California man who flew to Austin with pet opossum kicked off on return trip


AUSTIN (KXAN) — A California man was able to fly to Austin with his pet opossum, but ran into trouble on the return trip home.

Gerald Tautenhahn told CNN affiliate KCBS his father had died in Austin a few months ago, and he wanted to visit his mom and cheer her up. Cue Zatara the opossum who he raised since she was weeks old.

He said did his research, checking with JetBlue and the Long Beach airport before he and his twin brother flew out Dec. 4.

“They said if it’s OK with airlines, it’s OK with us — call the airline,” Tautenhahn said. “They said, ‘No, it’s fine as long as she’s in an approved pet carrier.'”

He said there were no issues on the way, and his mom loved meeting Zatara.

When they tried to return home on Dec. 12, however, Tautenhahn said an air marshal told him he wasn’t sure if the opossum was allowed on board. In an Instagram post, “Zatara” wrote:

Guys help #bringzatarahome ! #jetblue let me fly from Long Beach airport to Austin Texas and now They won’t let me fly home!
We boarded the plane to go home and after a 30 minute delay, a Jet blue employee had me get off the plane and said I couldn’t fly.

The post went on to say after 3 hours on the phone with Jet Blue, they told him to rent a car and drive back to California, a more than 1,300 mile drive that would have taken an estimated 21 hours to drive, according to Google Maps.

“I did my homework and I was allowed fly out there,” Tautenhahn said. “The least you can do is let me return home with her.”

Ultimately, he said after four extra days in Austin, he booked a ticket on United, paid a pet fee and made sure Zatara was in a pet carrier. They flew home without an issue.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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