Fear of flying has hogged a lot of headlines in 2018. We’ve all known people who find the idea of hovering six miles above the surface of the planet in a giant, glorified Pringles tube a little uncomfortable, but this year made it more clear than ever the lengths that some are prepared to go in order to feel reassured. Though there have been many unusual new techniques on display, easily the most eye-catching have involved animals.
This year has seen a dramatic rise in the use of therapeutic “emotional support animals”. The theory goes that, as part of a medical diagnosis for a recognised mental health condition, certain patients can apply to receive an official animal partner, in order to provide psychological support in times of stress. Typically, these creatures have either been cats or dogs.
However, despite the good intentions, ESAs have been in the eye of a controversy storm, after large numbers of passengers seem to be using the system to transport increasingly unusual critters on long distance flights. In 2018, a woman was stopped from boarding a flight after attempting to bring an “emotional support peacock” with her. Another was forced to flush her support hamster down an aeroplane toilet. Clearly, something needs to change.
Fortunately for the aviation industry, fast food has decided to step up to the plate. Famous chicken franchise Popeyes, a chain perhaps best known for refusing to allow apostrophes anywhere near their branding, have introduced a new form of support animal that not only acts as the ultimate comforter, but also has the added bonus of being totally delicious. How many cats or peacocks can you say that about?
The brand have announced a brand new support box - featuring three pieces of their signature recipe chicken, all packaged inside a delightful fowl-shaped container. As it says on the side of the box, "This chicken provides comfort and nourishment during stressful air travel. Unlike other chicken, it is marinated in real Louisiana spices for 12 hours and must be permitted to fly without restriction. Do not leave unattended, as Popeyes is not responsible for lost or stolen chicken." The future of therapy has arrived. And it’s much tastier than we thought.
Speaking about the announcement, Popeyes’ CMO Hope Diaz stated that the idea is to give customers a “good laugh”, adding that, "We appreciate how comforting emotional support animals are and wanted to create our own version. The good news is that our emotional support chicken is permitted to fly without any restrictions—one less worry for busy travellers!" As noble as their intentions may be, it’s hard to imagine other emotional support providers following suit and cooking their companions.
Given the number of unusual stories that got attention this year, it’s unsurprising that several airlines have implemented a raft of new regulations for 2019. For instance, passengers will now no longer be able to travel with “amphibians, ferrets, goats, hedgehogs, insects, reptiles, rodents, snakes, spiders, sugar gliders and any animals with tusks,” according to Food and Wine. Maybe the solution really is to settle for something you can eat, rather than cuddle. It will certainly save on paperwork.