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A Modern Pegasus: How One Little Horse Flew on Southwest Airlines

June 28, 2012 at 1:20 PM | by | ()

True frequent flyers may believe they've seen everything on planes, but travelers at three different airports on Tuesday were treated to something really rare—a service animal boarding a Southwest Air flight. This wasn't just any service animal, however; this was a mini-horse named "Cali," being filmed for a documentary.

Cali's story isn't so different from that of a seeing-eye dog in that she was trained (in Saratoga Springs, NY) and now finds a home helping a blind girl through life. Her owner, Mona Ramouni, is a grad student at MSU in Lansing, Michigan. So, when the Australian show "Sunday Night" decided to focus on Mona and Cali's story, it was only natural to return to where it all began, in Saratoga Springs. For this, the horsey would have to fly.

Departing on Southwest from Detroit-Metropolitan International Airport, Cali, Mona and the entire Aussie tv crew checked in as normal and trotted over to their gate. Onboard the plane, Mona and Cali occupied seats 1A, 1B and 1C as far as Baltimore-Washington International, where they had a short layover and another trot to another gate, for the final leg to Albany International Airport.

Want to see 'em in motion? WRGB-TV in Saratoga has a video.

Was the ordeal a difficult one? Not according to Scott Wintner of Public Affairs at DTW:

For me, the work wasn’t really to accommodate Mona and Cali (we’re well-equipped to welcome service animals – even the equine variety)… but to accommodate the TV crew that were along to record Mona and Cali’s entire travel experience. We worked very closely with Southwest Airlines to ensure the Seven Network crew was able to document the journey.

So, how does one go about bringing a horse onboard a Southwest flight? We asked SWA's Christi McNeill if Cali received or required any special treatment. And it sounds like that's a no:

The mini-horse was flying as an assistance animal. When assistance animals travel with us we put them in the first front row. They purchased the two seats in the space that the animal occupied.

Unlike the times that Southwest has brought penguins onboard, the mini-horse is not a publicity stunt but an honest-to-goodness heartwarming story of a girl and her pony, a story which Australian audiences will hopefully get to see soon.

Trotting to check in

Cali and the film crew chill at the gate

Cali boards the aircraft

[All Photos: Scott Wintner/@DTWeetin]

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