It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Delta Airlines : The Dog Experience

You all know that we are dog lovers.  We've got Archie the Lab whom we adore, and you can pretty much bank on us patting and talking to any dog we meet.  Even the dog that I'm about to write about would have gotten a pat from me if I wasn't so concerned that my hands might veer away from it and fasten around the throat of its owner.  Here goes ...

As we were in the long line to check in at Zurich for our Delta flight to JFK, we were behind a three women with a small white dog (I'm thinking it was a Bichon) in a brand spanking new Burberry dog carrier.  I don't think the dog was terribly old and it was barking constantly throughout the whole check-in procedure.  It was also panting and appeared to be frightened.  I remember thinking "I don't think that dog's ever been in a carrier before", and said to my hubby as we walked away that I would be surprised if the dog made it to wherever it was going in one piece.

We found out where it was going after we'd boarded our flight.  It was going to JFK, and it was sitting directly behind us.  Of course.

It barked pretty much non-stop for the entire eight hour flight.  High pitched squeaking barks.  Distressed barks.  This kicked off before we'd even pushed back from the gate.  Everyone was complaining to the flight attendants and nothing was done.  Apparently they tried to have the dog offloaded before push-back, but the ground staff refused to take it.

One of the FAs said that the lady had to stop the dog barking, and the lady gave it a tranquilliser which had totally the opposite effect - it made it even more hyper.  And the barking continued.  And continued.

I went up to the galley after about two hours and asked what on earth was going on.  Understandably, Delta doesn't fly live animal cargo through June, July and August as it just gets too hot in the hold, and if your animal meets the weight guidelines, it can fly with you in the cabin instead.  This dog was the right size and weight, but had obviously never been in a dog carrier before and the staff were out of options.

Eventually, after death stares from the entire plane, the woman lifted the dog out of the carrier and put it on her lap to try and calm it, which kind of worked.  The dog didn't bark nearly as much as when it was in the carrier, but then the FAs told her that for safety reasons the dog had to go back into the carrier.  Which started the barking anew.

Wearing earplugs made absolutely no difference, and by the time we landed at JFK I had a searing headache and my whole body was taut with nerves.  We couldn't get out of the plane fast enough and basically sprinted to Customs to get away from the dog.  But then the dog arrived in Customs, we could hear it coming down the hallway, barking its head off.  And it barked for the hour that it was in the line at Customs.

So, basically, it was the flight from hell on a grotty old plane full of stressed people with a yelping dog less than a metre from my head.

If you're thinking of travelling with your animal, and it will require crating/staying in a carrier, please practice at home first.  Don't think your dog will be thrilled with being wedged in a cute little designer box for 8 hours if it's never done it before.  Dogs are fabulous and very accommodating, but I'm guessing that dog was frightened and distressed.

When we had to relocate Archie from Detroit to Germany, we did as much homework as we could so that he wouldn't be distressed.  He'd been crate trained since he was a puppy, as we knew that we would have to fly him at some point when we relocated.  I went to the vet (multiple times) to make sure he was healthy enough to cope and asked about tranquillisers, to which the vet said it can go one of several ways - your dog goes to sleep, your dog goes hyper, your dog dies.  We chose not to risk it, and as Archie was so used to the crate, he wasn't bothered at all - he just went to sleep, and then arrived perfectly happily.

So, think about your dogs welfare and do as much pre-work as you can before flying it anywhere.  And SERIOUSLY think about the welfare of every other paying passenger on a long haul flight.  Please.  Pretty please.


  1. That is insane!!! Poor travellers....and poor dog. I'm hoping next time the owner gets to go in the middle of JULY! Maybe then a lesson will be learned.


    1. It really was a special kind of hell for all concerned. x


Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment!