Traveling With Pets: The Story of an Unusual Passenger

When you are travelling with pets, you usually think of bringing your cat or dog. An unusual passenger of a fish is something that you’re not expected to bring.

This is exactly what university student Kira Rumfola did when she brought Theo, her pet fish she’d bought whilst studying at the University of Tampa in Florida, along as a passenger for a plane ride back to her hometown of Long Island for the summer. This wasn’t the first time she was travelling with pets as she has travelled with Betta fish Theo before.

“I’d done it before over the holidays with another airline, so I filled the container with water and put Theo in it,” she told the Washington Post.

But there was a problem with this unusual passenger.

The airline she was travelling with has a strict pet policy, only allowing dogs and cats to travel on their planes. Kira was already at the airport when customer service agent Ismael Lazo noticed the deep blue and purple fish and told her the unfortunate news.

With everyone already home for the summer and no one at the University of Tampa able to look after her fish Theo, Kira was unsure what to do. “I was really sad and wondered what I was going to do,” she said. “He’s my pet.”

Customer service agent Ismael understood her worries as a pet owner himself so when he said the magic words: “How about if I take your fish home to live with me and my fiancée until you come back for college in the fall?”

Theo the unusual passenger went on an adventure of a lifetime 

Kira couldn’t believe her luck as she gave her aquatic friend to Ismael for the summer. She gave him everything a fish could need from delicious food to fresh water and told Ismael important instructions such as how often to clean the water in the fish bowl.

There was a slight problem with Ismael never having looked after a fish before but surely it couldn’t be as hard as looking after his two dogs. Texts were soon exchanged between Kira and Ismael as he updated her on Theo’s swimming adventures! He apparently got excited when Jamee (Ismael’s fiancée) washed the dishes!

Traveling with a pet especially a fish is a bit unusual, but Theo was more than happy in his fish bowl.
Pet fish Theo seemed to be having a swimmingly great time. Image credit: Southwest Airlines

After four months it was soon time for fish Theo to depart and to be reunited with his owner. As a token of her appreciation, Kira bought Ismael and his fiancée gift cards. Whilst the pair enjoyed having Theo around for company, Ismael was happy for fish Theo to go on his next adventure. “To be honest, I was worried about something happening to him on our watch,” he said. “So, I was happy for Kira to have him back.”

Different pet policies across airlines

It’s estimated that 2 million domestic animals travel on commercial airlines every year. Whilst it is usually a smooth and easy process, it is important to always double-check with the airline you are travelling with about their pet policy. Transport Security Administration states that live fish in water and a clear transparent container are allowed after inspection. Different airlines have different policies when it comes to allowing pets on a plane, including the size, type, age, destination and type of plane.

When entering the United Kingdom, EU or Northern Ireland all animals must have a microchip, animal health certificate, valid rabies vaccination and tapeworm treatment. If these rules are not followed, then your pet may be put into quarantine for up to 4 months!

It’s always best to double-check that you have the correct documentation before you travel with your pet as well as checking with the airline.

Do you have any weird experiences when travelling with your pets? Let us know in the comments below.

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Gabriella Van Jennians
Gabriella Van Jennians
Gabriella is an aspiring Journalist from the UK. She holds a BA Journalism degree from the University of Lincoln, where she has learnt various writing and production skills to help her break into the industry. Gabriella joined Travel Radar in 2022 and hopes to learn and gain experience writing for the aviation sector.


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