PUNE: A dog, which was being carried by a passenger on an Air India flight to New Delhi on Monday night, created a panic at the city airport. According to sources, the dog allegedly escaped from the kennel while being boarded into the cargo section and vanished into the darkness. When authorities realised that the canine had gone missing, they decided to delay the flight in order to search for the pet. Air India flight AI 850 Pune-Delhi was schedule to depart at 7 pm.
A white Pomeranian, accompanying passenger Vishal Kumar Verma, was part of the cargo consignment being loaded into the aircraft. However, the dog managed to wriggle out of the kennel he was packed in and jumped off the cart. Although all this happened in the presence of the staff, who were pushing the trolley, the canine evaded them and disappeared within seconds.
Due to the incident, the passenger was forced to cancel his journey while it also delayed the flight by 10 minutes.
Despite efforts by the airline and security personnel, the dog was untraceable till Tuesday night - over 24 hours since its disappearance.
An airport source said, “The incident took place at about 6.30 pm when the luggage was being loaded. The dog was kept inside a kennel, which was part of the other luggage. While the ground staff was loading the dog in the cargo, the canine panicked due to the roaring sound of the aircraft engine. The dog broke the kennel with its feet and teeth and jumped off the cart.”
“The owner was informed that his pet had escaped from the cart and disappeared into the thicket surrounding the airport. Verma, who had already boarded the flight, started arguing with the airline staffers and started searching for the dog in the forest area. Finally, he cancelled his journey. The charges paid for the dog were refunded to the passenger,” said the source.
The pet parent even sought assistance from Indian Air Force men with the help of an acquaintance, but in vain.
As per pet policy of Air India, a pet has to be properly carried in soft ventilated bags or kennel of a size not exceeding 18” x 18” x 12”. A pet with weight (including the container) should not be over 5 kg. It can be carried in the cabin. Large pets will be carried in the cargo compartment. Maximum of two pets are permitted per flight. The fare for pets is charged as per the weight starting from Rs 4,000.
Suhas Jadhav, Station Manager, Air India, said that loading and transport of pets is a routine matter for the airline and what happened on Monday evening was a rare occurrence.
“Everyday, we transport at least one pet from Pune. Sometimes, individuals book them or there are even agencies, which specialise in pet transport that book the slots. What happened yesterday was rare because the dog actually broke the cage and escaped. It must have got irritated with the noise coming from the Auxillary Power Unit (APU), which is very loud,” said Jadhav.
Vishal Kumar Varma did not respond to phone calls and text messages.