As promised here is the tale about Mac, our Westie’s journey to Germany! I’ve also included a story about Babies, the cat, who traveled to Germany the same weekend, but a different route. If your bringing pets to Germany then you need to check this out!
Getting Mac arrangements to fly to Germany was a PAIN! Flying from Montgomery, AL the ONLY airline that would allow Mac to fly in the cargo hold under the plane (he’s too big, 25 lbs, to fly in the cabin) was Delta. As you may have read in my previous post we had the option of flying him through Delta Cargo or checked in with us as Excessive Baggage.
We chose to go the Excessive Baggage route, it was $125, paid at the counter when you check-in. The website said $200 and that’s what the representative told me so I’m not sure if they only charged $125 because we were on orders or why it was less. It does need to be reserved on your tickets at least 48 hours in advance, we added him to our tickets at 10 days out because that is when you are able to book the Cargo if going that route (we thought we were doing that, you can read this post to find out why we didn’t). When you check your pet as Excessive Baggage with Delta you need to arrive 90 minutes before the flight is scheduled to leave. You check your bags in, then they have the dog get out of the crate so they can X-ray the crate and then put him back in and off he goes with the luggage.
This was Mac’s first time flying and traveling and I really wasn’t sure how he was going to do since he often has a ‘nervous’ stomach but this little guy did amazing and I’m so thankful! I did a couple of things to try to make it easier for him, if they worked I’m not sure since he can’t talk but I like to think they did 😉 First when we went to TLF we took some old pillows with us to use that we were planning on throwing away since we bought and sent new ones in our unaccompanied goods. I took the pillowcase off mine and put in over his crate cushion so that he could have my scent with him. We also let him travel with his baby (stuffed dog). Lastly we bought a water dish for the door that had a lip on it and froze water 1/2 full the night before and then zip tied it to the door at the airport, he’s a thirsty fellow. Then I wrote in sharpie on the front of his crate “I’m Mac and I’m very friendly.” I also wrote his name on his collar with the sharpie as well, just in case.
His cushion, with pillowcase.
Crate ready for travel with pillowcase on cushion, pee pads underneath & baby ready to go.
We watched at the Montgomery airport and after they loaded all the baggage they loaded Mac in the plane. When we arrived in Atlanta we seen him coming off the plane. We did not see him get loaded in ATL or get off at BWI. This was supposed to be a 7 hour trip with 2 flights, but delays at the ATL airport added an extra hour and a half. We just had to hope that Mac was doing alright wherever he was waiting.
Coming off the plan, pic was taken by Bea quickly out of the airplane window as we were getting off the plane, but you get the idea.
When we arrived to BWI we went down to the baggage claim to get our bags and him, he came in via a garage door like area where they brought in the oversized items. The guy brought him in, set him, down and didn’t say anything to us and walked away. Kinda scary that anyone could have took Mac if they wanted.
This my friends is where the ‘fun’ begins with this story. As Mr. B went to pick up Mac & the crate to put on the cart he realized that they (Delta staff) had broke the handle off, as we looked closer we realized they had broke the whole top of the crate! I was not impressed that the guy who delivered Mac to baggage didn’t even say anything and he obviously knew because he wasn’t carrying the crate by the handle. So Mr. B walks over to the Delta customer service and fills out a form and they say that in 21 days we will get a check for $70 in the mail.
Here you can see the handle is broke.
Now you can see it’s REALLY broke!
Then before we leave the BWI airport to go to the hotel Mr. B runs to the AMC desk to ask what time we can check in the next day. He tells them what happened to the crate and they tell him we need to have a NEW crate for him to fly the following day! We are in a big city with no car and now we have to go find a pet store or Walmart to get a new crate for the following day?! Not to mention this is already around 7:30 pm! I’m SO glad we had flown in a day early to stay the night because if had flown the following day and had to get a new crate right away it would’ve been a huge issue! Thankfully the next day some awesome friends were driving up to meet us for lunch so they came a little early and took us to get a new crate. But wait it doesn’t stop there…
I get him out of his crate at BWI to let him go potty and notice he’s doing something weird with his right front paw. I mention it to Mr. B and we decide to keep an eye on it. While we’re checking in to the hotel, with all the drama, Bub is walking Mac and I see that he’s stepping really carefully on his right paw. By the time we get to the room he’s limping and won’t even walk on the paw, we hit panic mode and start to think that Delta dropped Mac when the crate broke! We start googling 24 hour vets and find that the nearest one is 30 miles away and we’d have to take a taxi ride there and back. At this point Mac is just laying down and won’t even come to me when I call him, which is very unlike him, he always comes to me. After assessing it we did not think it was broke so we decide that since it’s so late and he’s already stressed to let him sleep and relax and if he was still limping in the morning our friends would give us a ride to the vet. Thankfully after a good nights sleep he woke up much happier and was walking normally on his paw!
At the hotel we also discovered that somewhere along the way someone had fed him, not sure how but there was dog food under his crate cushion and it was not the type we use and and I did not give him food in the crate. Then I noticed that it smelled like he had pee’d and yep sure enough, it was on the pillowcase, cushion, and his baby. He’s never pee’d before in the crate ever, but if someone dropped me it would probably scare the pee out of me too! And since our flight and his time in the crate to Germany was much longer and there were no accidents I’m leaning towards a traumatic incident with Delta. The next day Mac was NOT happy about having to get back into the crate for the flight to Germany, poor guy 🙁 At the hotel I had to hand wash the cushion and his baby. I threw away the pillowcase and grabbed Mr. B’s from the outside pocket of the suitcase, where we had put all the other ones. The stuff took a good while to dry but thankfully our flight was not until the following evening so it was dry by the time we had to leave for the airport.
Mac beyond exhausted snuggling with Bea.
Thankfully he had a much better time on the AMC flight, no broken crate, no accidents, and no limping after arrival. He had to be checked in only 30 minutes before boarding so we arrived back at the airport at that time. Dropping him off was easy and he was in good company with all the other animals being dropped off for the flight. I wonder if that made a difference that there were other dogs/cats on this flight? He was the only animal on the Delta flights. I’m hoping he slept the 7 hours during the flight but I couldn’t sleep so I wouldn’t be surprised if he couldn’t either.
When you check in at the AMC terminal make sure you have all the paperwork because they need it and make a copy to attach to the crate for their arrival in Germany. The cost for Mac to fly on the Rotator was $117 which we paid when we checked in our baggage and got our tickets. It has to be reserved when you book your airline tickets and as far out as possible because the pet spots are very limited on each flight and our flight was full with pets!
Mac enjoying Germany, trying to get into the holiday season 😉
After we arrived at Ramstein AB in Germany we had to get through customs to get to the baggage area to get him. He was waiting with the other pets and was sure happy to see us! He was super thirsty so we gave him water in the crate while we were getting all our luggage. He was exhausted that night but has really done great with all these changes, I’ve been impressed! Overall a MUCH better experience on the AMC flight!
The monetary break down for us:
Cost for flights: $125 Delta, $117 MAC for a total of $242 (way cheaper than I was expecting!)
International chip & Rabies shot: $35
Cost for USDA paperwork: $30
Cost for Vet visit for 10 health certificate: $0 (We went to the base vet clinic at Maxwell AFB and if you are PCSing there is no cost for the visit)
Crate for flight: $50 (first one) $48 (2nd one in BWI) Minus $70 check from Delta = $28
Shuttle ride to Spang: $15
Total to get Mac to Germany with us: $350, I was planning on $600 so this was great.
Now onto Babies’ journey to Germany. His family chose (well truthfully they weren’t give an option, more below) to fly out of Florida and into Frankfurt, Germany using United PetSafe. We almost went this route, but now I’m glad we chose to fly the Rotator. If you check out the PetSafe link it also says on the bottom that military on orders are allowed to check their pet as excessive luggage (what we did with Mac on Delta stateside) so if I was forced to use United I would use that method instead of shipping as cargo via the PetSafe program.
Babies was quite attached to his family after his trip over.
Their issues with traveling with Babies started when TMO booked their flights. They booked them on United (partnered with Lufthansa) from Florida to Frankfurt, Germany on a flight that does not accept animals. TMO told them 2 major things that were wrong. 1) That Frankfurt is closer to Spangdahlem, apparently they have never seen a map or globe as it’s actually an hour further, it being ‘closer’ is why they ‘had’ to fly in to Frankfurt and not Ramstein. 2) That they had to fly that flight because it was already booked and getting the pet to Germany was their problem. Yes, it their responsibility to get the pet here but they could’ve had their flight changed, we had ours changed to a flight that took pets, and it wasn’t even the government contracted airlines but one that offered a comparable fare. If you remember from my previous post our TMO tried to book us this same flight to Frankfurt via Atlanta and we said no because we wanted Mac to fly with us. So as you can see they were off to a great start thanks to McDill’s TMO office.
Babies’ mom, who we’ll call Jane, immediately got on the phone with Untied to figure out how to get her cat to Germany, leaving him behind wasn’t an option. They told her about the Untied PetSafe program but did NOT tell her that flying him as excessive baggage as an option. He’s too big to fly in cabin so that was not an option as well. She booked him via the PetSafe program to fly as cargo, he would not be on their flight instead he would be flying out of Florida via DC to Frankfurt, they were flying to Frankfurt via PA.
If your pet is flying cargo with United you do not drop them off at the airport, you have to drop them off at the cargo location which is often near the airport but not at the airport. They did a ‘dry run’ to make sure they knew were it was located. They took in two carriers a smaller one and a larger one to find out which one the airline wanted them to use, they ended up using the larger carrier, it was almost as big as Mac’s. The website says the only thing allowed in the crate is food & newspaper but when talking to someone at the cargo location they found that they could also include a bed, which I’m sure is much more comfortable than just newspaper!
The pet needs to be dropped off at least 90 minutes before the flight is supposed to leave but since they were on 2 different flights they had to drop Babies off at 10:30 am even though his flight wasn’t until 2 pm. This wasn’t ideal to drop him off so early but they didn’t have any choice with their conflicting flight.
They arrived in Frankfurt at 6:30 am, Babies was to arrive at 11:30 am. Jane sent her hubby & son on the shuttle to Spang since there was no need for all of them to wait that long at the airport. Due to a delayed flight he didn’t arrive until 12:30 pm and then my friends, that is when the chaos started for Jane!
At this point Babies has been out of her sight and in the hands of the airlines for 24 hours, she was anxious to get him and make sure he was okay. The flight arrived and the guy at the USO got her back through security and to the baggage claim area, where she was told to pick up the cat. She walked to the oversized area and waits. All the luggage came out and 1 oversized item, but no cat. She walked over to the Lufthansa desk and they told her that the cat should be coming to the baggage claim area. She kept waiting and nothing. She went back to the desk, this is now 1 hour after the flight had arrived and at least 30 minutes after all the luggage had came out and been picked up. Lufthansa called upstairs to United, then told her that she had to walk up to the United desk, which is not a short walk and is on another level. She arrived to the United desk and they gave her a piece of paper with a phone number to call for the cargo area! She was baffled as to why they couldn’t have given this information over the phone instead of making her walk all the way up there!! They tell her the cargo area is not at the airport and she has to call them to go get the cat. She asked how she is supposed to get there and they tell her ‘you can take a bus,’ wow the level of customer service at this point is just so amazing, NOT!
Now she has to find a phone to call the number since she just arrived in Germany and has no cell phone or any means to call. She walked back to the USO and the USO guy called United Cargo for her to get the location and let them know she would be on the way, as your supposed to notify them when your on the way so they can get the pet ready. By this point her shuttle driver had arrived and has been waiting, his other reservation cancelled so the USO guy asked if he could be so kind as to take Jane to the cargo area. This guy ended up being amazing and was more than willing to help.
They got a map and tried to follow the directions to the cargo area. After some trial and error they thought they had found the building but there are no signs at the gate, they and have to do vehicle acrobatics to try to get the automated gate to open, it finally does. The map/instructions said to get a parking pass but they have no idea where they would get one and keep going on to the building. They arrived at the building and there are still no signs, they had to wander all over the building trying to find where to pick up the cat. They finally found the office and told them that they are there to pick up her cat. They are then told to go to the vet office, they do and then they are told they will have to wait 20 minutes because they have to call customs to clear the cat. They went back out to the van and waited 20 minutes and then went back in.
When the get back in they found that they had not started the process because they had a question about paperwork, they wanted an original, not the copy she had given them. She was upset because there was an original on the cat’s crate! She told the lady that and the lady didn’t say anything but ok, so time was wasted for nothing. Why wasn’t this process started when she called to say she was on the way? At this point it’s at least a good 2 hours after the cat has arrived and no one has even told her that the cat was ok or even alive, she’s beginning to wonder if something is wrong with the cat and she’s being given the run around. She waited in the office this time and the vet came out and cleared the cat, and needed her to pay the fee. She paid 73 Euro (approx $100) and then they told her she needs to go get customs. Say what?!
She is now told she has to walk to another building to get customs. It’s about 1/4 to 1/2 a mile away and she had no hat, gloves, or scarf, it’s cold in Germany and she just arrived from Florida! They had to give them their ID’s in order to get a badge to get into customs. They head off with the very unhelpful map and attempt to find the building. They arrived at a building which they thought was the customs building and go in. They found an intimating looking German guy who actually turned out to be kind and very helpful. He told them they were in the wrong building and walked them to the gate they needed to go through. It’s a zipper gate with interlocking wire bars that opens when you swipe the badge but is very sensitive and if you push too soon before or after swiping it locks you out, and resets the key and you have to go back for a new one! The shuttle driver attempted to go through and bam he’s locked out! Jane made her attempt and luckily got through. She was now FINALLY at the customs building! She got the paperwork with the stamp and started to make the long, cold walk back to the cargo building.
When she arrived back at the cargo building she’s told they cat is not ready yet and she had to wait some more. She also had to pay a fee for the cat being in the ‘Pet Lounge’ it was 47 Euro (approx $65), she was also never told of this cost ahead of time when she booked the reservations. She then had to walk back upstairs and turn in the badges to get their ID’s back. Then she went outside to wait by a cargo door where the cat will be coming out, she had to wait 30 minutes in the cold for the cat! And they never even took any of the papers the customs office gave her!
FINALLY the cargo door opened and Babies is delivered! She was so grateful that he didn’t appear too distressed but he still had another 2 hour shuttle ride to go, being contained in his crate. They head out to leave the cargo area and when they got to the gate it would not open. The staff that they had been dealing with all afternoon are all outside smoking, they watch them at the gate and see it doesn’t open. Jane points to the gate indicating that they need out and the staff all turns around and ignores them!! She had HORRIBLE customer service the whole time but this just takes the cake! At this point she’s so mad she can’t even get out and attempt to talk to them, the driver does it instead. He is told he has to drive back to a little building by the entry gate and get a parking pass to swipe to get out. He drove back over there gave his license, registration, & ID and finally got the gate pass to get out of the cargo area.
Finally at 5 pm, 13 hours after Jane arrived at the airport, and 4 1/2 hours after Babies arrived, they are both headed on their way to Spangdahlem! They were not pleased with their experience with United/Lufthansa and will be doing whatever possible to avoid it in the future. Now that they know about the excessive baggage option for military they will use that method instead of the cargo service. No an ideal way to spend your first hours in the country trying to get your cat who is being held ‘hostage’ as Jane would say.
Babies is now doing quite well and has no cares in the world except finding a nice spot to sleep in 😉
The monetary break down for Babies:
Cost for flights: $565 (United/Lufthansa)
International chip & Rabies shot: $35
Cost for USDA paperwork: $0 Done at base clinic
Cost for Vet visit for 10 health certificate: $0 Done at base clinic
Crate for flight: $40 (scored a used one from an online yard sale group)
European Health Exam Fee: 73 Euro ($100 approx.)
Lufthansa Pet Lounge fee: 47 Euro ($65 approx.)
Shuttle ride to Spang: $15
Total to get Babies to Germany was: $820
These stories are not meant to scare you from bringing your pet with you to Germany, they are meant to help you prepare for what can and may happen. You may have a better experience, which I hope you do! Sometimes you have the option to chose what airlines you want to use when PCSing with pets, so maybe this info will be helpful for that. I can say I am very happy with Mac’s journey on the military Rotator and would easily do it again with him. Even though all of our experiences weren’t the best out there, both families would agree that leaving our pets behind isn’t an option, so it’s best to be prepared for what may lie ahead! I wish I’d had stories and info to read ahead of time so I could’ve been mentally prepared for when issues came up. I’d like to point out that Mac and Babies are both doing wonderful and are happy to be exploring Germany with their families!