By Carolyn Miller, Guest Writer
I'm a former travel agent, so I know the value of reconfirming reservations. For 8 years now, I've traveled with my 11 lbs. dog as an in-cabin pet between Central America, where I currently live, and the USA.
One year we decided to fly American Airlines to the USA with a plane change in Miami. I made the reservations by telephone for my husband and myself, as well as an in-cabin pet. The agent assured me our reservations were in order and the pet reservation was cross-referenced with our reservation. Since I'd booked far in advance, we ended up having a few schedule changes. Each time I called American Airlines, I verified the in-cabin pet traveling with us, using the confirmation number I'd been given.
Imagine my shock upon departure. I was flatly told that in-cabin pets were not allowed. Prior to travel, I'd spoken to no less than 6 American Airlines agents and was able to produce a log of whom I'd spoken to, at what date and what time. I'd reconfirmed all flights and the in-cabin pet the previous day. The gate agent was adamant we could not travel with an in-cabin pet. We spoke to a supervisor who said they'd be willing to send our dog in a "free crate" in cargo.
Living in a tropical country means that there is an "embargo" on travel with pets during the hottest months of the year, exactly when we were traveling. No way was I putting our small dog in cargo under these or any circumstances, especially when the Miami destination was equally as hot. I pointed this out to the supervisor ... who said he would make an "exception" in our case! This was not acceptable.
I suggested they just rebook us on the Continental flight connection leaving about the same time. He didn't want to do that. Given that the supervisor had my log of names and calls and confirmation numbers in hand, he could only agree that I'd been given bad information. Ultimately, he got special permission from the pilot of the plane to allow us to fly with our in-cabin pet.
But that is not the end of the story. I spent the month in the USA trying to rebook our return to Central America with American because again, they were adamant that the in-cabin pet could not fly this route. I spoke with supervisors in Dallas, I wrote letters and sent my documentation. In the end, American Airlines booked a Continental flight for the last leg of travel. This meant we flew American Airlines from our departure city to Miami and then changed to Continental Airlines to fly to Central America. This necessitated two in-cabin pet charges, one for each airline, and a re-booking fee. Keep in mind that NONE of this was our fault and we ended up paying more than $200 additional on the return flight.
No less than 6 American Airlines agents had confirmed our in-cabin pet and round trip reservations and yet we were terribly inconvenienced and incurred extra expense on something not at all our fault. Subsequent letters to the American Airlines headquarters in Dallas were answered by form letter.
The moral of the story is to reconfirm all flights, take the names of the agents you speak to, and be sure you have that information with you at the gate. If not, you could be turned away as almost happened to us. Despite the inconvenience and extra expense, at least our small dog was spared going in cargo.