CATastrophe: Missing Pet Sparks Search At Kolkata Airport

A pet owner was left distraught after discovering that her cat went missing at Kolkata airport following an Air India flight from Bengaluru. The incident took place on October 1st and resulted in a search mission by the airport and airline officials. The owner has accused the airline of negligence and raised the issue with well-known Indian animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi.

Air India A320 Getty
A pet cat traveling on an Air India flight went missing at Kolkata Airport. Photo Getty Images

Nowhere to be found

Mayurakshi Saha took an Air India flight from Bengaluru to Kolkata with her two pet cats – Button and Dice. The airline staff told her that only one cat could be taken inside the cabin, so she decided to put the 14-month-old male cat Dice – the calmer of the two – inside the cargo hold.

When the flight landed in Kolkata and Saha went to pick up Dice, the airline staff told her that the cat had escaped the plastic cage after it was opened. According to the Times of India, the 26-year-old pet owner said the staff did not deal with the situation seriously, stating,

“When I got down in Kolkata and went to the cargo hold area to take him, I found the cage broken and my cat missing. It was a clear case of mishandling. The airline officials acted in a way that it was no big deal. Instead of trying to find a solution, they went ahead and laughed while I was crying.”

An Air India spokesperson said they take the matter seriously and are fully cooperating in finding the missing cat.

“We are the most trusted airline for carrying pets. We carry 100 pets every day. This is an aberration that the cat escaped from the cage. We are leaving no stone unturned to trace Dice and unite it with the owner. Air India is putting up a relentless effort and a dedicated team is working tirelessly to trace the pet.”

Meanwhile, Saha has started a social media campaign to find the missing cat and has even put up posters outside the terminal, offering a cash prize to anyone who finds Dice.

Kolkata Airport’s feline connection

Kolkata airport is already battling a problem of rodent and cat infestation. While rats are frequently sighted at the airport, the issue came into focus again after a false ceiling came down last month, narrowly missing a flyer. According to the Times of India, the ceiling also brought down with it a cat that had gone up there looking for rats.

The airport has called in a pest control agency to rid the premises of rats and hired an NGO to find and relocate the cats. Airport director C Pattabhi told TOI,

“The rat infestation has been a problem with Kolkata airport. We have asked the central warehousing corporation in charge of rodent control and pest control at airports to look into the issue.”

Air India Planes
Air India transports around 100 pets every day, according to the carrier’s spokesperson. Photo: Getty Images

Traveling with pets in India

When it comes to flying with pets in India, different airlines have different rules. Currently, Air India is the only carrier in the country that lets owners fly with regular pets onboard, either in the cabin or cargo hold. In fact, since domestic flying rules have been relaxed in the country, Air India has transported more than 4,000 pets between May 2020 and March 2021.

Indian online travel portal ixigo says that SpiceJet doesn’t allow pets any longer, IndiGo and Vistara only allow guide dogs, and AirAsia India only allows trained service animals.

Have you ever traveled with a pet in an airplane? What was your experience like? Do share in the comments section below.