Today, I saw a news report on CNN International about a Delta flight making an emergency landing in Colorado Springs because of an engine problem. Lucky enough, only a couple of people were injured during the evacuation, which was instituted because of hot brakes. I’m sure you are as shocked as I am that one of the old NWA 753 birds almost lost it in-flight. Like anyone else might, I went to Google News to get a little more information. Sadly, I was taken in a different direction.
Delta has lost yet another dog this year. Some of you may remember the earlier loss of Paco in Mexico City, which caused somewhat of an outrage when Delta offered a fairly low sum of compensation. In this case, Delta was perceived to have made a less-than-strenuous effort to recover the dog. This time, a soldier and his wife, who were being relocated from San Diego to Frankfurt, had their German Shepherd lost in Atlanta. The wife’s story was provided to the Consumerist, but in short, she allowed them to switch her “agitated” dog into a larger kennel in Atlanta and send her out the next day.
While I wouldn’t have let Delta go anywhere near opening my dog’s cage, don’t think for a minute that I absolve them for their actions with this dog. While no one on the outside knows what really happened here, it is hard to believe that a negligent Delta agent is not at fault. Sadly, it took over a week to get press coverage for this incident – and it may have gotten no ink at all, had the one of the owners not been an American hero. I grew up in Atlanta, and while many of you may not know about the environment surrounding the airport, I do – and I fear the worst for this dog, not to mention the one in Mexico City. Despite popular belief, I do have a conscience, and I have a pit in my stomach about Nala.
With all of this in mind, I strongly encourage you to forfeit all cargo-style travel of your pets whenever possible, on all airlines. Travelling with a smaller pet in the cabin is obviously excluded from my recommendation. I realize that in some situations, like a trans-oceanic move, you may have no other choice but to put your pet in the belly of the plane. If this is the case, split up your journey in a way that allows you to reclaim your pet between legs, even if it forces an overnight. On a similar note, please microchip your pets, and ensure that they have identifying tags on them at all times.
Many years ago, I took my dog Ginger, the love of my life, with me everywhere. I joked that she needed Platinum status, too – that maybe she could get upgraded from the back of cargo to the front. On a flight from San Francisco to Atlanta, I sat next to a beyond-attractive young woman who was moving to Sanford, Florida to attend Delta Connection Academy (now Aerosim Flight Academy). She and I hit it off, and she told me that she used to work the ramp for Northwest. At the same time, the purser handed me a slip letting me know that Ginger had been boarded safely. The girl sitting next to me strongly suggested, in the most polite way possible, that I stop flying with Ginger. She said that when she worked the ramp, agents would sometimes let dogs out of their crates and let them run around. I didn’t think much of it at the time, chalking it up to the exaggeration of a young girl. Years later, when Ginger was diagnosed with a non-symptomatic heart problem at a routine checkup, I voluntarily embargoed her from flying. As it turns out, my decision came not a moment too soon.