Here’s How American Airlines Transported An Orangutan From Buenos Aires To Dallas

Last month American Airlines transported a very special guest, an orangutan, from Buenos Aires to Dallas! The airline had to take extra steps to ensure the safe passage of the creature to its new home in Kansas.

American Airlines
Talk about a VIP passenger! Photo: Simple Flying

What are the details?

Meet Sandra, a 33-year-old Orangutan born in Germany but grew up all alone in Buenos Aires. The zoo where she was living had been shut down and turned into an eco-park, but still, she remained by her lonesome self.

But following a new ruling by the Argentina courts, one that awarded the primate human rights, the eco-park owners were able to organize the lonely ‘animal’ more natural living conditions at a primate park in the United States. Perhaps even for Sandra to meet a friend or two!

But getting there would be the real challenge, and one airline was selected for the task: American Airlines.

American Airlines
The route that was selected. Photo: GC maps.

How did they transport the Orangutan?

Moving a creature as rare and intelligent as Sandra would be complicated, and it took the teams at American Airlines cargo operations to figure out a special way to do it. Not only would they need to follow strict quarantine conditions, but they also needed to ensure that the animal was not upset or mentally affected for the 11-hour journey. After all, they could hardly stick Sandra in the American Airlines’ economy cabin!

First, the team would have to be specially trained and prepared for transport. This included learning how to handle an intelligent primate and the equipment needed (such as hazmat suits).

Secondly, the crate that they used to transport Sandra would need to be specially built and introduced to her before she was due to be transported. Sandra was able to try it out for weeks in advance and get comfortable with the idea of sitting in the box for a while.

Then, last week, team members from American Airlines carefully loaded her into a Boeing 787-8 for the trip up north. Arriving in Dallas Fort Worth, Sandra was met by the arrivals team in their suits and loaded her into her ground transport. She was then sent to Sedgwick County Zoo for medical tests and to rest during her quarantine period. She was met by her old handlers from the Eco-park in Argentina, who was there to reassure her with their familiar faces and check on her condition.

‘She arrived in Kansas in perfect condition’, according to Federico Iglesias, Director of the Buenos Aires Eco-park.

American Airlines
Sandra being transported by American Airlines. Photo: American Airlines

What is her new home like?

It has been confirmed that Sandra will soon be moved to her permanent home, the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida.

“The Center for Great Apes offers 30 years of experience caring for orangutans and providing them with excellent health care, enriching activities, and choices for areas Sandra would like to explore,” said Patti Regan, founder of the Center for Great Apes in the American Airlines statement, “There are 21 orangutans already living at the sanctuary, so Sandra will have the opportunity for companionship with her own species.”

The center is also more climate-appropriate and has similar conditions to Sandra’s natural environment back in South East Asia.

American Airlines
Sandra’s new home has 11 outdoor habitats specifically for orangutans, unlike her previous home constructed of beams and ropes.

American Airlines finished the journey with this statement.

“It was an honor to provide our services to aid in Sandra’s relocation and eventual new home at the sanctuary. We wish Sandra a long and happy life in her new home.”

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