Tickets have been booked !

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This past week has been quite eventful; two important steps, towards our trip, were taken – we booked our one-way (yeah, one-way) tickets to Bombay and were also sworn-in as US citizens.

Shayna’s flight passage from San Francisco to Mumbai has been worrying us right from the day we first planned this trip. How does a dog survive such long-haul flights when it’s so tiring for us humans! Also, how does the airline handle pets during layovers? The paperwork involved in importing a pet to India also seemed very daunting.

We did quite a bit of research regarding all of this. In terms of Shayna’s flight journey, we found that, amongst international airports, Frankfurt and London airports have good pet-handling facilities. In fact, there was an article regarding the pet facilities at Frankfurt airport – it’s supposed to be state-of-art with facilities to handle all kinds of animals, from horses to small birds and reptiles. After reading that article, I was convinced that Lufthansa is the only airlines we should consider for our trip. After some more research, this is what we eventually figured out:

  • We can check Shayna in as ‘excess baggage’ on our Lufthansa flight. The cost of this will be by weight – we are estimating a charge of about $300 to $400 (got to get her to lose some more weight). She will need to be in an airline-approved crate at the time of check-in. She will be placed in the cargo hold of the plane, which is air-conditioned and pressurized to the same levels as the passenger cabins. At Frankfurt, she will be unloaded, taken out of the crate, walked, fed and loaded on to the next leg of our flight by experienced pet-handlers. At Mumbai, she will be brought in her crate to the baggage claims area of the airport for our pick-up.
  • In terms of paperwork, 10 days prior to our date of travel, Shayna’s vet needs to fill out 2 forms for us; one is required by the airlines and the other needs to be certified by USDA. In both forms, the vet certifies that Shayna is current on all her shots, including rabies, and that she is healthy enough for the proposed travel. A copy of the USDA certified form needs to be sent to India in order to obtain a NOC by the Indian authorities for import of the pet. Since we need this NOC before we board our flight to Mumbai, we need to engage an agent there to get this done – this would cost about $250.

So after all the research, we finally booked our tickets on Lufthansa thru a bay-area travel agent. The flight leaves San Francisco on Oct 13th at 2:10pm and arrives in Mumbai on Oct 15th at 1am in the morning, with a 4-hour layover in Frankfurt – a total of about 22 hours in transit, which is not too bad. The arrival time in Mumbai sucks but all Lufthansa flights arrive at the same time, so we had no choice. The pet travel agent in Mumbai will also help arrange a pet-friendly cab for us – this will be important ‘coz Shayna and her huge crate are definitely not going to fit in my dad’s WagonR.

The swearing-in ceremony was pretty uneventful. Madhu and I were given different time-slots on the same day. We were each sworn-in along with 50 other applicants. We took the Oath of Allegiance and Pledge of Allegiance and were declared citizens within a matter of minutes. As I walked out of the hall, I just felt plain relief at having crossed this milestone without any major roadblocks. We now have about 4 & 1/2 weeks in which to get our US passports and an Indian visa (funny how its reversed now) …

Today morning, we went to a local US Post Office and applied for the passports. We applied for ‘expedited’ services which means that we should get the passports within the next 2 weeks instead of the usual 4 to 5 weeks of processing time. We are so close now … can’t wait!

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