Thursday, October 31, 2013

No Pets on board!

I didn't know that flying a pet to another city would be a cause of so much stress and mess. I don't know if this is the case just in India, or in other countries as well.
I want to take Loki to Bangalore, in the beginning I thought it would be simple enough, till I started reading up and talking to people.
Firstly the only airlines that allow pets are Jet airways and Air India. So that definitely narrowed down the options.

I have never been a big fan of Air India, I think they are the worst ever domestic carrier. The staff is rude and mean looking and the food is stale. So anyway, this wasn't about me, it was about Loki. I called up this organisation called Furry Flyers (they apparently help transporting pets internationally), and this is what they told me. I don't know how accurate and authentic this information is, but they seemed to be the only organisation of this kind with a decent reputation.
So to fly a pet in the luggage compartment of a carrier, I was told to make sure its a Boeing and not an Airbus. So apparently, if I book a ticket on Air India, they will inform me just a few hours before the flight takes off, if it's a Boeing or an Airbus! So if it happens to be an Airbus, I can't obviously take the flight and I'm left stranded. So Air India was definitely out.

Coming to Jet. I thought I would to their customer care, to know how to go about the bookings. Not only is getting through to their customer care through the IVR system a pain, but the guys in the call center are seriously ignorant. The guy I spoke to, told me that he couldn't help me, and I need to speak to someone in reservations with regards to flying pets. As usual he couldn't transfer the call, so I had to hang up and call customer care again and go through the entire IVR process to reach the reservation. So I enquire what needs to be done, extra charges blah blah about flying the dog, and he said he couldn't help me and I needed to speak to someone in cargo department, and of course he was unable to transfer the call, so I'm back again trying to reach jetcargo.

When I got through, this guy tells me, madam, please.... you have called Cargo, you need to speak to someone in reservations. They also told me that carrying a pet as baggage would entail an extra charge which worked out to some 15,000rs, according to Loki's weight. He also said they will provide the crate. Jet's website clearly states that they charge a flat fee of 5000rs, for carrying a pet. He said this information was wrong. This was when I lost it. I told him I needed to speak to someone in charge. So he gave me the number of the duty manager.

The Duty manager rubbished all the previous information. He told me that the airline does not provide the crate,  and that I should call up customer care for booking with pets. So I had come full circle. Customer care- reservations- jet cargo- duty manager- everyone not really giving me any useful information.

So, I was still ok with the situation, about everything so far. I'll buy the crate, I'll pay the extra 15000 if need be.

Now comes the next task, of buying the crate. According to airline rules, only certain kind of crate is allowed. These are called IATA approved crates. They are not your regular steel cages, but are made of fiber glass. I measured Loki, and he was around 35inches lengthwise. So I need a crate which is around 38- 40 inches at least.
I start calling various pet shops and even Furry Flyers. I was shocked to hear that a 'giant size' crate that would accommodate Loki, will cost me anywhere around 30,000 rs. While the large size crates (around 32 inches in length) cost about 13000, the giant size are not available in India, hence imported and expensive. After making several more calls and going through websites, I couldn't even find a place from where I could rent or hire a crate for a few days, quite surprising for a big city like Mumbai.

So far, 30,000+ 15,000= 45,000rs for a 1.5 hr flight to Bangalore.

Flight options completely ruled out by now, I started looking at options by road. Called up Avis, Meru, Easycabs, and a bunch of other taxi operators. Again the same answer 'Sorry, no pets allowed'.
I did manage to find an agency that transports pets within cities in India. They quoted a big fat figure of 35,000Rs.

Finally I have decided to take my own car. It's a Swift, it's going to be a bit uncomfortable for us, since neither me or the driver have driven long distances before. We are planning to halt at Belgaum for the night, at least in that way the three of us will have a much needed break. It's a fourteen hour journey. To my relief, when I googled, I found a couple of resorts that allowed pets, and they looked quite nice. Fingers crossed we are looking forward to a good road trip, and reaching Bangalore safe and happy!