Media may have fattened pig story

By JIM HALEY

Herald Writer

EVERETT — Charlotte, the pig that flew, is getting a bad rap.

That’s the contention of the owner of a potbellied pig that flew first-class across the country last month and reportedly misbehaved on the airliner and at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The pig "lay in a blanket until every passenger was off, and then I got up. We were the last ones off the plane," Maria Andrews said about the Oct. 17 flight from Philadelphia that caused a stir for USAirways after the pig incident was reported.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating why airline supervisors in Philadelphia cleared the pig for the flight in the first place, and the airline said big pigs won’t be flying with the passengers again.

The Philadelphia Daily News reported that the airline filed a report with the FAA that the pig acted up when the plane landed, trying to enter the cockpit and refusing to leave the galley until a passenger tossed food at her.

When Charlotte entered Sea-Tac, it was reported that the pig defecated in the carpeted waiting area after being dragged off the plane. It then squealed all the way through the airport.

Most of that didn’t happen, Andrews said, adding that the pig did have an accident after getting off the plane, but there was good reason for that.

Andrews defended her pet, actually a companion animal that helps her battle a heart ailment, she said.

"I am a big animal-rights person. My pig has the right to be with me on an airplane," she told the Philadelphia Daily News. "I love this pig. She’s my best friend."

Charlotte didn’t run amok on the airplane, Andrews said, and she made the mistake of calling ahead for a porter to help her and her mother with carry-on baggage and a long walk due to construction. By the time she got off the plane there was a crowd of "about 300 people" waiting to see the pig.

"It was like Frank Sinatra got off the plane," Andrews said. "The pig started to scream when strangers were reaching up and grabbing at her."

She admitted that the excited pig made "a little mess." The news media "made a big deal out of something that really didn’t make a mess," Andrews added. "Nothing stuck to the floor."

The pig did squeal for about five minutes, but later "walked like a dog on a little leash. She’s very well behaved," Andrews said.

The size of the pig also has been exaggerated in the media. She says it weighs about 150 pounds, and news reports have estimated the size at between 250 and 300 pounds.

Andrews said she originally asked about shipping the pig as cargo, but someone suggested she ask about it riding in the passenger compartment as a companion like a dog. That way the pig flies free.

She denied she had told airline officials the pig weighed only 13 pounds when she made reservations. It was the airline that put Charlotte, Andrews and her mother in first-class, she added.

"They had to approve the pet before it got on the plane," she said. Even "the captain had to OK it before she got on the plane."

She moved to the Puget Sound area because of her genetic heart condition and because the area has both good doctors and those engaged in alternative medicine. The companion pig she’s had for five years is part of that medicine, she said.

The pig, dubbed Charlotte by the Philadelphia newspaper, lives in an apartment with Andrews. It is litter-box trained, and Andrews takes it for walks.

Right now, her apartment lease covers the pig, but she said the management doesn’t seem to like the publicity the high-flying pig has brought. Andrews said she might look for another place to live.

She declined to disclose the pig’s real name because she uses it while apartment hunting. She’s afraid other managers might not like having the airport pig in their complexes.

Overall, Andrews said she’s upset the way the story has been handled.

There have been numerous pig reports out of Philadelphia since the story broke about two weeks ago, a couple of weeks after the flight. And Andrews doesn’t believe much happened to warrant it.

"How interesting would it be to say, ‘Pig takes flight and behaves. News at 11?’" she asked.

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