Every week, in the week before every Memorial Day I get the same press release in my inbox: such-and-such travel organization predicts record numbers of travelers taking to the skies and roads. Chaos expected. This past weekend was no exception, with the largest number of people ever projected to travel to celebrate the unofficial start of summer.

With nearly 45 million Americans going out of town this weekend, the results were predictable. Snarls and delays hung people up on highways and at airports across the country. But at least one group of passengers had a reason to smile when their flight out of Tampa didn't take off as expected: the cutest excuse for a disruption ever.

Sorry, your flight has been delayed due to excess adorableness.

Like many flights these days, the American Airlines flight from Tampa to Philadelphia on Friday included a couple of furry passengers -- yellow labs Eleanor Rigby (aka Ellie) and Nugget. So far, so typical, but then events took a turn suitable for a soap opera (assuming there were soap operas about dogs). Heavily pregnant Ellie went into labor right there at the gate.

Luckily, a local fire and rescue team made it to the scene on time to deliver eight healthy puppies, seven boys and one lone girl, capturing the all the action in a series of social media posts (inevitable hashtag: #AirportPuppies).

Service animals gone wild!

There's no word on whether fellow passengers considered the cuteness overload sufficient compensation for the disruption to the pre-flight routine. But as travel industry blog View From the Wing points out, it's fair to question whether all the drama should have been avoided. "Even people can expect to take some time off in the days leading up to giving birth, and certainly shouldn't be flying," the post notes.  

The incident, however adorable, is also likely to play into the debate about whether service animals on flights are getting out of control. The number of such animals on American Airlines flights went up 40 percent between 2016 and 2017 and is up an incredible 150 percent from 2015 on Delta flights, reports Airways. People have claimed everything from ponies to peacocks  (yes, really... also ducks, pigs and monkeys) as service animals lending essential emotional support.

No wonder airlines are cracking down. Unfortunately, no matter how effective that effort is, it won't help travelers avoid Memorial Day weekend delays (puppy or non-puppy related) next year. For that, you'll need to follow a few basic timing tips and avoid the most affected airports. That, and cross your fingers no one on board goes into labor. 

Published on: May 29, 2018