Hit A Snag Traveling With Your Four-Legged Friend? A Pet Parent Shares Her Ordeal...

Having booked their tickets with a private airline, they reached the airport four hours in advance. However, they could not avail of the flight as the airline could not accommodate the furry friend.
Shatarupa Choudhury shares her recent ordeal trying to avail a flight with her pet, a cute little Shih Tzu
Shatarupa Choudhury shares her recent ordeal trying to avail a flight with her pet, a cute little Shih Tzu
Soumyadeep Das

Traveling with a beloved pet can be an enriching experience, deepening the bond between you and your furry companion while creating lasting memories. However, amidst the excitement, the challenges of pet travel become increasingly apparent. From navigating transportation systems to finding pet-friendly accommodations, pet owners in India face a unique set of hurdles when traveling with their beloved animals.

One of the foremost challenges of traveling with pets in India lies in transportation logistics. Social media or various news articles highlight the struggles of pet owners where public transportation options for pets are limited. Many pet owners expressed frustration over the lack of pet-friendly facilities on buses and trains, citing difficulties in finding alternative modes of transportation that accommodate their "children". This highlights the need for improved infrastructure and services to cater to the growing demand for pet-friendly travel options in urban centers across India.

Even though many initiatives have been taken regarding the issue, the facilities are very limited, Most airlines that allow pets do not always allow you to select whether they travel with you in the cabin (if they are small enough) or as checked luggage or cargo. Many airlines are restricting in-cabin pet travel unless you have a legitimate assistance dog.

Indian Railways allows the pets to be accompanied only in class AC compartments and due charges are applicable. Two or four berths must be booked as per the requirements. If fellow passengers object, the pet animals will be transferred to the brake van. To carry in a luggage van, the prior booking has to be made in the railway parcel office. It is the responsibility of the owner to give food and water to dogs and other pet animals or birds that are carried in the luggage van or along with the passenger.

However, opting for airways to travel with pets often poses another hurdle altogether. As recently brought to the fore by Shatarupa Choudhury, a proud member of the pet owners club, an ordeal that left her stranded at Delhi Airport. Having booked their tickets with a private airline, they reached the airport four hours in advance, owing to the hassles involved in processing their pet dog 'Bunnu'.

However, at the airport, they were in for an unpleasant surprise. Another pet owner, who had reached the airport before them, had managed to secure their passage to carry their 'kitten' in the cabin, while Choudhury was asked to accommodate Bunnu in the cargo. Unwilling to allow her companion to go through a stressful journey all on its own in the aircraft's cargo, something that can even be a dangerous prospect for the cute little Shih Tzu, she refused the option. She also posted a video on the incident on Instagram which has garnered considerable support. Here it is:

Opening up about the incident, Shatarupa said, "Yesterday was a tragic day. Being a frequent flyer with Air India, we have been flying with our furbaby Bunnu for two years now. We have taken him to Assam, Goa, Kashmir and Kerala. It would have been Bunnu’s 9th flight to Assam however we were forced to miss the flight."

"We had reached the airport four hours before the departure time, and another pet parent was also in the queue. The problem was that the pet handling counter had a long queue of passengers who were late to check-in, and despite we reached earlier they were prioritized. The pet counter was not open for pet-related services, rather they were managing late passengers. No one else had any clue what needed to be done. They were also not ready to have a conversation with both the pet parents to advise on further course of action."

"We just waited beside the counter with a pet, a two-year-old Shih Tzu, who was as well more than well-behaved) for over two hours with all our luggage. Even though we had booked the last seat, because another pet parent came a tad bit early, they were allowed to board the flight. We are not unhappy that they were allowed to board, and neither did we object to the decision instead we were respectful enough to the decision taken following the rules."

"However, the problem arose with what next. The airline's FAQ mentions two pets are allowed in an aircraft. In such a situation the procedure should be defined. We lost the fare value even though; we were on time at the Airport. The Airport staff was not ready to give a concession to the next day’s flight. Now we will have to wait for a few days before we book a flight. We usually get upgraded to business class however in the case of Delhi to Guwahati flights, the business class option is no longer there. We have shared multiple posts on Instagram and X thanking Air India, but feel sad to write."

"We request airlines to please work on SOPs, and provide prior confirmation for pets in the cabin so at least we do not have to bear the stress. We have lost the fare money, at least getting a seat in the next available flight would have been an amicable outcome," said Shatarupa.

Accommodation restrictions present another significant challenge for pet owners traveling in India. While the concept of pet-friendly hotels and rental properties is gaining traction in urban centers, finding suitable accommodations in smaller towns or rural areas can be a challenge. A recent survey conducted by PetBacker, as reported by The Hindu, revealed that only a small percentage of hotels in popular tourist destinations like Goa and Jaipur are pet-friendly. This underscores the need for greater awareness and advocacy to encourage more establishments to welcome pets and accommodate their needs.

Moreover, traveling with pets promotes responsible pet ownership and fosters a greater sense of inclusion and acceptance within society. In conclusion, while traveling with pets in India may present its share of challenges, finding an amicable solution to the problem is not too difficult a task.

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