I never thought I would do “Flying With Pets In India” in the blog. But if you follow me on Instagram, you know my cats, Chai and Lassi, are integral parts of my life. I hadn’t seen my grandparents in over two years because I did not know how to travel with my cats for the longest. Flying with pets in India is a huge task, and most airlines don’t take them. And the few that do carry pets on hold took down their service due to COVID19.
Before I begin, thank you, Aafreen and Aziz, for guiding my lost soul repeatedly.
For starters, there are three ways you can travel with your pets.
A. Via Road – You can use your vehicle, and there are services like pet taxis, and charges aren’t convenient.
B. Via Rail – You have to book a First Class AC or put them in your luggage. You can keep your pet with you. However, your pet goes into the luggage compartment should someone complain that the responsibility to feed is on you. You should take a look at this article.
C. Via Air – Now, this was my choice of travel. Usually, SpiceJet allows pets in the hold, but due to Corona, they shut that service down. Leaving me with only Air India. Air India has a clear policy, although I wish the website were more precise. The customer support helped, but only halfway.
Anyway, you can walk right into the airport with your pet. Make sure to carry a valid vaccination report and a Fit To Fly certificate from your vet. Make sure it is not older than 10days. You’re lucky if your pet is 5kgs or under 5kgs with its carrier. You can take it in the cabin with yourself. You and your pet will sit in the last row. If your pet is flying in the cabin, ensure that your carrier meets the requirements. If they’re going in the hold, you can carry a carrier comfortable for them. Something spacious enough for them to move in. Look for IATA approved carriers. I will explain my journey below.
How was my experience with Air India’s Pet service?
I had to fly from Mumbai to Guwahati. Unfortunately, there was no direct flight for me, and I had to do a layover in Delhi. I took the early 10:00 am flight and reached the airport by 6:00 am. Since it was my first time flying, I wanted to ensure I had enough time on my hand. The security did not stop me, and they let me right in. I then proceeded to the Air India counter and alerted them that I was travelling with two cats. They asked me to wait while they cleared it with the Duty Manager.
First, they checked the weight of my cat. Both were 7kgs with their carrier. So they were put on hold. They checked their vaccination and fit to fly certificates, asked me to pay the extra baggage fee, and sign a declaration form. Now here’s the shitty bit. I had to pay double the amount since I was on a connecting flight. So I paid 600/kg per cat from Mumbai to Delhi and again from Delhi to Guwahati. It was the exact amount that I paid for my tickets.
This does not confirm the next leg’s status, though, and that depends on the Pilot again.
Once all that was settled, we had to wait for the Pilot’s confirmation. Which usually comes 45 min – to 1 hour before boarding. Thankfully it was easy in leg 1 (Mum-Del), and I had to go with my pets to get their carriers screened. Once that was done, the staff took my boys while I went ahead and checked myself in.
After landing, I had two staff members of Air India waiting for me. They took me to where my boys were; another staff accompanied them. I picked them up, and then the team guided me to the arrival gate again. I had to do the whole process again. We cleared it with the Pilot in Delhi; I accompanied them for screening. Fed them food and water, changed their mats. The staff took them while I checked myself in again.
Finally touched Guwahati. Nobody waited for us here; I had to make my way around, asking every staff I could lay my eyes on. My cats came in the conveyer belt this time around, and I picked them up and walked straight out. My cats are anxious about the journey, but they are fine and handled well.
My thoughts on flying with pets in India
Flying With Pets In India wasn’t as difficult as I thought. I am grateful that I could travel with the cats, but Air India should make a few changes. For starters, nobody pays twice for extra baggage. If you’re treating the pets in the hold as extra baggage, then charge once like you would with standard excess baggage. Air India should revisit their weight category. My cats could have quickly gone into the cabin, and the 5kgs limitation is very restrictive.
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