NEWPORT BEACH, CA (KCBS/KCAL) — Gerald Tautenhahn said two months after his father passed away in Austin, Texas, he wanted to spend time with his mother and cheer her up by bringing Zatara, an opossum he has raised since it was just weeks old.
“I called the Department of Transportation who said, ‘If it’s OK with the airlines, it’s OK with us.’” Tautenhahn said. “So I called the airlines, they said, ‘It’s fine with us, as long as she’s in the pet carrier.’”
So Tautenhahn and his twin brother loaded up Zatara and headed to Long Beach Airport, which he also called just to make sure he was clear to travel with an opossum. And on Dec. 4, he and Zatara went through security with no problem, flying JetBlue to see his mom.
But when they tried to return home a few days later, Tautenhahn said an air marshal told him he wasn’t sure if it was OK to have an opossum on board.
“And then they said, ‘How did you get here,’” Tautenhahn said. “Just like this. I flew on the plane.”
Tautenhahn said he was told he couldn’t fly back and that him being allowed on the first flight was a mistake.
“I did my homework, and I was allowed to fly out there,” Tautenhahn said. “The least you can do is let me return home with her.”
He said a representative encouraged him to rent a car and drive back to Newport Beach.
“It was just beyond frustrating,” he said.
After four days in Austin, Tautenhahn said he booked a ticket on United, paid the pet fee, put Zatara in an approved carrier and walked on board.
But Tautenhahn had a word of advice for anyone else looking to travel with an opossum.
“If you have an opossum,” he said, “you might want to just drive.”