Fur flies across the Atlantic, for a price

by Karen Fawcett on January 30, 2009

Many people wish animals would be banned from flying in airline cabins. Some people feel the same way about young children and badly behaved adults. Others are allergic to certain fragrances and the list goes on. Still, $200 for a cat who demands nothing and sleeps during the entire flight is more than steep.

I travel with Kitty. This is an expensive luxury. But for reasons many people don’t understand, it’s a given. Kitty was born in France, has a EU passport and can travel—even to London, that until recently, required  an animal spend six months in quarantine before entering the U.K. for fear of rabies.

Preparing her medically cost more than $800 and necessitated numerous trips to the vet for shots, blood tests and the insertion of a magnetic chip.

This feline adopted us and was my legacy from my deceased husband, whom I threatened to kill if he fed this pathetic looking kitten who was camping outside the kitchen door of our country home. I neither killed him nor disowned her.

Kitty has made at least 20 round-trip transatlantic flights. She goes to the vet on both sides of the Atlantic to obtain a health certificate within a week of traveling, has rabies shots plus a few extras and meets all of the health requirements for entry into the U.S. and the EU. This 10-minute check-up costs approximately $150 each visit. That is if she doesn’t need a shot or any extra attention.

If only my in-flight neighbors were as healthy or as quiet. Kitty, all nine pounds of her, sees her carrying case and immediately assumes a Zen state, definitely on a higher (and different) plane. She’s a frequent-flyer but can’t collect points or miles.

If I were French, I would strike. Being American, I grin and bear it — kinda. That was until United announced it raised the price of Kitty’s transport by $75 each way. She weighs less than most new born infants and the cost is now $200, the same price charged for an additional 50-pound suitcase.

When informed of this, I noted that as a Premium Executive member who was flying business class (thank goodness for the miles I’ve accumulated), I was entitled to check three suitcases and checked only one. The people behind the check-in counter looked embarrassed. But it wasn’t their rule.

Am I the only person who feels $200 for transporting a kitty in a mini-carrier is gouging? There are Expats who are forced to factor this expense into their budget and it’s a major factor. Other passengers may view these four legged animals as animals. But there are some of us who don’t. They’re integral parts of our families. What do you think?

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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  • Carlyn Snell

    The very least the airline could do is to give Kitty frequent flyer mileage!

    P.S. When our dog 32 pound dog Lyla flew from L.A. to Paris unchaperoned , the
    charge was over $500!!

  • http://leftcoastsportsbabe.com Janice Hough

    Agreed that I would rather have a cat next to me than a crying baby anytime. But the airlines do charge 10 percent of the fare for children under 2 without a seat internationally, plus tax, which is usually more than the fare. (Maybe I shouldn’t write this, the airlines might get the idea to charge our pets tax too.)

  • Sean Elms

    First, don’t compare animals to people. It’s a problem you animal lovers have. Second, animals should NEVER be allowed in the cabin of a plane. Not everyone like animals (another problem with you animal lovers.) They belong in cargo, if at all and thus should be charged as such. Of all the things to be concerned about with air travel, this one is beyond ridiculous.

  • Nancy

    yes it is gouging – no meal, no oxygen mask, no service from flight attendants, no movie, etc. etc.

    I believe El Al gives pets frequent flyer miles but I’d much rather see a reduction in the price to something more reasonable – the airlines know that some of us are complete fools when it comes to our beloved animals and the ‘sky’s the limit’ on making us pay to keep them with us

  • Linda

    I agree that the fee is ridiculous, particularly since the carry-on pet takes the place of carry-on luggage. Unless United starts charging everyone $200 to carry on their briefcases (don’t even get me started about the giant roller bags), this fee is unfair.

  • Former airline employee

    I have complained and complained about this same issue. I have been thrown-up on by a 2 year old sitting on mommy’s lap next to me, had to listen to screaming from infants from one side of the country to another, and never ever had a problem with a pet on board.

    I wanted to fly with my cat-The airline wanted to charge $300. I wrote a letter (this was/is my favorite airline too!) and received a reply that the charge was for cleaning the airplane after the flight to eliminate problems for passengers with pet allergies-WHAT! I used to work for this airline and never ever did they clean a plane differently because a pet was on board.

    So this is a ploy to get $$. The first ariline that eliminates children and allows my cat on for a small fee will get 100% of my business.

  • Human animal

    Sean Elms
    I see more problems with your post than I ever have from an “animal lover” . Humans are animals too, after all.

    But following your logic, I guess that since not everyone likes children, children should fly in cargo too?? What about the elderly, lots of people don’t like them, or animal lovers, or gay people, or people with a different political agenda than yours? You are SO right Sean….I can see it now.

  • Daysouffle

    I too think it’s absurd to have to pay an extra fee for my puppy. She only weighs 5 pounds. That’s less than some woman’s purses. The last time I flew from LA to Texas, I spent the same amount I would have if I’d just simply bought her a seat (if only that was an option). She was quiet the entire time, and most of the people around me were completely unaware I even had her under the seat. So despite being “animal lovers” or not, if they weren’t cognizant of her, then how would that be bothersome? On top of that, I’ve sat next to quite a few people on planes that had very lax hygiene practices that I’m pretty sure weren’t offending just me. Given the choice of cabin companion, I’d rather an animal.

  • Pingback: The Middle Seat Terminal : United Now Charges $200 Each Way to Fly Pets to Europe

  • Tom

    The only animals that should be in the passenger cabin of the plane are seeing eye dogs or those dogs that can tell when an epileptic is about to have a seizure. No exceptions. None of those ‘companion animals.’

    If you have taken upon the responsibility of caring for a pet, realize that includes finding care if you leave town. People who treat pets like children are insane.

  • Heather Collins

    I won’t comment on the unkind comments made by
    the animal-hater. Their comments speak to their
    character. I just “like” animals and even if I didn’t I
    would certainly come to their rescue if I saw one being
    mis-treated or in need of help. I suspect the ‘animal
    hater’ would not.

    In general, I don’t think animals of any kind should be on an airplane. Unless you suffer from animal allergies,
    you can’t begin to understand what harm they can
    bring to those who are. While on ‘regular’ medication to address such issues, they are not 100% successful.
    ‘Epi-pens’ are to be used in emergencies and their
    effects only last 15-30 min…..with the intent on getting
    the patient to a hospital for more long-lasting
    treatment. Not really right to put an allergic
    passenger through that is it?

    A more common-sense option would be that at
    the time a reservation is made, each passenger should
    make note if they are allergic to animals, and so
    noted in their reservation. When someone wants
    to travel with an animal, they can only do so if the
    records show that no current reservations pull up
    a passenger with allergies. If someone with an allergy
    WANTS to book AFTER the ‘animal-lover’ books,
    they are informed PRIOR to the “buy” button that an animal is traveling. If they choose to travel anyway,
    they acknowledge they do so at their own risk and
    responsibility. If they don’t want to risk it, they don’t
    travel on that flight.

    And you know it’s just not animals that can bring
    a reaction to passengers…..all I need to do is just
    WALK past someone and tell if they are a smoker
    or not. It makes me gag and gasp for air. I’m not sure smokers have a clue on how much their clothes and
    hair, and yes, body stinks of smoke.

  • http://www.bonjourparis.com Karen Fawcett

    I feel the need to chime in. I would check Kitty in the cargo area if I were guaranteed she would emerge happy and healthy. Too many airline personnel have told me about animal deaths that occur during transit. The one time I did check Kitty, she was taken to the cargo hole two hours before departure and we weren’t reunited until two hours after landing.

    I had requested (and yes, there was a big tag and many papers filled out) that she be given water during the trip. That didn’t happen and she might have died from dehydration. I understand people may be allergic. I’m allergic to many perfumes and when I smell some of the food passengers bring aboard, my stomach turns.

    There is no perfect solution unless the airlines get on the ball and improve the conditions in the cargo hole. In the meantime, I hope Kitty will be able to travel with me. I do not equate her with being human. But, she’s been a very good companion for years and doesn’t need a college fund.

  • Frank

    Congrat’s Karen,

    your article appeared on the Wall Street Journal website!

    http://blogs.wsj.com/middleseat/

  • Jane

    Hey, why *can’t* I buy a second seat for my cat? I could buy a seat for my cello (if I had one). I could say that I am fat and buy two seats.

    As for allergies: being someone who has an allergy to tobacco smoke I can tell you that it’s quite a bad experience to be seated next to a heavy smoker. If a pet is properly contained in a carrier, there shouldn’t be more allergens coming from it (while stored under a seat) than is carried on the clothing of all the pet-owners in the plane. You will probably find many more instances of medical emergencies due to severe peanut allergies than pets carried-on.

  • http://www.bonjourparis.com Karen Fawcett

    Frank – thank you. I noticed. Gee, I hope the people at United didn’t.

    Jane – and this is a TRUE story. I flew the Concorde once and the seat next to me was occupied by a dog. He was large – large.

    So much for glamor. Happily, he didn’t like caviar and his owner let me eat Fido’s.

  • http://cheap-uk-internal-flights.co.cc Cami Bunton

    Isn’t this a repost of an older story?

  • http://www.bonjourparis.com Karen Fawcett

    Cami — not to my knowledge nor according to the search engine. Karen

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