Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Airlines Almost Killed Me

Finally, after weeks of holding in my emotions while embarking on  my journey to Madrid, I collapsed onto my hotel bed and sobbed. I stared at the ceiling and let it all out.

It all started about 10 days prior, in my hometown. I had mapped out the steps to fly my cat over to Spain. I did my research, consulted with British Airways Cargo and the veterinarians, and scheduled my appointments early. I did them all without a car - save for the cat appointment where my friend was kind enough to drive us there, because the carrier was too large to lug onto the metro. All other appointments took an hour or more to travel to.

Just when I thought all of the paperwork had been taken care of, I received an email the day before my flight: the vet at Heathrow airport claimed the certificate I'd sent was an outdated format. But when I compared London's version to the Canadian agency's version, it was almost exactly the same. I sent an email explaining that the flight was the next day; could they accept the version I'd already sent? Meantime, I made an emergency trip to the vet with London's certificates, begging him to fill it out.

Why was I sent an email so late? I had informed B.A. Cargo that I did not have internet readily accessible, and had provided my phone number. They failed to phone me and used email instead. For the entire day I was on pins and needles, praying Heathrow would accept the old certificates. Which they did, at the 11th hour. Thank goodness.

The next day I headed to B.A. Cargo to process the cat's paperwork. The inspector looked at my cat and his carrier, and remarked, "That container is too small. Did you read the regulations I sent you?" I replied that I had before buying the carrier, and pointed out that I had personally seen my cat stand up and turn around in it pefectly fine. Luckily he accepted my statement.

Unluckily, the bill for my cat turned out to be $700. I was floored. But I paid it, and my cat was put in the cargo hold while I boarded the plane above him. We set off for Heathrow.

A day after arriving in Madrid, I took a cab to Iberia cargo. I naively assumed it would take only a few minutes. Thank goodness my cabbie offered to help me with translation, because it ended up being a journey: back and forth between three buildings, security checks, and paper stamping. Plus the usual Spanish breaks, where we had to wait until the administration returned. Meantime, the cabbie's meter was running. With all the stress I felt and rapid Spanish involved, I was willing to pay anything to have him help me. Unfortunately, it involved having to tolerate his "touchiness". 

Let me say this about myself: although Canada can be physically a "colder" country than parts of Europe, I am fairly liberal. I'm okay with kisses on the cheek, hugs, a lingering touch. But Mr. Octopus cab driver was too touchy. And I know this because my instinct told me, because I was still thinking about it hours later. He kept stroking my cheek, saying I was beautiful, putting his arm around me. I would shut him down and break away, but I also had to tolerate his crap because I was beyond stressed and needed his assistance.

Finally, when it came time to pick up the cat, I was shocked to see him come out in a HUGE carrier. It was literally big enough to house a pitbull, and the top of it came to my waist. Apparently Heathrow decided my original carrier was too small, which I still disagree with. 
Come on.
The new carrier was so big that when I was lugging it to my hotel room, it blocked the entire width of the hallway. A guy that couldn't pass me was kind enough to carry it to my door. The cat and I went in, I let him out of the cage, lay on the bed, and cried. I felt incredibly guilty for putting him through the journey, and I felt relief that probably the worst of it was over.

You have to be a really tough person to be able to fly your pet. Knowing what I know now, I probably would have tried harder to find someone to adopt him while I was away. Thank goodness we're safe and can continue settling in our new country.


  1. Glad you made it safely to Spain. Sounds like a pretty horrendous experience (and expensive too)with the cat, but I'm sure the cat will be a great companion and comfort in the days ahead. I so want to go to Spain again. So jealous!

  2. Bringing the little guy has definitely put quite a spin on things, having to start a new life here!