Monday, November 29, 2010

Travelling with a cat/dog/pet on a transatlantic flight

Asn most of my readers know or have guessed we moved out of Egypt awhile ago. We travelled with our cat whom we adopted in Egypt. So I am often asked by my friends about the requirementsfor flying with pets.Here is a short synopsis.

In the last year and a half, I've made 2 trips with our cat, one was from Cairo to Dubai and then from Dubai to India.

Everyone (vets, online travel sites, professional agenices that help with animal relocations) I checked with, heavily recommended that she not be sedated. I think it would have been better if I had sedated myself on the first trip, I was a nervous wreck until I had her back in my arms! Comparatively on her 2nd flight, I wasn't worried at all, because she came off perfectly fine at the end of the first trip.

My cat hates being in a moving vehicle. She is a Turkish Angora, large (5+kilos) and stubborn. But she adapts very easily. So how a cat reacts to the travel and new location is very personality dependent.

Most airlines will not allow you to carry a snub nosed cat, because of air pressure, they do not allow certain breeds. Persians are one such breed that are not allowed (it could be different for Europe and America, but Middle East and Indian subcontinent airlines don't allow snub nosed cats or dogs)

Some airlines will allow you to carry pets as hand luggage (but you have to get prior permission) We had to put her as accompanied pet and in the luggage section on both flights. Emirates airlines has a seperate section for pets on board their aircraft, but they go in as cargo. UAE insists that pets come in as cargo, no matter which Emirate you land in (their vets are stationed at the cargo village and all pets have to come into UAE as cargo except throughbred falcons)

If your pet has to go in as cargo from Egypt, then you will have to go to the cargo village near the Cairo airport. Talk to them at least 10 days before travel. They will tell you all the paperwork they need from their side. A little baksheesh in the right hands will smoothen the process considerably.

How much money? I'm not too sure. My husbands office sent the guy in charge of handling government agencies with me and he spoke fluent Arabic and paid whatever was needed. An Emirates airline pilot friend spoke to the Emirates cargo chief in UAE who called the Emirates cargo head in Egypt to smoothen things and he kept calling the guy until we were all safely on board. (International wasta works too :) ) so we didnt have to pay the Emirates cargo guys in Egypt anything.

You also have to check what are the requirements at your port of arrival. And keep those papers ready too. Its different for each country.

When we travelled out of Egypt, they just wanted a bill of health and her vaccine card at the Egypt airport cargo village and the permission slip from the UAE that would allow her entry there. Getting the permission slip from the UAE was a whole other nightmare, including her blood being sent to Germany for checking if the rabies vaccine administered in Egypt was genuine and had enough antibodies.

Basically you need to
1. Have your cats vaccinations and medication up-to-date
2. Check online for requirements at port of arrival. - get those papers ready
3. Talk to people at the cargo village or the airline you are flying for their requirements

Get all these papers in order.

 In the end, everything at the Egypt end can be "managed"! Worry mainly about the destination requirements.

When I flew from Cairo to Dubai. Our cat had to travel as cargo (UAE reqt). Egypt Cargo wanted her there 5 hours before departure (becuase their doctor also had to examine her and other requirements) We had to pick her up at the cargo village in Dubai, a couple of hours after the flight landed (they gave us a call when she was ready - doctors check etc)

When I flew from Dubai to India, we carried her with us as luggage to the regular check-in area and someone took her from us at the check-in counter and carried her to the loading area. In India, we asked an attendant at the baggage carousel, who went outside and brought her in and gave her to us at the baggage section.

I knew a lady in Egypt who regularly carried her 2 tiny dogs (chihuahua size) as hand luggage when she travelled to Europe and back. The dogs had European passports and she used to fly business class.
So its very country and airline dependant. Check how it works in the country you are travelling to.

We asked the flight stewards to check that she had been loaded on both flights as we were on the same flight. They have a method of doing it, if you ask them before they shut the airline doors. It was a huge relief to us to know she had been loaded and the flight was less stressful after that.

When I flew Dubai to Delhi. I just took her with us 2 hours before departure to the regular check-in in Dubai. If you have to do this in Cairo, you may want to drape a shawl/stole over her cage. The noise and smells can stress your cat/dog out.

Egyptians being Egyptians wanted to stick their fingers into my cats cage and touch her at the cargo village (she's long haired and pure white) that really stressed her out. If you have a dog, I don't think you have to worry much. My friend who flew out with her 2 german shepherds from Cairo called it the parting of the red sea phenomenon when she took her dogs into the airport :)

So relax, but check for your destination reqts. Autralia, Europe (except Switzerland) and the Middle East are quite tough.
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