Last updated: 12:26 PM ET, Sun April 12 2015

Report: Latest Lost Animal Highlights Issues With Flying Pets Commercial

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | April 12, 2015

Report: Latest Lost Animal Highlights Issues With Flying Pets Commercial

Photo courtesy of The National

A young couple was flying Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi to JFK Airport in New York on April 1 after spending three-and-a-half years in the United Arab Emirates city. They decided to transport their cat, Felix, in a carrier, in the cargo hold.

But at the end of the flight, instead of a safely transported cat, Jennifer Stewart, a yoga teacher from the US, and her husband, Joe Naaman got a smashed carrier, a missing family pet, and a lot of questions, according to The National.

“A manager escorted us to his office and told us there was an issue, Stewart told The National. “To give us the peace of mind that Felix wasn’t dead or injured, he showed us a picture on his cell phone of Felix’s carrier. It was covered in mesh nylon ropes so it was hard to see exactly where it was cracked. It was also strapped to an old wooden pallet.”

Etihad Airways said the cage did not crack during the flight, but was damaged while it was being transported from the plane to JFK’s cargo area.

Stewart, who payed an extra $1,200 to transport her pet, offered to search for her cat, but that was forbidden due to security rules. Sniffer dog and volunteers were deployed to look for Felix, but the cat was not found.

An Etihad spokesman said the airline carries more than 200 animals each year and that “it is extremely rare for an incident like this to happen.”

“We deeply regret this unfortunate incident and are keeping the owner apprised of the progress of the search,” the spokesman continued. “We will review our pet handling procedures in the wake of this incident, as the safety and care of pets travelling with Etihad Airways is a top priority.”

Stewart has reach out for support from Where Is Jack?, a U.S. non-profit that advocates for better pet air travel policies. Founder Mary Beth Melchior asserted, “we need to recognize that pets are more like children, and the airlines need to rethink how they’re doing this. I think pet parents need to be able to be in charge of their pets throughout the whole flight, just as we expect human parents to take care of their kids through their whole flight.”

Left with a smashed, empty pet carrier, Stewart said. “It’s really sad and appalling how these animals are treated — worse than luggage.” 


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