Passenger Banned From Taking Emotional Support Snake On Flight

A passenger at Florida’s Tampa International Airport (TPA) attempted to take her “emotional support snake” on board a plane before the reptile was discovered by surprised Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) agents.

A Boa Constrictor - Emotional Support Snake
The passenger had planned to take her emotional support snake on board with her to help with her journey © Snakekeeper27

A Snake in One’s Bag? That’s Not Gonna Fly

In an incident recently revealed by the TSA, on 15th December 2022, a four ft-long boa constrictor named Bartholomew was spotted in a woman’s carry-on luggage when the passenger’s bag was sent through a security scanner.

The passenger requested Bartholomew be allowed to fly with her, stating that the snake was her “emotional support animal” or, in this case, her “emotional support reptile”.

The TSA notified the passenger’s airline of the slithery fellow’s presence before the carrier declared that the snake would not be allowed to board. The snake was subsequently returned home unharmed.

No passengers or airport staff were reported to have been injured during the incident. Furthermore, at the time of writing, neither the passenger’s destination nor the airline she was travelling with have been disclosed.

Tampa International Airport
Snake incidents seem to be a common theme at Florida’s Tampa International Airport © Snakekeeper27.

Not Rattled in the Slightest

Boa constrictors are large, non-venomous snakes native to Central and South America that are known for killing their prey by suffocation. They typically range in size from around 810 ft, but they can reach up to 12 ft in length.

Whilst the snake, in this case, was on the smaller side, X-ray footage shared on the TSA’s Instagram account makes for great viewing. Making light of the situation, however, it was pretty evident from the post that the agency’s social media employees could not resist slithering in several snaked-inspired puns, with “nope rope” and “danger noodle” being excellent additions to one’s lexicon.

TSA Instagram post about smuggled snake
The TSA shared its discovery on social media with some rather creative hashtags © TSA Instagram

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals (ESAs) are pets that provide support and relief to individuals with mental and emotional conditions.

ESAs differ from assistance/service animals because they do not qualify for the same freedoms as their trained and certified counterparts. In addition, although some airlines now allow ESAs to travel on board aircraft, passengers are advised to check individual airlines’ rules and regulations before booking flights.

Assistance Animals
ESAs and assistance/service animals provide differing levels of support to individuals with physical and mental health conditions © HW Wessell.

A Recent Hisstory of Snake Encounters

As bizarre as the latest encounter may seem, snakes never stay out of aviation news for long.

At the beginning of December last year, a jet-setting snake was found in the cargo hold of an Air India Express plane by ground staff at Dubai International Airport (DXB) in the United Arab Emirates.

In October of the same year, on a plane flying out of, coincidentally, Tampa International Airport, passengers on board a United Airlines flight came face to face with a snake that had found its way into the aircraft’s cabin area.

An earlier, even more disturbing, incident took place in July on board a SunExpress plane travelling to Germany when an alarmed crew member found a severed snake head in their in-flight meal.

As to when and where the next snake-related story will arise, watch this space.

What are your thoughts on the TSA’s reptilian discovery? Let us know in the comments!


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Rachel Dunster
Rachel Dunster
Aviation Reporter