It’s good to be big on American Airlines — if you’re Giant George

by Charlie Leocha on February 26, 2010


After a series of stories about the travails of oversized passengers and baggage fees, now I have a story about an oversized dog sent to me by one of our contributors, Karen Cummings. (Where does she come up with these things?) She notes that Giant George, the world’s tallest dog, was treated like a king on his way to the Oprah Show. Of course he (or Oprah) purchased more than one seat (even though it is not American’s policy to force oversized passengers to purchase an additional seat).

It all started when Giant George was selected by the Guinness World Records as the “Tallest living dog” and the Oprah Show decided that they just had to have Giant George on their program.

‘We then began coordinating the logistics of transporting a 43ins and 17.3 stone (242.2 lbs.) dog to Chicago.

‘After much deliberation and discussion, American Airlines offered to fly Giant George to Chicago.

‘He would not fit in a first-class row, so he got three of his own seats at the bulk-head…This meant that Giant George would be in the fuselage, like a regular passenger.

Oprah introduced Giant George as, “taller than Shaquille O’Neal, weighs more than Peyton Manning and eats 110 pounds of food every month.”

After a morning of Senate hearings, a good dog story was a welcome relief and begged some questions. So, I contacted Tim Smith, a spokesperson for American Airlines.

He immediately responded with a witty comment:

I saw you had called about the large dog we transported recently. While we certainly considered him our guest, his multiple seats were fully paid for by a well-known television program where he was to be a guest on-air.

I can’t discuss the financial details of someone else’s ticket – dog or human – but we were certainly compensated for the space used by the dog. I’m also told he was an excellent passenger and was quite courteous with our staff.

I asked Tim whether AA’s dog rules would allow him to fly as a pet.
He is a dog, but almost the size of a horse. Do dogs get the same treatment as luggage and have a weight cut-off? Can anyone pay for multiple seats for their pet, or was this a special case?

Tim’s response:

No, regular pet travel fees did not apply here. We occasionally allow “celebrity” pets to travel in the cabin under different rules. We used to transport the dog from Frasier quite often, for example, and we have handled other celebrity animals from time to time over the years.

They are not covered by standard pet travel fees. But as noted, these seats were paid for.

So in the interest of making this a legitimate consumer column, Tim did point me to American Airlines’ regular pet rules and regulations for United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Obviously, Giant George wouldn’t fit into an approved pet carrier and qualify for the $100 cabin fare. However, according to Tim Smith, for $150, Big George would be welcome to fly as a checked pet in the temperature-controlled, pressurized belly of the aircraft. AA makes no differentiation between big dogs and little dogs. They all fly for $150 in the belly of the plane.

It is a good thing that AA has not begun to unbundle fees for dogs. If he was treated as a piece of checked baggage, he couldn’t fly because he weighs too much and is far too large.

Other than exceptions for certain special items, no article will be accepted as baggage if it weighs more than 100 pounds or has a total out side linear dimension (length plus width plus height) of more than 115 inches. Additional restrictions apply to some American Eagle flights. Further information is available at any American ticket office.

Yes, it’s obviously good to be the big dog rather than the big bag on American Airlines.

I think Clifford the Big Red Dog must have said that. Being a big celebrity, he would probably get at least a row to himself. Then again, “as big as a house” may make him too big even for a dog-friendly airlines like American.

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  • http://www.tripso.com/author/leocha Charlie Leocha

    Just got a post from the AA employee Website (I’ve added a photo that they sent to the main post above):

    Some Furry Travelers Fly American

    245 Pound Dog Gets Five Star Customer Experience in Coach

    Tucson resident George the Blue Great Dane flew round-trip on American as he traveled to his star appearance on the Oprah Winfrey TV show last week. George was recently named the Tallest Living Dog and Tallest Dog Ever by the Guinness Book of World Records. He stands 43 inches tall from shoulder to paw pads.

    George and his owners, Dave and Christie Nasser, were met on the curb and rested in the AA VIP Room in ORD, enjoying bottled water until it was time to board their evening flight. “George likes the crinkling sound that water bottles make,” said Nasser. They enjoyed the bulkhead row of coach with three seats booked for George and one each for Dave and Christie. “George took a familiarization walk through a Super 80 prior to the trip to be sure he would be okay and that he would fit. He couldn’t fit in First Class,” said Nasser.

    “Everyone at American has been great,” said Nasser. “This is George’s first airplane trip since he was a puppy. George likes to be with people. He posed for pictures, looked out the window and napped comfortably during the flights.”

  • vicki

    Very cool story. Do airlines normally allow pets in the cabin area, if you pay for the ticket(s) for them? Just curious.

  • MaryAnn

    Very interesting.  I noticed his trip on the airline.  I have a 56 lb English Springer Spaniel and have wondered how I would get her from Northern VA to the NW. It’s too far to drive and  At 13 years old I don’t Think Winnie would do well in the pressurized baggage area. She’s a sweet, well-behaved girl, but her only claim to fame is that she is a katrina rescue. 

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