Well, we did it. We finally flew with our dogs in-cabin…and it was horrible. You can read Part I (pre-trip) and in this post I’ll break down the actual flying experience for you.
AirBerlin’s Check-In Process
We were on a total of four flights (two originating and two connecting). On both connecting flights, there was no process, we just boarded the plane with the dogs. On the check-in flights, we did have to go through a procedure, but it was different each time. The first time, the agent glanced at the dogs, asked the see their EU Pet Passports and that was it! No weighing, no measuring. On the return flight, we were asked to put the dogs on the scale. The were not in their carriers at the time, so we put them right on the scale and then set the carriers down with them. Both dogs passed the weight test with flying colors. This time we were not asked for their passports and the carrier was again not measured.
Murphey in his carrier
Security at the Airport
Both times we went through security we had to take the dogs through the metal detector with us, and put their carriers on the x-ray machine. Of course their leashes have metal on it, so the first time the security person just held the dogs while we walked through, but the second time they had us remove their leashes and hold them as we walked through. No problems here.
AirBerlin on the Plane
Once we were on the flight, we had interactions with the airplane personnel. Again, they varied. On one flight, the flight attendant sought us out and gave us the rules (keep the dog in the carrier, under the seat). On two flights no one came by or even seemed to notice our dogs. On the fourth flight I saw the flight attendants specifically check to see if our dogs were all the way under the seat, but they said nothing.
We did have a problem of one of our dogs freaking out (more on this later). I had read that you can hold the dog (in the carrier) on your lap after take off, that they just had to be under the seat during take off and landing, so I put her on my lap once we reached cruising altitude. However, I was reprimanded by the flight attendant who asked me to keep her under the seat at all times.
Overall, AirBerlin was easy to deal with, and we had no trouble with them in this regard. My dogs, on the other hand, were another story…
The Dogs and Their Carriers
One of my dogs, Murphey, is sweet tempered and obedient. He was, unsurprisingly, fine during the flight with only a little restlessness (our flights were 2.5 hours long with a lay over in between). However, my other dog, Tessa, is a bit psycho. She was an absolute terror during the flight.
On the first leg, she thrashed about, hyperventilated, and then did the worst thing she could do- she broke through her carrier. I had noted some construction issues with the carrier we bought, and it proved to be a problem. She easily busted the zipper and escaped mid flight. I had to literally fold myself over and physically hold her bag closed the entire flight. It was terrible.
When we landed after an hour for our layover, I scoured the airport for something to fix her bag with. We found some luggage straps, twist ties and string and came up with this number:
Airport Repair Attempt on a Broken Trixie Dog Carrier
It held OK for the next flight, but she was still freaking out and my nerves were absolutely shot. I was very anxious for the return flight home, so I spent quite a bit of time in Florence tracking down a vet for some sedatives, which I successfully obtained. I normally wouldn’t have tried sedatives, but I was worried that she would do more damage to herself freaking out (like give herself a heart attack) than the possible side-effects of the sedatives.
On the return flight, we dosed Tessa and she seemed to be very chill. This might work! I though. NOPE. She was even crazier this time! On the first leg she started biting her bag like crazy- and successfully bit a (small) hole in it!
Hole in the carrier
On the second leg, she once again broke out of her bag, and got the loop that attaches to the zipper wrapped tightly around her neck. I couldn’t take it anymore and I pulled her out of the bag, put her on my lap and covered her with my jacket. I had to lay on top of her to hide her and, once again, spent the entire flight folded over her, my back burning, my nerves frayed, and praying for the plane to land soon.
Dangerous loop and shoddy velcro closure
To add the cherry on top, we were so anxious to get her off the plane, that I left both my iPhone and iPad in the seat back pocket, and they have been missing ever since.
I learned a few things from this- first our bag choice was poor. I do NOT recommend the Trixie Josh- the construction flaw of the one velcro-ed end allowed her to break through, and the zipper was shoddy as well which she also managed to break.
Secondly, we didn’t train our dogs in the new carrier- as they are already kennel trained, I didn’t think it necessary. Now I wish I had!
Finally, if you have a psycho dog like I do, you might want to consider a hard case. The worst thing that can happen is your dog escaping- trust me, you do not want to deal with that!
After the flight, I swore I would never fly with them in-cabin again. Cargo for us! I declared. But, I must admit I am already devising a way to create a hard case for her (stay tuned for details) and try again. But you can be sure I will train her in it first!!