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The Fat Cat Who Ate 400,000 Airline Miles

The Fat Cat Who Ate 400,000 Airline Miles
Jackie Reddy

Cat lover Mikhail Galin went to great lengths to fly his adorable but overweight cat on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Vladivostock last week. 

To make sure that his cat Viktor could fly in the cabin with him, Mikhail got a pet passport and paid the Aeroflot fees and prepared his cat for travel even though Aeroflot’s 8kg (17lb) in-cabin pet weight limit is clearly stated on their Pets & Animals page. But, who hasn’t gotten away with an over-stuffed carry-on or two during their travels? At least, that was probably Galin’s reasoning. And, he got away with it too.

On the first leg of his flight, from Riga to Latvia, Viktor made it on the plane and under the seat and rode with Galin. But, when Galin went to check in on the second leg of his flight, “Roulette of the queue directed us to the most responsible employee of the airport, who with a measuring tape measured all baggage measurements (the first time in my 300+ flights), several times placed each bag on the scales and announced that the cat will also be weighed.”

Viktor was found to be 10kg, 2kg over the weight limit. Galin would have to fly Viktor in the cargo hold if he wanted to continue his journey. Galin says that he tried to explain why his cat couldn’t fly in the hold, a trip which would “be in her nightmares for the rest of her life,” but in the end decided not to fly and keep his cat with him.

How to Get Viktor to Vladivostock?

Determined to get Viktor on the plane despite his size, Galin came up with a plan: “find a similar cat of a lower weight.” And, thanks to help from a friend, he found a mini-Viktor nearby. Her name was Pheobe, she looked like Viktor but she was much smaller.

So Galin booked a flight for the next day (business class, which was all that was available, thank goodness he had the miles), spent a night in the capital and brought Pheobe and Viktor to the airport. Pheobe was weighed at check-in then swapped with her heavier doppleganger Viktor and Galin made it onto his flight and home without a hitch and a FaceBook hashtag #viktorthecat on a post that described the entire experience.

The Story Isn’t Over

Unfortunately for Galin, the Facebook post went viral and, in doing so, caught the attention of Aeroflot. The airline reviewed camera footage at the airport and caught sight of the cats being exchanged. They then made “the decision to take this passenger out of its frequent flyer program,” adding, “All of the miles collected during his time in the program will be annulled.” Galin had around 400,000 miles saved up, but now they’re gone.

But, Galin is taking it in stride. In a subsequent Facebook post–starring Viktor when he was younger and within Aeroflot’s weight limit–Galin conceded that he was at fault and deserved the punishment because he broke the rules. But, he did offer a suggestion on the existing pet policy on airlines: “For a separate fee, it is permitted to take extra luggage, but it is not possible to pay for [larger pets for] the advantage of the animal. I really want to see… services developed in accordance with modern realities.”

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View Comments (14)

14 Comments

  1. CPMaverick

    November 15, 2019 at 4:05 am

    “the first leg of his flight, from Riga to Latvia”

    Huh?

  2. peterk814

    November 15, 2019 at 4:11 am

    Pets should’nt be allowed in the aircraft cabin period.

  3. MARKUSALUBIG

    November 15, 2019 at 4:18 am

    Just another reason NOT to fly Aeroflot!

  4. MARKUSALUBIG

    November 15, 2019 at 4:20 am

    Another reason NOT to fly Aeroflot!

  5. RedElmo

    November 15, 2019 at 6:05 am

    I argue it wasn’t the car that ate his 400k miles. It was his trigger happy finger.

  6. RedElmo

    November 15, 2019 at 6:05 am

    I meant CAT

  7. booatx

    November 15, 2019 at 8:03 am

    That seems to be a very harsh punishment!

  8. dliesse

    November 15, 2019 at 10:41 am

    Normally I’d be thinking thoughts about pet owners who can’t stand to leave their little ones at home, but this article is missing an important point that appeared in another publication: the guy had been working in Latvia for 2 months and was now returning home.

    Therefore, I’ll stick with the guy deserved it. He knew the rules — he even admitted it — and tried to flout them. Being a US traveler I’ve never understood the low weight limit for cabin baggage, but that’s one point he misses: you can pay extra for overweight baggage but it travels in the hold, not in the cabin. It was just his misfortune that he got the one check-in agent who does check everything to the extreme.

  9. arcticflier

    November 15, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    I believe the preferred terminology for overweight cat is “Cat of Size” (COS).

  10. Spanish

    Spanish

    November 16, 2019 at 5:05 am

    Silly on Aeroflot. Probably lost lots of future money on this guy, and they got lots of bad press.

  11. PDX Duck

    November 16, 2019 at 8:28 am

    It appears that Mikhail forgot about the first rule of Cat Club.

    You do not talk about Cat Club.

  12. skysoldier82

    November 20, 2019 at 3:34 am

    Agreed, DUMB move by Aeroflot, puts them right up there with United on some small things that have huge $$$ impacts. You lost ONE sale over a cat, then the poster of the article has won.

    Laughable airline, flew them FCO-SVO, instead of having blankets on the seats ready to go for you, they literally had someone reaching into a bag and tossing them to you as you boarded the aircraft, like a Scottie pippin bounce pass.

    Only is RUSSIA would they detail a person to review the footage and catch a 2KG switch in CATS. In that country it’s more about the idea that you DONT BREAK THE RULES, rather than some nonsensical rule itself.

    However, the MAKS airshow was awesome. #justsaying

  13. Yachtman

    November 21, 2019 at 1:42 am

    Not a cat lover, mostly because I’m allergic to the evil little things, but awesome story! He clearly can afford not to give 2 hoots!

  14. skyhighlander

    November 27, 2019 at 2:25 am

    Looking at that picture, I’d say that cats have come a long way since the Soviet era..

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