Flying can be stressful for anyone, and for those people who have mental or emotional issues that only an animal can soothe, bringing a trusted friend on board is an imperative. And to their credit, most airlines accept "companion animals" — anything from a purring cat to a furry hamster — to keep the customers who need them happy.

(These animals are different from service animals, which are almost always dogs, and are necessary for mobility for some disabled people.)

Recently, a passenger brought a pet turkey on board a Delta flight as a companion animal. The Reddit user, biggestlittlepickle, who posted the image, wrote: “My neighbor is a flight attendant. He just posted this picture of someone’s ‘therapy pet’ on his flight.”

From the looks of the situation, the turkey got its own seat.

Of course, you can't just bring an animal on a plane and claim it's important for your emotional wellbeing. Like most airlines, Delta has a lengthy policy about bringing animals on board, which includes required documentation from a licensed mental health professional.

Also, some animals are unacceptable, no matter what you have in writing from your psychologist, including:

  • Hedgehogs
  • Ferrets
  • Insects
  • Rodents
  • Snakes
  • Spiders
  • Sugar gliders
  • Reptiles
  • Non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game bird, & birds of prey)
  • Animals improperly cleaned and/or with a foul odor
  • Animals with tusk or hooves

I'm not sure how the turkey wasn't considered "farm poultry," but maybe if the animal had never been kept as poultry, and always kept as a pet, it wasn't considered one by the airline?

But you do have to wonder, can you train a turkey? One of the rules for any support animal to fly is: "... the animal must be trained to behave properly in public settings as service animals do." Well, it turns out that you can (see the video above), at least when it comes to basic commands.

If that bird was on a plane, presumably the proper paperwork was filled out. At the end of the day, it's up to the airline to decide whether to allow a companion animal, and Delta must have chosen to allow this turkey on board.

In fact the site Road Warrior Voices contacted Delta about the turkey, and this was the airline's reply:

“Delta complies with the Air Carrier Access Act by allowing customers traveling with emotional support animals or psychiatric service animals to travel without charge in the cabin. While we can’t always accommodate all pets, Delta employees made a judgment call based in part on extensive documentation from the customer. We review each case and make every effort to accommodate our customers’ travel needs while also taking into consideration the health and safety of other passengers.”

I can't be the only one who's kind of hoping to see some crazy animal on my next flight. I'd much prefer a turkey next to me over some random guy falling asleep on my shoulder or leaning into my space — most animals don't hog the armrests, after all.

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

This turkey makes the skies more friendly
Special companion animal gets Delta's blessing to fly in the cabin to keep passenger calm.