When traveler Mikhail Galin was told he couldn’t bring his overweight cat Viktor on a long-distance flight between Moscow and Vladivostok, Russia, the pet-lover came up with the purr-fect plot by switching cats during the airline’s airport weigh-in process. Galin pulled off his fat cat caper but it wasn’t without some serious consequences doled out by the airline.
Aeroflot Weighs In On Viktor’s Girth
Galin was flying on the Russian airline Aeroflot, which has a strict weight limit for pets traveling in the passenger cabin. An airline employee weighed Viktor, and discovered the tubby tabby tipped the scales at 22 pounds…about four pounds over the airline’s approved 18-pound weight allowance for companion animals.
Galin did his best to convince the airline staffer who weighed Viktor to bend the rules, and even tried using guilt as a tactic. According to Kommersant.ru, Galin told her that due to the stress of flying in the cargo hold, Viktor would not survive the eight-hour flight stuck in the luggage cargo hold and would “appear in her nightmares every night until the end of her life.” But when the Aeroflot employee held firm and refused to admit Viktor in the passenger cabin, Galin suddenly changed his flight to the following day and left the airport to hatch his plan.
Viktor Gets A Stunt Double: Phony Fibi
Trying to figure out a way to get Viktor on the plane, Galin set off to find “a similar cat of less physical mass.” Within hours he’d enlisted the help of a friend with a 15-pound cat named Fibi who looked similar to Viktor. Galin returned to the airport the following day and presented Fibi as his pet. Once the lighter feline was approved for travel, Galin and his accomplice switched the cats back just before the flight. Galin and Viktor soon took their seats in Business Class.
Delighted that he and Viktor could travel together, Galin shared his story on social media, complete with photos of Viktor looking out the window, and another of the fabulous feline, posing with a glass of champagne. It didn’t take long for Galin’s kitty conundrum to go viral. Galin even jokingly shared a photo of Viktor as a kitten to show “when [Viktor’s] weight still met the requirements of the airline.”
Aeroflot was less than amused. When the airline caught wind of the deception, officials conducted an internal investigation by checking their video surveillance and saw Galin and his accomplice pull off the switcheroo.
“The audit shows that the passenger committed a number of gross violations of the rules of baggage transportation,” the airline said. As punishment, the airline got catty and voided Galin’s 370,000 frequent flyer miles, accumulated over more than a decade. They also blocked his Aeroflot frequent flyer account. Galin justified the scheme saying he feared the stress of traveling in the cargo hold would be too much for Viktor. He also pointed out that Aeroflot has partnered with several airlines that have more generous weight requirements, making it impossible for some pet owners to fly on one airline and then connect with the Russian airline.
It’s not the first time Aeroflot has acted a bit catty with its passengers. The airline reportedly had the platinum status of one passenger revoked after they reportedly posted an insulting comment on social media about Aeroflot’s CEO Vitaly Savelyev.
The Public Weighs In On Mikhail Galin and Viktor
While many on social media have applauded Galin for his clever idea, not everyone is purring over the pussycat plot. Some criticized Galin for allowing Viktor to become so large when the proper weight for a cat should be 8-12 pounds. Viktor’s owner has responded claiming that Viktor is large due to his breed.
Although Vladimir Putin was asked about his thoughts about the scheme (he responded jokingly by saying the Kremlin doesn’t involve itself in such matters) the incident has resulted in discussions about improving customer service in Russia.
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