When Your Favorite Airline Hangs A Cat Lady Around Your Neck


It started in Quito.  It was a late flight, almost midnight, and the otherwise tolerable albeit corny PA announcements by the aircrew fell flat.  Very flat.  Then the Quito Cat Lady arrived and things got worse.

Kongo and Mrs. Kongo had seats 2 C/D on a cramped, hot, old-style 737 for the redeye run to ATL from Quito. (Hey, Delta, what happened to the international configuration planes??) Kongo tried to go to sleep even before takeoff but was disturbed by this meowing that kept getting louder and louder.  Seems that the woman in 1C had brought aboard her feline life purpose and was petting and stroking the animal trying to get it to quiet down.  It didn’t work.  Others, claiming allergies, were busy switching seats to get farther away from the woman and her loud cat.  The Cat Woman of Quito is unfazed.  She announces to no one in particular that the drugs she’d given him to sleep and be quiet should kick in soon.  They never did.

Now Kongo knows his airplane rules and gets annoyed when someone doesn’t follow them.   Bulkhead seats can’t have anything on the floor during take off and landing.  Including live animals or pet carriers.  Hey, we’re talking to you Cat Lady!  So Kongo sat back and waited for the air crew to get this situation in hand.  They never did.  When the purser told her the case had to go in the overhead she said, “No way, there’s a live animal in there!”  And the head flight attendant said, … NOT what the monkey was expecting.  He said, “Oh, OK” and went off to check seat belts and cell phones.

Kongo is thinking, “Are you kidding me??!!”  Who says cats in a travel box can’t sit for a few minutes in the overhead.  It’s not like it’s a child or something.  (Then you would have to put the infant in a child seat before you put it in the overhead).  This woman was rapidly fulfilling every single bad cat-person stereotype you can think of.

Kongo is rather ambivalent about cats.  He can take them or leave them and they are okay to pet and he likes it when they sit in your lap and purr.  But he doesn’t like them when they keep him awake.  Not at all.  Not here, nor there, nor ANYWHERE.  (A little tip of the hat to the Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham.)

Kongo double-checked the rules on the Delta website.  Yup, NOTHING on the floor of a bulkhead seat except your feet.  Not only that, but the woman kept the cat in her lap OUT OF THE CARRYING CASE.  Now this is another rule that Kongo knows about.  Not only was the cat out and meowing like it was prepping for a tryout for an MGM film clip, this was a long-haired cat and there was cat hair flying all over the place.  Like in food, drinks (which were late in arriving BTW) and mostly back toward Kongo’s seat that now had a direct line of vision to this feline horror story because the Quito Cat Lady’s seat was reclined so far back we were almost capable of becoming intimate.

The cat never went to sleep.  Never in five hours.  It just meowed, and meowed and meowed loudly over and over and over in a pretty quick little rhythm…kind of like the cadence to that cat meow jingle in Meow Mix commercials.  The sound frequency of this refrain pierced Kongo’s Bose earplugs.  Nothing could keep it away.

So Kongo never got any sleep that night and he was pretty cranky about it.  Random seat kicks, deep sighs, and nasty comments to Mrs. Kongo about people who bring obnoxious  animals on planes loud enough for the Quito Cat Lady to hear had no effect and probably made the monkey less attractive at the end of the day.  But it felt good at the time.

But the Quito Cat Lady was not Delta’s fault.  Not really.  Although Kongo would have given the steward a Well Done certificate had they ejected her and the cat from the plane somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico. Kongo does fault the Delta aircrew for not following rules and allowing this disturbance to go unchecked for the entire flight.  We have read about uncontrollable children getting kicked off fights but what about cats?

This is a cat that should have been made to fly in cargo.  Period.  Kongo doesn’t object to animals that behave properly, sit in their little boxes, and don’t bother anyone. Hey, Kongo’s a monkey for monkey’s sake!  This cat wasn’t really a cat.  It grows in Kongo’s mind to become more of a monster felid, something akin to a baby Smiladon.  Most of the time other passengers don’t even know there is an animal flying in the cabin with them.  Not this time.

And then there were the trips to the head with sheets of cat littler to take not so little Felix to answer its frequent calls of nature.  Seriously.  Quito Cat Lady would go into the tiny head on the 737 (now she was a big woman…undoubtedly cramped in such a tiny space even without the cat litter box) for 20-30 minutes at a time.  And the smells afterward.  OMG.

Now the little cat cage with the felines name embroidered in bright red (Chelsea, Cherry, Chenele some C-word) didn’t get much use that night.  And that’s too bad.  Shame on the  Quito Cat Lady and shame on Delta.

And this is not just Kongo being an ass**** simian as Mrs. Kongo sometimes accuses him when things go awry on travel.  It was like the whole front half of the plane did a synchronized eye roll when they got off.  It was actually a pleasure to stand in line and clear customs after the torture on that flight.

One woman approached Mrs. Kongo in the ladies room after landing and said, “And to think I used to LIKE cats.”

Well that was LAST week.  This is THIS week.

Kongo pens this 34,001 feet over El Paso on the way back to a long weekend in San Diego after a business week on the East Coast.  The original flight plan was to leave PHL at 8:30, connect through MSP, and on to San Diego.  But Kongo gets an alert in the middle of the night that the flight out of PHL is delayed an hour so he’s not going to make that Minneapolis connection.

So Kongo is on the phone to the Delta Diamond desk at 5 AM trying to figure out how to get home and not spend another stranded weekend in New Jersey.  (Winter weather has played havoc with the monkey this year),

It turns out that the only hope is to catch a 6:15 flight out of PHL and connect to SAN through ATL instead of MSP.  Yikes!  Kongo is way over in New Jersey and hasn’t packed or even properly awoke and he needs to be at the airport like NOW.

And Kongo makes it!  Only to discover that this flight is also delayed and what’s more, the reason for both flight delays was that mysterious “crew rest” issue.  Seriously?  For the first flights out in the morning before a 3-day weekend?  And why if the “system” knew that one flight was delayed, didn’t it know that the other flight was plagued by tired crew too so Kongo could have had time to brush his teeth before scampering out the door?  Travel mysteries.

These delayed flights creates a pretty sight in D Terminal at PHL.  What may be one of the most poorly designed terminals in the USA is now bulging with dazed and confused would-be vacationers and wandering worried monkeys wondering if they just got stranded and just don’t know it yet.  Kongo retreats to the Sky Club and hopes for the best.

Now the Sky Club at PHL is, in Kongo’s opinion, the absolute worst lounge in Delta’s inventory,  It is old and ugly, the WIFI is sketchy, and the restrooms are always dirty.  And the oatmeal is gluey.  But the employees behind the counter are great and snagged Kongo a backup seat (the last one available) from ATL to SAN in case the tired crew can’t get off on time and the monkey misses his connection in Atlanta.  Turns out the plane left EARLY (crew rest?) and the connection was easy and now Kongo will make it to San Diego in time for lunch except that he will fall asleep before he gets to the restaurant.

So, the monkey and Delta may be having a bit of a lover’s quarrel.  Not a breakup certainly.  Delta has taken the monkey to wonderful, exotic places all over the world.  In July it will take him to Maui.  In October Mexico.  He hopes to go to India in January and to Barcelona and Venice later in 2015.  And Tuesday he has to go to Florida.  So this is no divorce.  There’s way too much history between Kongo and Delta for that.   But he will have to have a little chat with Delta.

May you never meet the Quito Cat Lady and may all your aircrews be cheerful and rested.

Travel safe.  Have fun.

11 thoughts on “When Your Favorite Airline Hangs A Cat Lady Around Your Neck

  1. PHL is absolutely the worst airport I used to have to fly to on a consistent basis. The company I used to work for before I went into semi-retirement had its U.S. headquarters in Newtown Square and I flew to and from PHL weekly. Sadly I had to do it on US Air aka AA which made the experience even worse. Ahh, if only Alaska Airlines flew everywhere we need it to. After I used up my frequent flyer miles I gave up on AA and it is now my airline of last choice. I actually miss the days before deregulation of the airlines. Flying once was a nice experience. Love your photos. Keep em coming. Cheers, Wooly

  2. I always thought that animals were NOT allowed on planes. Pets in the cargo area…well, I really can’t see how comfortable that can be for animals – dark, noisy and stuffy. Soft animals like Kongo on the plane the exception 🙂

  3. What a story! Kongo had quite the adventure! I hope that doesn’t happen often while traveling. But seriously, that cat lady needed to be locked inside the toilet with her cat. Haha, i just hate hair especially in my food or drink. Ew… I admire your patience!

  4. Wow, poor Kongo! I work in aviation, and know for a fact that yes, animals go into the cargo hold (though also yes, some airlines now allow you to bring your pet up top if you purchase a seat… I guess some people think of them as their ‘babies). But as you pointed out, having the cat fur fly everywhere is nasty! and people with allergies could have considered suing Delta for even allowing that to happen.

    As I read towards the bottom I was half worried you were stuck on a return flight with the cat lady… again! Though I’m not sure if the stress of making the flight would match the stress of sitting behind her

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