The dog days of summer are upon us and plenty of canines are making aviation news like the flying German Shepherd as well as snakes, ferrets, cats and even a shark vs. plane scenario.
In other words, it's time for the annual round-up of summer air travel news, critter-edition.
Some serious and not-so-serious items we've come across this summer:
Pets on video: If you miss Sparky or Fluffy while traveling, British Airways' has the solution: Its new all-pet video channel called Paws and Relax. Imagine enjoying your very own animal channel in midair; almost like surfing all those Grumpy Cat videos in the cubicle (at least 'til the boss strolls by). A waste of time? Heck no, says BA, since puppy and kitty videos can actually "lower heart rates and reduce stress levels".
Pets on planes: At least one animal looks unstressed during the rigors of air travel and that's the previously-mentioned flying German Shepherd. We got a kennel's-eye view of the pooch thanks to a GoPro camera attached to his crate. Might be a smart thing to do if you have any concerns about how Fido is treated on his next trip, which brings us to the next item.
Pets in trouble: According to the most recent government figures Rats on a plane: The August headline was scary: "Air India Flight Grounded to Avoid Catastrophe" but relax, it was just a bunch of rats. Crew members spotted the rampaging rodents during a flight from Calcutta to New Delhi but airline officials shrugged it off saying such infestations are "common" world-wide because of the wonderful aromas from catering vans. I guess that means we're safe since U.S. airlines no longer offer meals in coach and some are even cutting back in first class.
No rats on planes: Speaking of rats, United Airlines is fine with a wide variety of service animals but they draw the line at rats. They also balk at reptiles, ferrets and spiders. Service monkeys are no problem as long as the little helpers (some breeds, anyway) are small enough to fit under the seat without "invading another passenger's space". I only wish some human seatmates were as polite.
Animal scams (maybe): While we're on the topic of service animals, USA Today reported some frequent travelers believe there's an increase in service animal scams and point to passengers traveling with lap-sized creatures that look suspiciously like plain old pets. Since airlines cannot charge a fee for service animals, the thinking is this might be a way to skip out on pet fees that can range up to $500+ round-trip. However, it's also true that not every disability is visible so don't jump to conclusions.
Animal disappearances: Sometimes animals go on the lam at airports; Gyzmo the cat got some ink this summer doing just that at JFK but luckily reappeared a few days later. It was another matter when Jack the cat went missing at the New York airport in 2011; he was gone two whole months before finally crashing through an office ceiling onto some very surprised customs officials.
Snakes on a plane, almost: Snakes made news as the summer season got underway when a Delta flight paused before take-off in San Francisco because the pilot did not want to "squish" a snake on the runway. He must have had great eyesight since the reptile in question was a six-inch garter snake. Meanwhile, at Liverpool's John Lennon Airport an official said they've had to confiscate a lot of oddball items this summer; past and present finds include live snakes and, intriguingly, "a bag of ferrets."
Shark week: Singapore Airlines is the latest to ban cargo shipments of shark fins used to make the popular Asian soup. It's been estimated that as many as 100 million sharks are being killed each year just for the fins but they will no longer be transported by Singapore, Cathay Pacific, Cebu Pacific, Korean Air and Thai Airways.
Shark vs. plane: While researching the item above, I stumbled across a movie clip from "Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus" (2009) which you won't find on any Oscar lists but does feature the finest shark vs. airplane scene ever (OK, probably the only one). A highlight shows passengers aboard a 747 screaming as Mega Shark attacks the plane at 30,000 feet (yes, this shark is quite the jumper). YouTube viewers had a field day with the not-so-special effects but one commenter zeroed-in on the most implausible detail: "Do they really expect me to believe an airplane has that much leg room?"
Sniffer dog announcement: A crew member on the budget Australian carrier Jetstar reportedly told passengers to flush away "anything you shouldn't have" because sniffer dogs were standing by and boom, there was a rush to the restrooms. Whether the fact that many of the passengers were returning from the Splendour in the Grass music festival had anything to do with it is unknown. The airline later said the crew member had taken a routine announcement about Australia's strict quarantine laws for plants and fruit "too far".
Most unusual animal information on an official website: I nominate this nugget, courtesy the United Kingdom's government services site: "Getting and using a horse passport". In case you were curious, these passports are also valid for ponies and donkeys.
And here's hoping your summer travels are going well, with or without a passport.