A college student claims she was forced to flush her emotional support hamster down an airport toilet after getting bad info from a ticket agent – but Spirit Airlines claims no employee ever said to give the rodent its final boarding call.
Belen Aldecosea, 21, of Miami Beach, told the Miami Herald she called Spirit Airlines on two occasions to confirm that Pebbles – a pet dwarf hamster certified by her doctor as an emotional support animal — could join her aboard the flight in November from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Fort Lauderdale.
But once at the airport, Pebbles was denied onto the flight.
With her family in Florida and friends hours away, Aldecosea said she had few options. She tried to rent a car but was unsuccessful. An airline representative ultimately suggested that Aldecosea either let Pebbles run free or flush the rodent down a toilet, a claim the airline vehemently denies.
“She was scared,” Aldecosea told the Miami Herald. “I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet. I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall.”
Aldecosea said she’s now considering filing a lawsuit against Spirit for giving her conflicting information about her pet’s ability to fly alongside her.
Derek Dombrowski, a spokesman for Spirit Airlines, denied in a statement to The Post that any employee suggested that Aldecosea hurt or injure the critter prior to the flight.
“It is incredibly disheartening to hear this guest reportedly decided to end her own pet’s life,” Dombrowksi’s statement continued. “Our reservation representative, unfortunately, did misinform the guest that a hamster was permitted to fly as an emotional support animal on Spirit Airlines.”
When Aldecosea arrived with the hamster at the airport, agents offered her an opportunity to take a later flight so she had time to find other accommodations, Dombrowski said.
“Our records indicate the guest took that later flight with no further incident,” Dombrowksi said. “We did offer the guest a voucher for the inconvenience, but we never heard back from her.”
The Transportation Security Administration, meanwhile, has no issue with carry-on hamsters, a spokeswoman told the Miami Herald.
“Hamsters are welcome in our checkpoint,” TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz told the newspaper. “Their container would typically go through the X-ray while the owner would hold the hamster as the passenger walks through the metal detector so the creature is not subjected to radiation.”
While individual airlines determine which pets get to fly, most major carriers including American, Delta and United don’t allow rodents due to safety and health concerns, according to the newspaper.
Aldecosea said she flushed her beloved pet only after trying six different rental car agencies. She also considered taking a Greyhound bus.
The final decision to send Pebbles to a watery grave seemed more humane, she said, than letting the animal free and potentially starve to death or get struck by a car.
“I didn’t have any other options,” she said.
United Airlines made headlines last month when a traveler and a peacock named Dexter she claimed as an emotional support animal were denied entrance on a flight from Newark to Los Angeles.