Man’s Brilliant Plan To Fly With Overweight Cat Backfires

Filed Under: Misc.

As an animal lover I sort of love this story… I think? Essentially a man had all of his frequent flyer miles taken away because of an elaborate scheme he concocted to get his overweight cat on a plane.

So, what happened? 34 year old Mikhail Galin was trying to fly from Riga to Vladivostok (via Moscow) with his cat, Viktor.

He flew from Riga to Moscow with his cat in a carrier in the cabin without issue. The problem arose when it came time to fly from Moscow to Vladivostok. His cat was weighed, and it was determined that he was over the maximum weight limit for cabin pets, as Viktor weighs 10kg. Only pets weighing up to 8kg can fly in the cabin, while heavier pets need to fly in the cargo hold.

As I’m sure many animal lovers can relate to, we don’t want our four legged family members in the cargo hold. Mikhail wasn’t prepared to have Viktor fly in the cargo hold, so he devised a plan — he rebooked for travel the next day from Moscow to Vladivostok.

The next day he borrowed someone else’s cat for the check-in process, so that the cat could be weighed, and everything would be okay. Then he swapped cats, returned the other cat to the owner, and Viktor could fly with his dad to Vladivostok. It worked… yay!

Mikhail had been sharing his cat escapades on Facebook. So after making it to Vladivostok he cheerfully shared the update that Viktor was able to fly in the cabin, and he explained the cat swap operation he had undertaken.

Unfortunately Aeroflot was made aware of this as the post went viral. They reviewed the video footage in which they saw the swap, and he ended up having all of his Aeroflot miles taken away.

Aeroflot explained that they had “taken the decision to take this passenger out of its frequent flyer programme. All of the miles collected during his time in the programme will be annulled.”

I’m happy Viktor had a nice journey for the long flight to Eastern Russia, though this might be his last one like this, unfortunately.

Bottom Line

Obviously this guy was ultimately in the wrong, and I also get that they have to set some limits (though it makes me sad that Viktor would have to be checked). However, it seems unfair that they essentially wanted him to check Viktor half way through the journey.

What do you make of this story — yay Mikhail and boo Aeroflot, or boo Mikhail and yay Aeroflot?

Comments
  1. Yaaaaaay Mikhail!!!

    Alone the creative process of him changing his flights so he had time to look for a skinny doppelgänger cat (where did he find the other cat? I need that info!) deserves accolades.

    Now, Mikhail could have surely found a cleverer way of telling his escapades without revealing his true identity. But I guess the story was just too juicy for him to sleep on.

    This story warmed my heart. And that pic of Viktor staring at that glass of sparkling wine deserves a caption!

  2. Why do some people feel the need to share everything on social media? If he’d just kept quiet he would have been fine.

  3. I think there should always be some leniency in circumstances such as this, especially because a) passengers often travel with carry on luggage in excess of 15kg (I cannot recall a time I have ever had to check a cabin bag) unless the 8kg rule is simply due to the airline believing the cat is too large to comfortably travel in the cabin? And b) the first leg of the trip was completed successfully, and presumably without any issue from the previous crew / passengers. Revoking all of his miles and banning him from their frequent flyer program does seem like a harsh reaction imo.

  4. Yeah, not sure why he thought this was a great idea to share since clearly against the rules. Still, I think that only enforcing the rules halfway through the trip is insane – they should have let it slide. And taking away the points under the circumstances is asking for trouble. Clearly it wasn’t that big of a deal, and going for the points literally seems like someone sitting at their desk with nothing better to do than “how can we punish them” rather than “how could we improve or employee awareness/rules/etc. to prevent something like this in the future”. Add this to the list of grubby airlines I will not be flying by choice anytime in the near future.

  5. I’m going to say more “boo, Aeroflot” (with a little “yay, Viktor!” too.)

    I don’t understand why there would be an arbitrary weight limit on pets in the cabin – as long as the pet is safe and comfortable in a carrier that meets the size standard, why should the weight matter?

  6. His trick was good, but he’s an idiot for posting it on social media to brag about how he got one over on Aeroflot. What did he expect would happen?

  7. I think the part of the story being underplayed is Aeroflot removing all his frequent flyer miles.

    Miles are a currency, and if airlines act like banana republics in confiscating miles and closing accounts for reasons other than T&C breaches in obtaining those miles, it should reflect very badly on the airline.

    If they wanted to, they could ban him from flying on their airline, and allow him to continue redeeming on partners for, for example…

  8. First the Russians steal our election now they steal people’s miles. Taking someone’s earned miles is the same as stealing cash. If they wanted to ban him from their crappy airline fine. But earned miles have value and stealing them is wrong. I’d boycott Aeroflot but I’d never have set foot on their planes in the first place.

  9. Why the heck is it a problem to have an animal in the hold where it belongs I’m confused?
    I don’t want animals in the cabin with me, regardless of their weight. They are drooling creatures that haven’t showered this morning. And to think people petting animals while they eat are often the same freaks that Lysol their seats during boarding…
    Plus I thought animals only were allowed for people with actual needs (e.g. seeing eye) or deranged, self-centered individuals who pretend to be in need to impose their animals on the rest of us? But in this case the article doesn’t reference the no doubt serious mental issues the cat is supposed to help alleviate while in the air?

  10. @Mark
    “First the Russians steal our election now they steal people’s miles.”

    Funniest comment in the history of OMAAT? 🙂

  11. Am I the only one who isn’t applauding this douchebag? I love my cats and would hate to have them in cargo, but don’t fly them then. This guy thinks he’s above the rules when others follow them fine. Everyone thinks they’re a special case; they’re not. That entitlement, ugh. Sorry, but he got what he deserved.

  12. @Seriously Because animals regularly die in the cargo holds. It happens a lot in the US; my guess would be that Aeroflot in far eastern Russia might not even be that good. I wouldn’t ever put a pet in the cargo hold if there was some other option.

  13. response to Seriously says: animals can die in the hold, which is probably why people are reluctant to do this. Also, stories abound about pets who have escaped, while being transported as “cargo”. Also I didn’t see any reference to this being an emotional support animal, as no such claim was made. It was in a carrier and not running loose. In response to drooling creatures, I don’t think cats in general drool. You may not be an animal lover, which is fine, but I have seen filthy, stinky, unshowered people on planes as well.

  14. The general rule is 8kgs on most airlines. The cat has to fit safely and comfortably under the seat. He should not even be removing it , cute as it may be. As is usual there is also more to it than we are aware of. How did he manage to find a cat in Moscow. Phone a friend ? Ultimately it’s fraud as he attempted to deceive the airline , just as people try to scam airlines with their emotional pet BS
    @ seriously most domestic cats are very clean

  15. He got what he deserved : you don’t fraud and then brag about it,
    what an idiot, that’s a cretin squared !

    Aeroflot do not really care about this particular individual, they meant to send a message system wide that no one try to beat the system. The blog has healthily contributed to that 😉
    An airline is entirely entitled to ban unrespectful clients.

    And nothing of this matters to the cat. Pretty sure it didn’t like the flight either way.

  16. It’s a cat, for heaven’s sake, not some piece of inanimate hand luggage. Aeroflot should have showed a bit more consideration and humanity. Boo them.

  17. I was once at the Alaska Boardroom (now Alaska Lounge) at Seatac and saw a lady with a cat in a carrier come in. She sat down, took out a little box, filled it with kitty litter and let the cat out to do its business. Needless to say I asked the front desk if this was kosher.

  18. Most of comments on the Russian media are “aw poor kitty boo Aeroflot”.
    To me, it’s just ridiculous. The owner deliberately broke the rules several times and was “smart” enough to share it online. I’m glad the cat is okay in the end, but the owner 100% deserves what happened, and Aeroflot was right in its decision. After all, if Aeroflot let that slide, people, being their entitled selves, would have started arguing in airports that 1 or 2 kg over the luggage limit is fine, since Aeroflot was apparently okay with the cat being over the weight limit. And, at the end of the day, it’s just cheating the airline with his cabin luggage because he felt entitled to do so and boasting about it later. Boo all the way.

  19. As someone who owns an enormous 19 pound Siamese Mix Tomcat, I feel that if the cat fits in a carrier under the seat, it should fly in the cabin. My cat Bruno doesn’t fly but if there was some compelling reason he needed to be transported, I’d be rather ticked off that ESAs are allowed with few restrictions and my cat who is less than 1 kilo over the limit gets sent to the hold. I’d definitely consider getting him registered as an ESA if it came to that.

  20. Absolutely f&£King ridiculous airline!!
    They wouldn’t let the cat fly in the cabin because of two kilos?! What’s the difference between travelling with a pet or children?!

  21. I weigh about 160 lbs. I have a cat who weighs more than 20 lbs so the cat has to go in the hold. But the big fat guy who weighs 250 lbs and has a 10 lb cat is okay.

  22. Perhaps EVA Air will match the miles lost and enrol Viktor into their programme. Shall I say “Hello Kitty” welcomes you!

  23. @Aztec +1. Exactly. Obese people are allowed infringe on the space of other passengers but a cat in a carrier under the seat, bothering no one has to be compliant with an arbitrary weight restriction.

  24. 1. He wasn’t smart by posting. 2. Airlines break the rules all the time. 3. We are not talking about a 50 kg dog or super oversized bag. We are talking about a live animal that had already started the journey and done fine. Being flexible by 2 kg should have been a problem.

    Lastly Russia is still our enemy so don’t applaud that airline

  25. Any owner that allows their cat (other than a Maine Coon) to eat enough to weigh 20+ pounds is a nutjob and shouldn’t be allowed to own any pets.

  26. As a vet, do you know that animals get incredibly stressed when travelling especially to places that they have never been to. I always pay to put mine in a pet hotel whenever I travel to ensure that they are well taken care of. I never fly with them as that’s cruel towards the animal, not to mention inconveniencing others.

  27. Mikhail would probably have gotten away with it if his Facebook post settings weren’t open to public visibility. Millennials!!!

  28. As the partner of someone with severe allergies to cats, dogs and birds, I don’t think any animals should be allowed in the cabin. I’m with @Seriously – its also very unhygienic.

  29. What an idiot. Too many people do stupid things to post on Instagram all for a like or a share. I’m glad he lost his points.

  30. All I can say is this… his cat arrived home ALIVE. I don’t trust cargo holds when it comes to family members. Too many bad things happen. So here list his status whatever, his lovely chunk is home with him. I have a cat that size too. 🙂

  31. He’s foolish not just for acting dishonestly with the “cat switch” but also for posting it on social media. However, even more at fault is the airline for lack of consistency in it’s decisions. They made a decision to allow the cat in the cabin on the first plane so that ought to have applied for the entire return journey.

  32. Dear Seriously,

    thank you for the great contribution.

    You get my 100 % agree for that: “They are drooling creatures that haven’t showered this morning. And to think people petting animals while they eat are often the same freaks that Lysol their seats during boarding…”

    Just would like to add that this is the worsest king of “Do you know who I am” behavior when a passenger wants to have a not well smelling animal with him.

    Even if it is within the “8 kg rule” it is very demanding.

    Just think about the following incidents: The smell of the fur and the bad habit of cats to mark their territory with urine.

    These behavior is annoying for *all* passengers and may cause serious health issues for perople with allergies.

    So the best way not to be a burden for fellow passengers is to put pets in cargo (PETC). Every airline is happy to accommodate pets in such a human-friendly way.

    And by the way: Just have checked some German websites. Even companies making their living with cat products are admitting that people smell in seconds if a flat is used by cats or not 🙂

    So my conlusion is: If someone is a cat fool he should have such an animal at his farm or a rural environment.

    No place for them squeezed in public transportation. Is definitely able to ruin the experience of dozens of passengers.

    My personal advice: Choose airlines who are not transporting pets in cabin. They are showing their human-friendliness by that. Or reroute through a country (UK comes in mind) where PETC are strictly forbidden.

  33. @ Mark: Yeah, Aeroflot isn’t a “crappy airline.” If you haven’t flown them, then don’t bash them. I’d much rather fly Aeroflot than ANY US-based airline.

    @Tom: Enemy? Russia isn’t our enemy. Adversary, yes, but not enemy. And before you try to argue, just keep in mind I’m an American who lives in Russia AND is highly educated in international relations…….

    As for the idiot who cheated the system, I applaud Aeroflot for sticking to the rules. As an Aeroflot Bonus member myself, I follow the rules and thus never have problems. However, in Russia, people tend to feel VERY entitled, especially those flying business class or who have a general high status. Funnily enough, the only problems I ever have are with imbecilic Delta employees at Atlanta airport insisting my Skyteam Elite Plus status earned through Aeroflot isn’t valid while travelling on Delta because “Aeroflot doesn’t fly to Atlanta…,” or they “have never heard of Aeroflot”.

  34. The thought of that animal carrier somehow coming loose on the aircraft at 39,000ft is scary. The last thing you need is that scared feline darting around under the seats and scaring the living daylights out of those scared of cats. Yes I am one of those but it is getting better that I could actually make it through this post lol

  35. @gerd I’m not sure what international flights you’ve been on but I’d take the worst smelling cat any day over half the smelly passengers. I’ve had to walk off flights before because there was no way I could sit 8-10 hours next to the BO coming from the guy next to me. And I’m not even remotely polite about it. Bath before you fly people!

  36. All jokes aside here the issue boils down to does the punishment for the crime and does the contract of carriage wording support this action. If not it’s capricious an arbitrary. It was an extra 2 kg of cat. Seriously. How many people have tried to game the system over a little extra luggage? Do the rules say you lose all the miles your loyalty has built up. I’m looking at the bigger issue here and forget about the cat for a moment. I focus over $25k of revenue to one world every year. And the balance to star alliance. I use Co branded credit cards to maximize my points earnings and status. I use hotels and car rentals based on the extra points I’ll get. Because these points have huge value. In my case I probably earn more than $10k in free premium flights and upgrades. I’ve earned that. I’m entitled to that. To remove that without due process is wrong. Especially over and extra 2 kg of carry on luggage.

    I fly international almost weekly. Do you know how many times I have to put up with and airline not honoring what they’ve promised?!? I think Aeroflot over reacted

  37. You break rule (law), you take responsibility. Simple.

    I know nowadays people don’t honor rule/law. If you don’t like the rule/law, change it. In this case, whoever support this guy, if your family is hurt by rule breaker, do not cry.

  38. So what’s Aeroflot’s limit on dawgs? Miniature horses? Sadly I can’t remember seeing an on-board dawg as small as that cat.

    It seems a drastic penalty to strip him of all his points. If he had a large number they will probably lose a valued customer. If not, then, ho hum.

    To the dawg owners who regularly bring 50 lb ‘comfort’ pets onboard and expect me to let them share my space please be advised ‘we are not amused’.

  39. Definitely yay Mikhail!

    We have two cats – Lily & Yukiko.
    Lily is as large as a dog but not as large as the lovely cat here. I wouldn’t deceive the airline, but I certainly wouldn’t be putting them in the hold either.

    Either we all go, or none of us go.
    Train. Here we come! 😀

  40. @Ben: “ As an animal lover”
    You sure seem to be eating a lot of animals, for someone who says they love them

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