A college student claims a Spirit Airlines representative advised her to flush her comfort hamster down an airport toilet after she was told she couldn't bring the tiny animal aboard her flight to Florida.
Belen Aldecosea says she contacted the airline before her travel date and was told she could fly with Pebbles, her pet dwarf hamster.
But when she arrived at the Baltimore airport, she says, she was told the furry rodent was banned from boarding the jetliner. According to the 21-year-old from Miami, an airline employee suggested she flush Pebbles, or set her free.
"She was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying to put her in the toilet," Aldecosea told the Miami Herald. "I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall."
She was afraid to set Pebbles loose at the airport, fearing she would be run over. Instead, Aldecosea flushed Pebbles.
A Spirit spokesman said the airline mistakenly told the passenger she could fly with Pebbles. But he denied any employee had suggested drowning the hamster in a toilet.
“To be clear, at no point did any of our agents suggest this guest (or any other for that matter) should flush or otherwise injure an animal,” spokesman Derek Dombrowski, told the Herald.
Aldecosea said the airline offered her a travel voucher after she emailed a complaint. She said she refused.
She is considering suing the airline, she said, over the November incident.
Comfort animals on airplanes have come under scrutiny, most recently in the case of a woman who showed up at the airport with a fully grown peacock, which was not permitted to fly.
Aldecosea's lawyer said her case is different. "This wasn't a giant peacock that could pose a danger to other passengers. This was a tiny, cute, harmless hamster that could fit in the palm of her hand," Florida attorney Adam Goodman, told the paper.