Tuesday, January 31, 2023

TSA found an airport cat in checked baggage at JFK airport

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For once, it’s good that the cat is out of the bag.

When a traveler in New York unknowingly packed a cat in his checked luggage earlier this month, the cat would have made it onto a flight to Florida if not for the X-ray machine and security agents at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

According to TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein, the stowaway was discovered when an alert went off at the JFK checked baggage checkpoint on Nov. 16. Agents looked at the X-ray image and saw the clear outline of an animal.

“The bag was opened by a TSA officer who was shocked to see a live orange cat inside,” Farbstein wrote in an email.

TSA agents contacted Delta, the passenger’s airline, which then notified the Orlando-bound passenger, Farbstein said. The passenger said the cat was not his, but belonged to another person at his home.

The cat returned home safely, but as a result of the cat fiasco, the passenger missed his flight. He was able to book again for the next day, “no cats!” Farbstein added.

Everything you need to know about flying with pets, from the people who do it the most

Tuesday, Colorstone posted on Twitter a photo from the event, which shows a black suitcase, slightly undone, with orange fur visible inside.

This was not the first time in recent years that a pet almost found its way onto a flight, unknown to its owners. In October 2021, Kristi and Jared Owens were checking their bags at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in Texas when the Southwest Airlines ticket agent informed them that the bag was overweight.

When the couple opened the bag to repack and avoid a fee, they were shocked to discover Icky, their 5-pound chihuahua, tucked into one of Jared’s cowboy boots.

The couple discovers that their luggage is overweight due to the runaway dog

“It was just surreal,” Kristi told The Washington Post at the time. “Are we really seeing our dog in our suitcase now? Is this happening?”

With the help of Southwest employees, the Owenses called a relative to pick up Icky and tried to make their flight to Las Vegas.

Both Icky and the cat tied up in Orlando are lucky to have been found before they were put on a plane with the rest of their checked luggage, which could have been fatal. Baggage holds on passenger flights are under pressure, but they can drop in cold temperatures, according to Air Canada.

How to help stray cats and dogs you meet while traveling

At Delta, small dogs, cats and pet birds can travel in an in-cabin carrier, but for larger pets that must travel in the hold, special arrangements must be made through Delta Cargo.

At the security checkpoint, pets must be removed from their carriers and carried through the screening machine, according to the TSA’s tips page, “Taking Your Human on a Plane: What Every Pet Should Know.”

“Don’t put me in the X-ray tunnel. Seriously, this is no fun for me,” the agency says. “Take me out, put my BASKET travel carrier on the belt and have the x-rays done by the vet.”

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