“Bros should be around bros, not in the luggage."
November 13, 2019 6:14 PM   Subscribe

They said he was too fat to fly instead he would have to ride in the cargo hold along with the other luggage flying that day from Moscow to Vladivostok. Determined to let him ride in the cabin, his press secretary, Mikhail Galin, came up with an cunning plan:

Swap Viktor (the passenger in question) with a less heavy-boned cat for the Russian TSA equivalent weigh-in.

"My cat is not fat," Galin told Russian state television. "He just has heavy bones."
That didn't impress the officials at Aeroflot, who adhere to a strict combined limit of 8Kg for pet+carrier. Anything more and the animal and carrier must be treated like checked baggage.

The switcheroo left Aeroflot with egg on their faces, and they promptly erased Mr. Galin's 370,000 travel miles in retaliation once word of the caper spread on social media. Not only was he in violation of their policy on chonky bois, he also allowed Viktor to stretch his legs and look out the window on their flight, which is again in violation of the normally fun-loving Aeroflot policy directives.
posted by some loser (27 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't agree with the cat switching but I don't know what else the owner could do. If I had to put my cats in the cargo hold for a flight I'd look into driving but Moscow to Vladivostok would be a stupidly long drive.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:34 PM on November 13, 2019 [12 favorites]


8kg is a pretty reasonable weight restriction for cats, if you’re going to have restrictions, but as a previous housemate/mama to a 23lb “big boned” ex-feral (who hated flying SO MUCH OMG) I love Viktor and think he deserves all the window looking and treats he desires.
posted by zinful at 6:43 PM on November 13, 2019 [18 favorites]


Also chonky bois are way more likely to be 1) spoiled and 2) at risk for heart and lung complications, which are more likely to happen in plane cargo situations. So, really, there wasn’t anything else to do.
posted by zinful at 6:46 PM on November 13, 2019 [9 favorites]


When my spouse was moving down here from Toronto to Texas, it was always a given that their nine-pound cat Peter would be coming along too on the cabin flight. A few months before the scheduled trip, though, their roommate's cat Watson developed an anxious habit of gulping down his food and immediately vomiting if there was any possibility that he could empty the dry food bowl, and the vomiting was beginning to worry his owner as he lost weight and annoy everyone who preferred a vomit-free living environment. So the cats in the household went on a free-fed diet with one of those towers you fill completely with dry food stationed in the kitchen.

During this period, my partner would leave for work in the mornings to find Peter casually sprawled out with his head in the food bowl, idly chewing. When they returned, Peter would still be there, nibbling away. The weight limit for our flight for him was 20 lbs, carrier included, and the carrier came to about 5 lbs.

As the cat's waist began to balloon, my spouse started weighing him with a luggage scale with increasing worry and alarm: first he reached ten pounds, and then eleven, and then twelve. The weigh-ins began to increase in frequency, and attempts were made to separate the cats' feeding areas with limited success: once Peter knew the Tower of Glory existed in his house, no power could keep him out of the kitchen, and anyway there were only so many rooms in the cramped apartment. All the while, his weight kept steadily rising.

On the fateful day, Peter weighed in at fourteen pounds. He successfully put up with an hour-long train ride to the airport, carried himself through check-in with aplomb, and squeaked in under the weigh-in by the skin of his teeth. The flights were... difficult as it was (he soiled himself in terror during take-off on each of the two legs of the flight, poor fucker, and had to be hosed down in a family restroom at O'Hare in between), but we were incredibly glad that he made it through and got to ride in the cabin with us nevertheless. I really don't want to imagine what his flight would have been like in the cabin.

Upon arrival in Austin, Peter went on an unceremoniously restricted wet-only diet. Eventually we got him back down to a reasonable size again, but he still clearly dreams of the days of having a tower of joy on hand to consume at his own convenience.

No regrets.
posted by sciatrix at 6:58 PM on November 13, 2019 [50 favorites]


alternate title for this post was "The prince and the PawPurr"
posted by some loser at 7:01 PM on November 13, 2019 [5 favorites]


My dog is also named Peter and was also 9 pounds when I adopted him and has also grown to 12 lbs! But he was underweight before, and he’s a very good flier in his underseat bag, so the parallels end there.
posted by moonmilk at 7:05 PM on November 13, 2019 [5 favorites]


Maybe Aeroflot was afraid that the plane would do lööps?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:05 PM on November 13, 2019 [2 favorites]


sciatrix that story is amazing and i'm in love with Peter.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 7:37 PM on November 13, 2019 [3 favorites]


This is the first i have come across this term, "chonky bois," but I immediately understood and visualized a chonky boi. Thank you, MetaFilter.
posted by not_on_display at 7:43 PM on November 13, 2019 [11 favorites]


He's a very loveable cat. Aside from the pressure changes of takeoff (probably down to his chronic ear infection) he handled the whole thing with aplomb and was purring enthusiastically at me within half an hour of emerging from the bath he received immediately upon entering his new home. He likes walking on a lead in his own Spiderman-themed harness, thrives on chaos, and is personally responsible for teaching me how to understand and enjoy cats. (I grew up without them.)

He's a very good boy and I'm very glad he got to fly in the cabin with us and not in baggage.
posted by sciatrix at 7:47 PM on November 13, 2019 [7 favorites]


How on Earth did you manage to get a cat to wear a harness? Mine all completely lose the use of their legs the instant they feel the slightest restriction from a harness and meow pitifully until it's off.
posted by biogeo at 8:25 PM on November 13, 2019 [7 favorites]


Dostoevsky with cats.
posted by doctornemo at 9:00 PM on November 13, 2019


Six plus day rail trip would've been the alternative.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:09 PM on November 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


Mine all completely lose the use of their legs

Mine are the reverse. The second the harness is attached, they gain the power of wall-crawling. You can see how long the lead was in the perfect arc of cat claw gouges in the wallpaper from the terrible, no good, awful time we tried to see if we would be able to take the cats for a walk. (The claw marks go up the wall to an alarming height in our stairwell)
posted by Ghidorah at 9:12 PM on November 13, 2019 [11 favorites]


The key to harness is apparently getting them accustomed young. A cat in my family is only allowed in the garden on a leash and I swear that critter begs for the harness like a dog.

(European airlines seem to have the same restriction, which may be a bother if you're prone to letting your boys get big length-wise as well. My slimmer boy is 6.5 kg on his own. And considering LOT recently spectacularly lost a cargo-flying cat due to letting it out of its cage, I'm not about to let them fly as cargo. Train it is!)
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:27 PM on November 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


Good thing they didn’t try scanning the cat, at least.
posted by Segundus at 10:56 PM on November 13, 2019 [9 favorites]


"The switcheroo left Aeroflot with egg on their faces"

Folks at the gate who've seen it all a thousand times just shrugged and waved them through, but then he of course had to boast about it.
posted by hat_eater at 12:17 AM on November 14, 2019 [10 favorites]


If I had to put my cats in the cargo hold for a flight...

When I moved from the US to Germany, my company paid for the flight so I was able to take business class. But pets are not allowed in business class, so my cat had to ride in the cargo hold. I am not about to give up business class on an international flight to sit with my cat who is going to literally meow at me the entire flight. Fuck that. Ride in the bottom and meow instead. (My vet also provided some calming medication so that he would be chill for at least the first part of the flight. Testing the medication the week before at home was hilarious. My cat was so high!!)

How on Earth did you manage to get a cat to wear a harness? Mine all completely lose the use of their legs the instant they feel the slightest restriction from a harness and meow pitifully until it's off.

My cat knows that it doesnt go outside without a leash/harness so when I pull that leash out he goes nuts. Loves it. And is totally cool walking around with the leash. I give him alot of slack so he feels free. Also, it should be noted that he's the one walking me, not the other way around.
posted by LizBoBiz at 12:57 AM on November 14, 2019 [1 favorite]


the cat does not look that fat. how are airline staff eyeballing cat weights?
posted by usr2047 at 4:53 AM on November 14, 2019


Cats Can't Fly (In Japan Russia)
posted by acb at 5:48 AM on November 14, 2019


This is the first i have come across this term, "chonky bois," but I immediately understood and visualized a chonky boi.

For your visual reference : The Chonk Chart
posted by happyroach at 7:11 AM on November 14, 2019 [10 favorites]


sciatrix, IAAVet and I'm totally stealing the phrase Tower of Joy...those things are responsible for the making of many chonkboi and should come with a pack-of-cigarettes-style warning.
posted by SinAesthetic at 11:48 AM on November 14, 2019 [6 favorites]


How on Earth did you manage to get a cat to wear a harness? Mine all completely lose the use of their legs the instant they feel the slightest restriction from a harness and meow pitifully until it's off.

Peter actually came to us totally cool with harnesses. He is not cool with being enclosed in small spaces and will, if kept in a kennel, eventually start attacking the bars in frustration (which nearly axed his chances of being adopted in the first place), but he is otherwise a more or less unflappable cat. We have an arrangement: he has to sit in the carrier when going to the vet until we're away from parking lots or cars, and then he's allowed to walk around and sniff things on lead. He often sits and cheeps at the door to ask to go for walks when we take the dog out.

That being said, we've since conditioned three other cats to wear harnesses, and as with everything else... well, it's about carefully observing what specifically is aversive, aiming for the window of "making headway but not totally overwhelming and traumatizing the animal", and pairing the harness with fun things. Generally, I'll put the harness loosely on the cat (just tight enough to not be easily escaped), wait about ten seconds, and offer something the cat finds rewarding: high-value food a few feet away, or a toy the cat loves, something like that. Whatever it is, to get it the cat needs to move a few feet. (If the cat is not interested in whatever it is, you need to either find a new reward the cat does want that badly or else dial the level of the aversive thing--here the harness--way the hell down. Maybe you just put the harness out on the floor and put snacks next to it; maybe you loosen it; maybe you do a bunch of things.)

And then I just sit and wait until the cat accustoms itself to the harness and gets the awesome payoff. If I have time, I might repeat the "you have to walk or eel to a treat while wearing the harness" thing a couple of other times. Eventually, the drama dies down and the cat learns to associate the harness with walking towards fun things, and you can start going outside slowly.

Cats fascinate me compared to the dogs I grew up with because their flight tolerance is so low compared to dogs. If you push a dog past its comfort zone completely, the dog is likely to either get reactive and start barking and lunging at something or else to shut down and freeze in place. Dogs do flee, but it tends not to be as easy to trigger flight. By contrast, mostly with cats I've been observing that it's really easy to overwhelm a cat to the point of panicked flight--they're a lot more sensitive to "pressure" that way. The less physical restraint I use on my most spooky cat, the better when it comes to getting her to accept new things. What you want to do when accustoming the cat to weird physical stuff is be mildly annoying and then follow up with rewards like contact or petting or play that the cat genuinely enjoys, ideally while the annoying thing is happening.

Of course, the payoff for all of these fascinating observations is that I get to be the person in the house responsible for bathing all cats, most nail care, and all medical care for the cat who has a tendency to dig her nails in and barrel roll when pilled but who is also possessed of massive allergies and ear infections. I also get to be responsible for nail care for the exceedingly dramatic dog, who refuses to look at her toes as I trim the nails. It's not ideal, but it's better than having to fight the animal into basic grooming and medical care.
posted by sciatrix at 2:00 PM on November 14, 2019 [4 favorites]


Interesting. I have given a ton of thought to pet travel, as I will likely have to move overseas in the next couple of years for work and am already worrying about how to handle my kitty. Our cat is an okay car traveler (no idea how she'd handle a plane) and seems to adjust quickly, but HATES carriers so not exactly looking forward to the flying bit.

And considering LOT recently spectacularly lost a cargo-flying cat due to letting it out of its cage, I'm not about to let them fly as cargo.

Yeah this is precisely why I'll never let my cat fly down below. The same thing happened at my home airport (Dulles) - a poor cat somehow got loose on the way to baggage claim while the owner was moving back from Germany, last I heard the airport was still trying to find it. Too many horror stories. Not to mention the insane cost, if they end up having to fly as manifest cargo.

But pets are not allowed in business class, so my cat had to ride in the cargo hold.

FWIW I know none of the US carriers do it, but some foreign carriers will actually allow them up front - note photos in the original post are in business. Besides Aeroflot, I'm pretty sure Lufthansa and Swiss (and maybe Brussels?) will allow it so long as you're not in a bulkhead row. Flip side is all those carriers have the same weight restrictions, so no good if you have a big-boned kitty.
posted by photo guy at 3:57 PM on November 14, 2019 [1 favorite]


Update: Rule-breakers will be punished. Aeroflot has removed Galin from its frequent-flyer program...

The voice in this update is very weird to me. Is the paper stating that rulebreakers will be punished? A statement from aeroflot that should have been in quotes?
posted by ominous_paws at 10:34 PM on November 14, 2019


Photo guy: there are services for this. As part of my moving from the US to Germany, the company paid for pet transport. The company I believe loads the animal directly onto the plane or waits with them in the animal area of the airport until it is loaded on the plane. I don't know how much the cost is, but that might be something to look into if you're worried. It saved me a ton of worry about him being in cargo.
posted by LizBoBiz at 2:59 AM on November 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


LizBoBiz - good to know, thanks. I have coworkers who went this route, but I know the cost can vary significantly depending on weight and destination. I've heard of people paying anywhere from a few hundred for accompanied baggage (pet flies in belly of your plane, same flight, you pick up at baggage claim), all the way up to $5000-$10000 for manifest cargo (pet is flown space-available, usually on a different flight/routing, and must be pick up at the cargo terminal which is usually a separate part of the airport). The really high costs come in to play for more complicated imports (Australia, UK, etc) - I'm purposely avoiding places like that though.

My employer doesn't pay for pet transportation unfortunately, but I might consider a service anyway if I can't bring her in-cabin for some reason. One less headache to deal with...
posted by photo guy at 10:08 AM on November 15, 2019


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