For a few hours on Monday evening, airline staffers, CISF personnel and Airports Authority of India officials on duty at Pune airport ended up doing something quite unusual: looking for a runaway pomeranian. The dog, accompanying a passenger, Vishal Varma, was part of the cargo consignment being loaded onto an Air India plane. The incident took place while Air India staffers were shifting the passengers’ luggage, on a motorised cart, from the terminal building to the cargo compartment of a Delhi-bound flight, scheduled to depart at 7 pm.
The dog, however, managed to wriggle out of its kennel and jumped off the cart. Before anybody could realise what was happening, the pomeranian made its dash for freedom, and disappeared within seconds. While the flight was delayed by 10 minutes, the incident forced Varma to cancel his trip. Airline and security personnel continued to look for the dog, but it remained untraced till Tuesday night, over 24 hours since it ran away.
“The incident took place at 6.30 pm, while the luggage was being loaded. The dog was inside a kennel, which was kept inside the cart along with other luggage. The dog seemed to be strong, as it apparently managed to break out of the kennel by using its legs and teeth, and jumped off the cart,” said a person familiar with the incident.
“Before the airline personnel could do anything, the dog ran towards the overgrown at the edge of the airport and disappeared in the bushes. The area has thick shrubbery and a part of it leads towards Lohegaon village. The dog must be either hiding in the bushes or it must have wandered off into the village,” he added.
As per Air India’s policy, a pet has to be properly carried, in either soft ventilated bags or kennels of a specific size. A pet that weighs, along with the container, less than 5 kg can be carried into the cabin. Large pets have to be carried in the cargo compartment, and a maximum of two pets are permitted per flight. The fare for pets starts at Rs 4,000, and is charged as per the weight of the animal.
Suhas Jadhav, station manager of Air India, said loading and transport of pets is a routine matter for the airline and the incident on Monday evening was a “rare” one. “Every day, we transport at least one pet from Pune. Sometimes, individuals book them or agencies, which specialise in pet transport, book the slots. The incident on Monday was rare because the dog actually broke out of the cage and escaped. It must have been irritated with the noise coming from the Auxiliary Power Unit, which is very loud. The dog owner, along with CISF personnel and AAI officials, has searched for the dog,” said Jadhav. Varma didn’t respond to calls or messages from The Indian Express.