14. Now here is a question. If she made the trip two days earlier, did she happen to catch the name of the employee? What would have happened if someone had “signed off” on the carrier. And don’t pilots have the final word on what goes on their planes? I think they can say what is a hazard and what isn’t.

  15. It also reads like she made NO effort to escalate the matter. It reads that they escorted her off the plane, and she ran to her car and made a crying phone call. I’ve seen “Airline” on A&E. You can escalate nicely, and get someone who has read the newest regs.

  16. forgottenpassword says:

    This is like he second time I have read about someone confirming that they were allowed to bring something on the plane & then getting denied or getting hassled for it.

    The whole airport/flying experience is just one big clusterfuck!

    Overbooked flights, stranded passengers, incompetant TSA agents on powertrips, airline employees who just dont give a shit, thieving baggage monkeys, drunken/overworked pilots sleeping on flights, terrorist watch lists (heaven forbid you have a muslim name & want to fly)….. did I forget anything?

  17. smarty says:

    A nice boarding facility in her home town.
    Seriously, has anyone boarded their dog in a facility with 1 or more acres? If they have, then they know how much fun dogs have running around for 10-12 hours a day with other dogs.

    But then grandma might be one who spoils her dog.

    JR Terriers are anywhere from 10-15 inches tall, and Frontier requires that a pet be able to stand inside its carrier. To fit as a carry-on inside Frontier planes, the carrier cannot be more than 10-12 inches depending on the specific plane. Without knowing her dog’s height, maybe the dog couldn’t stand as is required by Frontier.

  18. youbastid says:

    @smarty: Nope, the problem was that the carrier was two inches too long, RTFA.

  19. smarty says:

    Obviously, the grandma and Carey did not research this “universally accepted” carrier declaration. Frontier will allow up to 12.4″ high pet carriers for in-cabin flights, but Continental only allows up to 8″ high pet carriers for in-cabin flights. Oh, Consumerist favorite Southwest does not allow any pets other than for the disabled.

  20. smarty says:

    @youbastid: Oops, I misread. Near the end of the article they said they think it was mismeasured or eyeballed. I thought that’s they denied boarding, but instead she was originally misinformed that it was ok.

  21. TexasScout says:

    I don’t care how much you love your “little Snuckums” DON’T FLY WITH THEM UNLESS THEY ARE CHECKED! Traveling with your pet is just a PITA for everyone involved including you. Find someone to feed and walk it, or board the thing. You daughter didn’t want the thing in her house anyway.

    Oh yeah, Merry Christmas.

  22. Oregon says:

    2″ to long, there are places all over the airport that have a mock up of the size of items you are allowed to bring as carry on’s People ignore them, make it all the way on board, feeling they are scott free,then get pissed when they get told the item is to large to be a carry on.
    Also a grandmother -that equates to your children having children.. and this is special how??
    If she made it this far in life and can not figure that 26 inches is not 24 inches then maybe she needs to stay at home.

    Escalate the matter, I failed to find out the rule for bringing a large box on board.. and it’s the airlines fault.. She called and asked, the answer was 100% non-commitial, more likely the answer was Blah,blah blah, you will need to check at the counter when you GET HERE..

  23. cmdr.sass says:

    I love that gratuitous inclusion of her status as a “cancer survivor”. You can do better than that.

  24. trollkiller says:

    Sounds to me like she got on the plane and the carrier was sticking out from under the seat because it was too big. So the steward(ess) escorts her off the plane to tell her the dog has to go in the baggage hold. Grandma doesn’t want to do that and leaves.

    Yeah I added a reasonable explanation that was not in the article. I figure they didn’t have room after telling us grandma was all alone because her husband and son are in Iraq, she survived cancer, has an ingrown toe nail, etc.

  25. pepe the king prawn says:

    @texasscout: you can’t check animals on all flights. some planes do not have pressurized/climate controlled cargo holds for pets.

  26. Amelie says:

    Sounds like a number of people had a crappy Xmas and decided to trash this women’s lifestyle, personality, etc., instead of dealing with the issue. She had an approved pet carrier, Frontier okayed it in advance. That’s what the story is about and nothing on pathetic advice on how this woman should run her life – which basically amounts to: “Live your life like I do.”

    I wonder how many people have quit participating in these forums due to the increasing number of douchebags on this site.

  27. Major-General says:

    @SadSam: Hmm, reminds me of my last flight with young children. Pets I have found have been pretty quiet.

  28. Asvetic says:

    You never hear of this shit happening to someone on a bus or train, or is that just not as “juicy” a story?

    I still think this woman could have done better research before she carried her doggy on board.

    It’s always better to do plenty of research and be overly prepared, and just assuming you’ll be okay. Still airlines seem to go against the entire model of “customer service” and are willing to reject, refuse and abuse their customers, no matter how informed they might be.

  29. trollkiller says:

    @zouxou: I wonder how many people have quit participating in these forums due to the increasing number of douchebags on this site.
    Not enough, you are still here.

    I am sorry did you want a site where everybody just jumps on whatever business is being bitched about?

    The old gal would have had more sympathy on this site if we were just given the “facts”.

    Lady took the time to travel to the airline before the flight date to make sure the carrier would fit. Lady gets there and is taken off plane after the carrier is discovered to be too big.

    What we don’t know is what the airline offered to do to fix the problem, instead we get the old gal is all alone, cancer survivor, has patriotic relatives and cries in parking lots.

  30. @zouxou: But who “approved” it? A manager, or Zippy, the guy who buffs the floor and collects “shiny thing”. Did they measure the unit? If she brought a print out from the companies website for the carrier, or even the store ad, it would have the measurements on it, and it would be easy to say, “oh yeah, it’s within the measurements, because 22 is less than 24.” I suspect like all stories, there’s two sides, and the truth lies in th middle. It’s almost like a comedy of errors, except for the comedy part.

  31. @trollkiller: Huzzah. The article reads like they just booted her off the plane, drug her and the dog by their collars, and threw them out the door, naked in the freezing winter of Arizona. What about her luggage? If it was already loaded, they would have had to unload it, and that takes time. There seems to be a good chunk missing, and I’d like to hear it. In watching Airline, once or twice, even though they were on camera, you can see people forget the facts/lie to people about what happened.

  32. trollkiller says:

    Who in the hell drives 2 hours to check the dimensions of a dog carrier? Wouldn’t grabbing a tape measure and calling the airline be easier.

    So if she ran out to the parking lot and cried, did all her luggage fly without her?

  33. Amelie says:
  34. emilymarion333 says:


    Well just so you know – I have a lab that I love and she comes to work everyday with me. I have found a great kennel/training place I take her if I have to go out of town! I have only had to take her a few times but she was really happy there (and got some great hunting training). If I have to travel for a long periods of time I take her to my parents house and she is very happy with them too!

  35. @zouxou: Thank you for the link to the article I already read. It clarified it by saying an “employee”. Unfortunately, even the CEO is an employee. As is our friend Zippy.

    Actually, in reading the article, even though the reporter seems to have talked to the mother, Fishback, he got all of the facts from the daughter, Breeden. Yeah, no chance of getting mis-information/heresay testimony from a third party who wasn’t present, and is emotionally involved. Thanks for proving my point!!!

  36. ColoradoShark says:

    @headon: Don’t be too harsh on Headon. What about people who are allergic to dogs and cats? You’re stuck in a tube with them for hours and nowhere to go, especially on a full flight. Most allergy pills make you loopy and can have some other side affects that are unpleasant.

  37. rjhiggins says:

    @zouxou: Amen.

    Trollkiller: You wouldn’t have to keep retracting your idiotic comments if you actually read the story first.

  38. digitalgimpus says:

    The “cancer” remark was just silly to throw in here. It has nothing to do with anything, other than vilify the company.

    I’d also question the “universally accepted” carrier. IIRC the rules only are in regard to size. No pre-approved list. If the unit was too big, the problem is the manufacturer not the airline for clearly lying about the specs.

    If the carrier was within spec, and the airline just didn’t accept it, then it’s on the airline.

  39. jimconsumer says:

    FWIW airlines seem to universally suck at everything. I flew once with a tiny dog (under my seat, not in the cargo hold) and a firearm (checked, of course). I had a tight schedule to meet with little room for error, so I tried to work with the airline (US Airways in this case) the week before my flight to make sure I was in compliance with any and all policies, laws, or what have you.

    They are all but useless. I had to make more than a dozen phone calls between the airline and TSA to get the scoop on what was allowed and the procedures I needed to follow. I heard several different stories from several different people. It took many hours over several days to get set straight.

    Thankfully the flight went off without a problem: TSA happily checked my handgun at the ticket counter and my dog was allowed on the flight. However, if I’d listened to what the first person told me – or the first six for that matter – I’d have been screwed.

    (As a side note, I sedated my dog with pills provided by his vet, both for his comfort and that of other passengers. He slept through the flight in his tiny little carrier without issue and the guy sitting next to me didn’t even know I had a dog on board until we’d landed at our destination.)

  40. KJones says:

    I can empathize with her completely. Two inches too long, and they throw someone off of the flight? That’s not about rules, that’s an idiot or a power tripper.

    I’ve had idiots at airports say my carry-on bag is too big despite it fitting inside the test stand. One time, the idiot got uppity because I proved that he was lying (another employee brought over the test stand and it fit easily) and then claimed I was being insulting. For contradicting him, or for telling the truth? I never did find out which.

  41. @digitalgimpus: Since the story was told to the reporter by the daughter, of course she threw in every detail she could to make the story more appealing to the paper. I’m surprised we didn’t hear about how her uncle touched her in her naughty spot.

  42. ampersand says:

    I moved my cat across the country recently by taking him on a plane as carry-on. When I did it, I carefully read the airline’s policy on taking animals on board. It clearly outlined that the animal could be denied if anyone on the plane complained. As such, I made a back-up plan and brought a friend who could take him home until I figured out another way to move him. If you make the decision to travel with your pet (or baby, or extra large suitcase), it is your responsibility to make sure you understand the rules completely and plan for whatever might happen.

  43. youbastid says:

    @ColoradoShark: I’m allergic to cats and I’m never affected when they are brought in the cabin on a flight. The reason for this is that they are kept in the carrier the whole time. People aren’t allergic to the actual cat or dog, they’re allergic to the secretions from the sebaceous gland – mostly present in the skin and saliva. Nobody comes in to contact with these things when they’re in the carrier.

  44. avsfan123 says:

    So, when you get on the plane and the flight attendant makes his/her announcement…isn’t this included:


    All carry-on baggage must COMPLETELY fit under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin.

    It’s an FAA/DOT regulation, not a carrier’s control freak choice.

  45. trollkiller says:

    @rjhiggins: I did read the story. It was half assed reporting at best. So what idiotic statement of mine do you think needs retracting?

  46. Onouris says:

    Yeah it sucks that you can’t rely on what one person in a company says if another person in the company, who had no contact with the first, decides differently.

    But what can you do :-/ make a scene in an airport and they just decide that’s even more reason to screw you over. Lose lose situation really.

  47. ElizabethD says:

    I wonder how many people have quit participating in these forums due to the increasing number of douchebags on this site.

    You said it, brotha.

  48. @Onouris: If the first person had no authority to make the decision, then it becomes void. If the captain over-ruled the flight attendant, would you still complain? No Mr. Captain, she said I couldn’t fly, and you can’t say different, no matter how much you think it sucks.

    And there is a difference between making a scene, and escalating the matter. People who make valid and lucid points are usually suffered better than ranting and raving loons.

  49. tupo says:

    Transportation trains, planes and autos need to be regulated for the public safety and welfare. We need to elect a whole new Congress throw the bums out and have people who know why they were elected

  50. Onouris says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: Make a point all you want, but if they decide you’re not getting on, you’re not getting on. Escalate it to the moon and you still didn’t get on, you still missed your flight, and you still got completely screwed.

  51. coan_net says:

    At first it sounded like an interesting story, but as soon as I seen “cancer-surviving grandmother” – I stopped reading.

    If the story needs to put in that at the very start to gain sympathy, well then I don’t even care to read the rest.

  52. vladthepaler says:

    If she weren’t a cancer survivor, would the carrier have been allowed?

    If she weren’t a grandmother. would the carrier have been allowed?

  53. arkitect75 says:

    Man, it sounds as if no one has heard the horror stories of animals being accidentally placed in the NON-pressurized cargo hold of the plane. I have heard that Delta is good about pets in the cargo hold.

    For all of you that say dog owners should board their dog instead, what happens in a situation like mine. My wife and I have flown back to my hometown in NC from our home in South FL. We bought a dog while here in NC, a nine week old Schnoodle. We bought him here in NC, b/c there were some local breeders, whereas there where no breeders in South FL.

    I have already contacted my airline (the great USAir) and have reserved an in-cabin pass for our puppy. He is being crate trained as I type this, in hopes that the flight will go fairly smooth. I refuse to place a nine-week old puppy in the cargo hold or ship him.

  54. cryrevolution says:

    I’m sure the woman didn’t ask a random person, like a janitor, if it was acceptable. How was she to know what person was the best to ask? The point is, despite what you think she should have done or could have done, what the freakin’ post is about, is that she got permission ahead of time. Then the airline didn’t honor the previous employees decision & threw her off. Think about if you were in the same situation, not on an airline, but at a local retail store. She didn’t make a scene, she left. Whether you agree with her taking her dog on or not, it’s a ridiculous situation.

  55. clickable says:

    “do more research?”

    The lady traveled two hours to the airport several days before her flight specifically to ask whether her pet carrier would be allowed on the plane, and was told that it would be.

    What more research should she have done? Should she have gone to the airport several times to ask the same question?

    I agree with the comment upthread that there are starting to be a lot of judgmental comments around here that have nothing to do with the topic.

    Someone else here made the authoritative, and completely baseless, statement, that the daughter “doesn’t want you to bring the dog anyway.” How the hell would you know that, commenter? It is never mentioned or alluded to in any way whatsoever in the article. You’re just projecting your own feelings on the situation, and they have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

    The discussion level is getting more toxic by the day, and I don’t really understand what’s prompting it.

  56. Jamie Beckland says:

    I just traveled with my dog for the first time. Here’s what I can tell you about the experience:

    We reviewed the several airlines’ websites for pet rules.

    We also went to the airport for a confirmation from a ticketing agent (who verifies your bags when you check in) that our carrier would be acceptable. In fact, we brought a couple for them to choose from.

    Most airlines determine cabin vs. check based on the weight of the dog.

    Our dog sat under the seat perfectly quietly for all 4 flights (departure and return) while numerous babies and young children made god awful amounts of racket on 3 of those 4 flights.

    Most vets recommend NOT giving your dog a sedative to fly because the side effects of medications are not tested on animals in pressurized environments.

    Some breeds with short noses (e.g. pugs) can’t fly at all.

    Flying with your dog is not cheap – we paid $85 each way for an ‘excess baggage’ charge. However, in comparing that with $80/day “holiday” rates at the boarding facility (for a 10 day trip), bringing the dog actually made the most sense.

    United only allows 2 dogs per cabin. Why? I couldn’t figure that out…

    Overall, it was a good experience and I would do it again if the costs were even close to comparable. As a responsible dog owner, I think this woman did what was reasonable and basically the same thing that I did in advance.

  57. AlphaTeam says:

    Looks like I’m not flying Frontier either!