Today in weird animal news: A Russian man tried to board a flight with his cat, Viktor (not pictured above), but the animal weighed more than the 18-pound limit for animals to be transported in the plane’s cabin. The Russian man, Mikhail Galin, refused to stow Viktor in the cargo area, so he instead hired a body-double to fool the airport scale and airline staff in order to smuggle his furry friend onto the flight.
NBC News reported that Galin detailed his plot on his Facebook page after he and Viktor landed in Vladivostok from Moscow. “Photos showed Viktor standing on Galin’s lap, gazing out the window, as his owner sipped champagne,” the outlet reported, adding that Galin’s deception was “reminiscent of a bank heist or spy thriller.”
Galin and Viktor’s journey began in Latvia’s capital city of Riga. Galin told NBC that he flew from there on an Aeroflot flight to Moscow, where he would transfer to Vladivostok. Galin said he had no trouble bringing Viktor into the airplane’s cabin in Riga, but when he transferred in Moscow, things got hairy.
When Galin was asked to store Viktor in cargo due to his weight (Viktor weighs 22 pounds), he refused and forfeited his ticket. Galin then posted on Facebook asking for anyone in Moscow who owned a cat that looked like Viktor that weighed less than 18 pounds to help him.
“That is how he found Phoebe, the cat that would act a Viktor’s body double,” NBC reported. “Galin then used his Aeroflot miles to book a business class seat to Vladivostok the next day. That cat’s owners met Galin at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, where it was weighed in Viktor’s place.”
The owners then exchanged cats and Galin and Viktor were on their way.
After posting about the experience on Facebook, Aeroflot confirmed the details using security camera footage and revoked Galin’s frequent flyer miles. Galin had accrued 370,000 miles. Aeroflot also said that Galin removing Viktor from his cat carrier was part of the reason his miles were forfeited.
“In connection with several counts of deliberate violation of the air carriage agreement, Aeroflot has decided to exclude this passenger from the Aeroflot Bonus loyalty program,” the airline said. “All miles accumulated during his entire participation in the program will be cancelled.”
“The law is harsh, but it is the law,” Galin told NBC. “I violated the rules, and the carrier has every right to take action.”
The outlet reported that Russian parliament looked into Viktor’s predicament. Vladimir Burmatov, chair of the State Duma’s ecology committee, asked Aeroflot CEO Vitaly Savelyov “to return the nullified miles to the owner of the fat cat and revise the rules for transporting animals [toward] greater flexibility,” NBC reported.
Burmatov also suggested allowing pet owners to pay excess weight fees for animals that exceeded the limit.
NBC reported that Galin told them “Viktor has fully recovered from a bad case of air sickness and was now prepared to give interviews,” though the outlet did not interview the cat.