Did this traveler really abandon his dog “curbside” at the airport?

Did this guy abandon his dog at the airport?

Aron Szekely’s complaint stunned our advocates — but not in the way he had hoped. When American Airlines refused to allow his faithful companion on a flight to Japan, did this military man simply abandon his dog at the airport?

We certainly hoped not — but Szekely’s email stated that American Airlines had forced him to do just that.

Szekely’s case is a reminder that there are complicated rules and restrictions for international travel with animals — and the check-in counter is not the place to familiarize yourself with these requirements.

Left behind

“I showed up to the airport on the day of travel to Tokyo with my family,” he says. “Apparently, the flight was ten minutes too long and my dog could not fly. I had to abandon my pet curbside. I had no choice being military and being on official orders — I had to leave.”

Szekely spent the next two months writing letters to American Airlines asking for a full refund of each of his family member’s tickets.

The rationale for this refund was unclear — his family flew to Japan using those tickets. But our team was more concerned about what had happened to his dog.

In Szekely’s paper trail with American Airlines, he repeatedly told the airline that his dog had been left “curbside.”

Did he abandon his dog at the airport

I had a pitiful vision of a dejected little dog being left all alone at the airport as he watched his best friend walk away — leaving him to fend for himself (cue the heart-breaking music).

Could someone really do that?

Before we could go any further with this case, we asked Szekely if he had simply abandoned his dog at the airport.

Thankfully he had not.

Szekely explained to us that he had called a friend who was able to come and get “Fido.”

Szekely did not give American Airlines the same clarification in any of his ongoing complaints. And, unfortunately, the approach he took with the airline would never be advisable. He filled his letters to American with demands and threats of legal action — although no actual damages were indicated.

Since I cannot get a response from anyone and the fact that my dog having to be left curbside because of your airline’s neglect — I have submitted my story to both San Diego and Los Angeles news. Because I am military I have no control over who I fly with. I have engaged with AA customer service since then and still nothing. What could replace a pet?

Again I am offering a resolution in the way of a full refund of all four tickets as compensation for leaving my pet behind. If your intention is still not to reimburse me then please respond with a negative so I can file.

Where is this abandoned dog now?

Although this email implied that he no longer had his dog, he assured us that he had been able to find an alternative way to transport his dog to Japan at a later date. Solesky was able to send his dog via a shipping company that specializes in pet transport.

But why did American Airlines refuse to allow the dog on the family’s flight to Japan?

To find out, we went to the American Airlines Traveling with Pets page. There, we quickly discovered all the information that Szekely needed prior to heading to the airport.

Although you can travel with a checked pet from Japan to Los Angeles, pets are not allowed as checked baggage to Japan. According to USDA restrictions, animals should be offered water every 12 hours, so for travel with a checked pet to Los Angeles, you must book a flight less than 12 hours. This includes the time it takes you to check your pet and clear customs at your destination city.

When we showed this page to Szekely he told us that he was sure that information wasn’t there in August.

A misunderstood gesture of goodwill

American told him that this information had been available on its website, but as a gesture of goodwill, the airline offered each of his family members a travel voucher of $200.

What American offered to try to smooth out any hard feelings only seemed to fuel Szekely’s belief that he had a case that he could bring to court.

When our advocate asked him if the government had paid for his tickets to Japan, he said it had. It was then that he acknowledged that he was requesting a refund for something he had not paid for.

Yes, the government funded this trip so perhaps asking for a refund for the government’s purchase seems wrong. I just didn’t know how else to ask for the compensation I thought I was due.

Escalating the problem

Despite all of these facts, Szekely told us that he would be escalating his case.

I feel like the last step I have would be to go to a lawyer. Military members shouldn’t  have to go through this. Already, I have contacted the military to offer my experience. I will be reaching out to see if they will stop purchasing tickets through AA for members going overseas. I know for a fact that had I flown with United there would have been no issue.

But is that true?

Animal transport policies on other airlines

I went to the United website and found that Szekely would have encountered the same problem on that airline.

Although United has a military-friendly policy for traveling with pets, it is not possible to bring dogs into Japan as checked baggage. This information is listed on the United website.

And in case you are wondering, Delta also has a policy that would have prevented Szekely from traveling to Tokyo with his dog.

On its website, Delta notes that:

Effective, October 1, 2016, Delta and Delta Cargo will no longer accept warm blooded animals on flights with an average flight time of greater than 12 hours.

Since it is not currently possible to fly from the continental United States to Japan in less than 12 hours, Delta would also not have been a valid option for Szekely.

How to transport a dog around the world

So how can a person get his/her dog to Japan?

A specialized pet transportation service such as the one United offers called Petsafe can get your pet virtually anywhere in the world. United requires Advanced reservations. Additionally, United charges rather hefty fees, depending on the size of the animal and destination. That fee is significantly more than the $200 Szekely had originally hoped to spend to get his dog to Japan.

We are always sorry to hear about such travel fiascos. The good news is that Szekely’s dog is now safe and sound with his family. Unfortunately, the facts of the case are not on Szekely’s side, and it ends in the Case Dismissed folder. But we thank this military man for his service.

Does American Airlines owe Szekely any compensation for rejecting his dog?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by G1G.com

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.