Margaret and Dick   


June '09: Hissy fit

Okay, guilty as charged, the flight delay was my fault.  Or the fault of my cat.  More precisely, of the passenger who threw a hissy fit when she saw me put the cat carrier at my feet, several rows and across the aisle from her seat.  I heard her mumble something to her husband about cats “shouldn’t be allowed” as they walked to the front of the cabin.

Let’s start with some background.  Margaret and I own two cats, and each of us travels to and from France with our respective cat.  Delta regulations prohibit sending pets as checked luggage during the hot summer months, because delays on the tarmac have resulted in animal deaths.  Over the years we’ve together made about thirty-five cat crossings; this year is the seventh crossing for my little Bistra.  We use our frequent-flier miles to upgrade to business class, which gives a lot more space to slide a kitty under the seat.  Still, we buy our tickets eight months ahead since the airline only allows one cat per cabin.  “Kitty Valium” (acepromezine) helps keep everybody happy for the trip, which is typically 17 hours door-to-door.

Bistra and I settled in for the long flight, she for a nap and me with noise-canceling headphones, reading material, and overnight supplies.  I was vaguely aware of continuing seat exchanges around me, perhaps a bit more than usual.  The cabin door closed in preparation for take-off, but then the game of musical chairs started up again.  I wasn’t paying attention.  Eventually the flight attendant asked me if Bistra and I could please move to a seat at the very front of the cabin, at the request of the perturbed passenger who would then be moved to the back to be as far as possible from the offending cat.  I mentioned to the flight attendant that I had paid for a seat in this cabin (okay, technically upgraded) and the cat had paid her fare as well.  I wanted to say that this cat had been on more flights to Europe than most people in the cabin.  I wanted to suggest that the other passenger might move to the cat-free coach cabin, but of course said none of this.  But yes, of course I would move, and I gathered up my noise-canceling headphones, reading material, overnight supplies, carry-on luggage, and cat cage, and shuffled up to our new location.

I was re-seated next to a pleasant woman near the front of the cabin.  I asked her if she was allergic to cats.  She whispered, “Yes, a bit, but please don’t tell anyone!” She was the one who told me the whole story.  Up to that point I had no idea that all the commotion was due to my cat.

Ms. Hissy had insisted to flight attendants that there should be no cat in her cabin, and she began coughing for emphasis.  The flight attendants had initially moved her and her (long-suffering?) husband several rows towards the front of the cabin.  Still not far enough from the cat to suit her.  Next followed the exchange that put me at the front and the allergic couple in the back of the business cabin.  Her complaints then continued, and she got louder and red-faced in anger.  The excitement grew until the flight door re-opened to admit a gate agent, who informed her that a cat does have the right to travel in the cabin, and if she (Hissy) didn’t calm down immediately she would be removed from the flight.  That apparently worked; she shut up.  She even stopped coughing.

So that's why Delta flight 22 on June 10 was more than thirty minutes late for take-off.  Next time I'll disguise the cage to look like a briefcase until the plane is in the air.  I’ve wondered over the years what would happen if I encountered a hyper-allergic passenger.  Now I know.  Thank, Delta, for standing up for kitty rights!

Itteh bitteh hissey-fit committeh

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