Flying with service animal

Flying with a service dog

Friday, February 6th, 2009 | Random Stuff | 1 Comment

Today’s post is by a guest author, Dana Montero. Dana is known as the Dog Food Guru, and also is a big part of Karma Charms and Big Dog’s Porch.

Dana’s constant companion is Karma, her Olde English Mastiff and Service Dog. They are both preparing to travel from Spain to Chicago in March for the Pet Expo. Here is Dana’s post, reprinted with permission, regarding their trip LAST March and preparation for this year’s flight. I hope we’ll have a follow up after this year’s Expo. And I hope the experience is better.

And here we go again – Flying with a Service Dog

Last year, I called the airlines 2 months in advance to alert them that I was traveling with a Service Dog and would like to claim bulkhead seating. Since my flight was American Airlines, but operated by Iberia, I had to call Iberia first, who told me to call American, so I did, they told me to call Iberia and so on went that game. Finally at some point I get them to confirm that there is a note on my reservation that I am flying with a service animal. All good no?

No.

I get to the airport to find out she was only confirmed on the second leg of my flight, not the first… and had to stand there for over an hour at the check-in counter while the girl tried to tell me that Karma couldn’t fly, then she went away and came back and said that she COULD fly but I had to pay for in-cabin pet at 10€ a kg…so would have been over 800€ for Karma then after I explained that it’s illegal to charge me for Karma to fly, she went away again and came back and waved us through.

Awesome, we get upgraded to first class for that leg of the flight because they assumed incorrectly that Karma wouldn’t fit in economy class seating. Eh, it was a free upgrade, so who cares?

Then we get to Madrid for the second leg of our flight…I’m picked up by a special shuttle (how thoughtful) but as they were helping us into the van…. they kept telling me to lift my leg higher or I would miss the step… I said “I can see it just fine thanks”… apparently in Málaga they noted on my reservation that I was BLIND. Once in the main airport, there is no leaving until takeoff, which means nowhere to take Karma potty before our 11 hour flight across the pond. I complained about this, and they instructed me to have Karma crap on the floor and they would clean it up. Yeah um… my dog is housebroken, won’t pee on the floor, not happening, but thanks anyway.

The rest of the flight was uneventful until we landed in Chicago, where we had to pass through Customs. I got this Russian guy (no offense to any Russians here) who asked me point blank what the dog was doing on the plane, what it was for, because I don’t LOOK disabled. I kindly inform him that I decline to answer that question as it is against ADA law to ask me that. I inform him that she is a Service Dog, and I am her disabled handler, and he asks again “what’s wrong with you.” I again decline to answer and he tells me that he can deny my entry to the country. I said “I’m a US citizen… you can’t deny me entry to my own country! What are you going to do, deport me? To where? I’M ALREADY HERE!”

That apparently irked him because he told me that he needed a supervisor to clear the dog for entry and to wait over by this wall. Then he proceeded to “forget” to call for his supervisor for over 45 minutes.

Return home was awesome, no problems checking in, no problems on any flight on the way home and for the record, Brussels Air ROCKS! We love them and are thrilled to fly with them again this time.

All that said, and forgive me for the lengthy post…. here we go again. I call Iberia, they say call American, I call American, they say “What do you mean by Service Dog? You mean Guide Dog?” so I say “Yeah ok” just to hurry this crap along…. and then they tell me I have to call back between 2-6 in the afternoon to speak with Special Medical Services and have them handle the notation… ugh.

I’m hoping this time around, since our entry point in the US is in Miami, that there won’t be any problem clearing Customs with Karma, because it would possibly make me miss my connecting flight, as I only have a 2 hour layover.

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