Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Finale on Getting Coco to Kolkata

The two biggest lessons from moving the dog were: 1. each airport's customs requirements can be different in the country you are traveling to, and 2. FLY LUFTHANSA!

As I mentioned in a previous post, to meet Kolkata's requirements we had to bring Coco in as accompanied baggage not as cargo, which meant she had to be checked in as baggage with someone on the same flight.

And in order not to fly her the overwhelming DC-NYC-Frankfurt-Kolkata route, since we had to be in NYC before leaving for DHS consultations, Alan flew back to Washington D.C. so that she would fly accompanied DC-Frankfurt-Kolkata.

With all of the paperwork in hand, our biggest obstacle was putting her on the United flight from DC to Frankfurt in a series 700 crate. Ideally, the flight would have been Lufthansa with a United code share but we ended up with a United flight.

Lufthansa really gets traveling with animals, especially large dogs. We were even able to confirm her as accompanied baggage for the Frankfurt to Kolkata leg over the phone. United wasn't so easy. Every time we called we received a different answer on the series 700 crate.

Club Pet International met us at the airport with Coco in a prepared crate. She had been boarding with Club Pet while we were in NYC. Then we got really lucky.

We met the dream United representative that said the words "We'll get you taken care of" when Coco entered the airport. During the processing, another United employee ran up to our saintly United employee with a "Wait!" and started questioning Coco's paperwork and specifications. But our rep calmed everyone down and got the job done.

With the biggest obstacle behind them, Alan and Coco flew to Frankfurt after an aircraft malfunction, downed Canadian air traffic control computer and gate miscommunication just in time to miss our connecting flight. The one where we all were supposed to meet up and arrive in Kolkata together.

Since they would have to wait another 24 hours for the next flight, Lufthansa put Coco in their air-conditioned facility to wait for the next flight. She ended up in the horse pen, able to run around and sleep outside of her crate until the next flight.

In the meantime, our Consulate shipping extraordinaire, laid the ground work for not only getting Coco through customs but getting her out first.

After they landed, the spectacle at the Kolkata airport began. 7 custom agents came up to Alan and Coco to assure the situation met all requirements and as she was carted out of baggage claim in her large crate, the airport crowd started humming with questions on what the large creature was. Most often the guess was a German Shepard.

From the reaction of Consulate employees so far, she is the largest dog ever to live on the compound. So far we have been able to satisfy her with walks around the compound and ball catching on the green space. Next up, a long walk to Victoria Memorial Hall where she can visit with the stray horses, dogs and herding goats.

Photo of Coco at her favorite place in Kolkata, in the kitchen with Krishna and Bina.


Jacksonian Traveler said...

Wonderful!!! Coco is quite the news there in Kolkata. Thank you for writing about all of this, I am taking notes and paying attention. I know you must be so busy, but strangers are enjoying your tales.
Give Coco a good tummy rub for me.

Natalie Buda Smith said...

Thanks! And a "woof woof" from Coco for the belly rubs.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing, Natalie. I am moving to Turkey with 2 cats and still haven't figured out how to do it w/the variety in airline rules/regulations. Incidentally, I live in No. Virginia so I'll check out Air Club for Pets.

Thanks again!

Natalie Buda Smith said...

Good luck, WT.

You probably are aware of this, but for others, the people in the Overseas Briefing Center can provide information about moving with pets.

It has definitely been worth all the hassle and expense to bring our dog with us.

Anonymous said...

I have two black labs and am faced with the same prospects next summer. I have no idea how I'm going to deal with this ... it is daunting.

I'm enjoying your blog. Thanks! (And, for the tip on Lufthansa!)

Natalie Buda Smith said...

It is daunting but very worth all of the trouble. There is another lab here at post, and he has traveled all over the world so far.

Best of luck and let me know how it goes.