Like a lot of airlines, Qantas is storing planes in the Mojave Desert while it waits for travel to return to pre-COVID levels.
The dry heat and low humidity of the desert make the California desert a good place to store the airline’s A380 aircraft. But engineers tasked with maintaining the planes have created their own special tool to deal with rattlesnakes and scorpions that like to hang out in and around the airplane wheel well and tires.
Qantas Manager for Engineering in Los Angeles, Tim Heywood, explains in a Qantas “Roo Tale,” that engineers make regular trips from LA to Victorville, CA to do aircraft inspections and that “encounters of the slithering and rattling kind are all part of the job.”
“Every aircraft has its own designated ‘wheel whacker’ – a repurposed broom handle- as part of the engineering kit, complete with each aircraft’s registration written on it,” said Heywood. “The first thing we do before we unwrap and start any ground inspections of the landing gear, in particular, is to walk around the aircraft stomping our feet and tapping the wheels with a wheel whacker to wake up and scare off the snakes. That’s about making sure no harm comes to our engineers or the snakes.”
You can read all the details here, but here are some key points to keep in mind if you’re planning on flying on a commercial flight with a service animal, emotional support animal, or pet.
The new rules define a service animal as “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.”
If you are planning on flying with service dog, you will be required to submit a standardized federal form to your airline attesting to the health and training of the animal and comply with other rules.
The big change is that DOT no longer considers emotional support animals to be service animals and has given airlines permission to stop giving those animals free rides.
Of course, airlines are happy to take pets on flights if they meet the requirements and have a paid ticket. Here are the current fees for buying a ticket for a pet to fly in the cabin on a domestic flight.
Alaska Airlines: $100 each way in the cabin; Pets allowed in the passenger cabin are dogs, cats, rabbits, and household birds.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has ruled that airlines no longer have to make the same accommodations for emotional support animals as they do for trained service dogs.
So it was just a matter of time before airlines starting to change their policies.
And now the changes have begun.
“This regulatory change is welcome news,” said Ray Prentice, director of customer advocacy at Alaska Airlines, in a statement. “It will help us reduce disturbances on board while continuing to accommodate our guests traveling with qualified service animals,”
Alaska Airlines is the first to take action. Starting January 11, 2021, the airline will only allow trained service dogs to travel for free in the cabin.
Under the revised policy, Alaska will only accept two service dogs per guest in the cabin, including psychiatric service dogs. Anyone flying with service dogs will have to complete a DOT form attesting that their animal is a legitimate service dog, is trained and vaccinated, and will behave during the flight.
Emotional support animals, whether they be pigs, monkeys, hamsters, lizards, or miniature horses, will no longer be allowed in the cabin.
Pets, including dogs, cats, rabbits, and household birds, can still fly, but they must be ticketed, at $100 each way. And passengers who bring pets onboard must keep them in a carrier, which counts towards the carry-on bag allotment.
So no more emotional support animals taking up a seat or a tray table. Or getting under you feet.