He just wanted to fly with his two cats and dog. What happened?

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By Christopher Elliott

What happened to Aaron Misakian’s flight from Seattle to Philadelphia? More to the point, what happened to the two cats and a dog scheduled to fly with Misakian that day?

American Airlines would prefer I not ask questions like these, but I have no such qualms. The answer: Airlines don’t always take your pets, even when they should and even when you think they will. It’s a hard but necessary lesson.

The airline tried to make up for leaving Misakian’s pets stranded in Seattle. Scroll down to tell me if it observed American Airlines pet policy and did enough for him.

A tale of two cats — and a dog

Misakian was moving across the country and says he took every step he could to ensure his beloved animal companions could fly with him.

“I called and confirmed everything with the agents beforehand,” he says.

But when he checked in, an American Airlines agent had some bad news for his fur babies.

“The agents told me the airplane I was flying on wasn’t equipped to handle pets in cargo despite the agents on the phone reassuring me it was,” he says. “They told me I couldn’t fly and that my conversation with these agents didn’t exist. I was alone in the middle of the airport with two cats, a puppy, and three huge bags.”

American’s solution? It would send him to Philadelphia the next day on another American flight. It didn’t offer him a hotel room, instead offering him a cot at the airport.

AirAdvisor is a claims management company. We fight for air passenger rights in cases of flight disruptions all over the world. Our mission is to ensure that air passengers are fairly compensated for the inconvenience and frustration caused by delays, cancellations, or overbooking.

I’m sure the pets were unhappy with this arrangements. I know he was.

American Airlines pet policy

A review of American Airlines pet policy shows what happened. Travelers are allowed to check “up to” two pets. But the Airbus 321, the type of aircraft on which he was flying, can’t accept pets in the cargo area at all.

American Airlines shouldn’t have told him he could fly with his pets on his scheduled flight. Instead, it should have booked him on an aircraft type that could handle both his cats and the puppy.

I find it mind-boggling that an airline would force its customer to research this kind of information and fact-check what its employees are telling him. I mean, if an American Airlines employee tells me my pets can fly, shouldn’t I believe them?

On the other hand, it’s understandable that airlines are being extra careful with pets after United’s puppy-in-the-overhead-bin debacle. American should exercise caution, but leaving a customer to sleep on the airport floor while he waits for a new flight is inexcusable. (Related: Pet policy spat reveals fliers’ distrust of airlines.)

The resolution

Misakian flew to Philadelphia the next day without incident. A little sore, perhaps, from sleeping at the airport — but at least he didn’t have to leave his animals behind. My advocacy team contacted American on his behalf, and it agreed to refund all of the miles he’d used to fly across the country.

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot to mention — Misakian is a loyal AAdvantage member. And I know what you’re thinking: If this is how American treats its best customers, I wonder what it would do with the rest of us? Good question.

So we’re left with this: Did American Airlines follow its pet policy? Did it do enough for this passenger and his pets? Or should it have done a little more to make up for the crossed wires and a night spent in a terminal?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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