Flirty the horse makes aviation history

Photo credit: aastews/Instagram

For years, humans have been setting new milestones in terms of aviation. Concorde became the first commercial airplane to travel at twice the speed of sound while the Airbus A380 is the biggest ever passenger plane to take to the skies.

Among all the achievements of humankind, a little horse has now set a new precedent for equine kind. A service animal called Flirty has become the first horse to take a commercial flight in aviation history after she and her owner Abrea Hensley travelled from Omaha in Nebraska to Chicago.

While dogs, monkeys, ducks, ponies and turkeys have previously taken this journey, Flirty has set a new landmark. Many passengers looked on in bemusement at O’Hare International Airport as Flirty and Hensley queued up to board the flight back to Nebraska but Hensley explains how important her horsey sidekick is.

The 33-year-old owner suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, and since she is allergic to dogs, she has a horse as a service animal. Flirty is an integral part of Hensley’s life and is on hand to keep her calm during the one-and-a-half-hour flights between the two cities.

Speaking to Inside Edition, Hensley said: “She [Flirty] can actually accurately predict when I’m going to have an anxiety or panic attack and warn me that it’s going to happen so that way I can take medication.”

Flirty is a pro when it comes to taking to the skies, staying calm during take-off and even chewing on pretzels to combat a change in air pressure. Even when the plane hits a spell of turbulence Flirty ensures that both Hensley and herself feel relaxed.

Despite Flirty’s good behaviour, the days of having service animals on flights in the US could be coming to an end. Since August 2018, airline employees have been able to restrict animals they believe to be a security risk from boarding a place, unless they are dogs or cats.

Following a deluge of comments in an open session held by the US Department of Transportation (DoT), there is set to be a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on whether certain service animals would be permitted on planes.

Gina Emrich, an American Airlines employee who runs the carrier’s efforts in accessibility, said: “We are all petitioning the DoT to change that law and have it match the Americans with Disabilities Act, which would mean emotional support animals are not allowed on planes.”