We flew with Delta from St. Louis to Detroit to Amsterdam and then KLM took us from Amsterdam to Venice. Our flight was at 4:30 in the afternoon, so we gave our dogs a smaller than usual amount of food at 8:00 am and cut off their water supply at noon.
We flew with Delta and KLM (a Dutch partner airline). We arrived at the airport 2 hours ahead of our flight, but I would recommend getting there 3 hours ahead of time, especially if you have pets. The process for getting pets checked in to fly beneath the plane can be a lengthy process. Pets must be inside their crates/carriers before entering the airport. We found a free luggage dolly for our large dog crate before walking into the airport. Once inside we were directed to Delta’s “special services” line for checking in with a pet. They will ask to see your passports, print your boarding passes, and weigh your luggage.
Checking in with Pets
We handed over our pet health certificate documents, the representative filled out some paperwork, and we filled in the rest of the information for the sticker that goes on the pet crate. We paid the $200 fee for each pet (one flying in cabin and one in luggage). Then the Delta representative called a TSA representative to come check/swab our dog crate for security measures. TSA directed us over to a screening station and we had to take the dog out of the crate while they inspected the crate. Afterwards we went back to the special services counter and Delta took our dog from there. We were given our luggage claim tickets, which included one for our dog crate flying beneath the plane. We were able to check the status/location of our luggage and our dog using the Delta app on our phone by simply entering the claim number, which gave us some peace of mind after each flight.
Delta allows military “on PCS orders” to have up to four (4) 70 pound checked bags per person. Your orders may also state that you are allowed more luggage/weight in addition to the airline’s limit, but you would have to pay for it and get reimbursed later on as a travel expense. Each of us chose to bring a duffle bag and a large suitcase, because a duffle bag can easily fit on top of a large suit case and be rolled one-handed. I packed my duffle bag with soft items like clothes and bath towels. I packed my suitcase with toiletries, shoes, and pet supplies. Delta also allows one carry on and one personal item per person. Each of us had a book bag as our carry on for all of our electronic items. One of our personal items was the soft sided carrier for our dog “in cabin” and the other was my tote bag filled with books/magazines, iPods, snacks for during the flight.
We had to go through two (2) security check points: one stateside and one in Europe.
Stateside: We had to show a photo ID and our boarding pass before getting in line. My husband had the TSA pre-screen done ahead of time, so I had him go through with our book bags. They did not make him take off his shoes or take out our laptops from our book bags. I went through regular security with our in cabin pet and my tote bag. I opened the pet carrier, took the collar off of my dog, and then walked through the metal detector while carrying my dog. Since I was carrying my dog, TSA had to swab my hands for chemical residue.
Europe: In Amsterdam our flight terminal for going to Venice was unexpectedly located beyond another security check-point. We had to show our passports and boarding passes before getting in line for security. Getting through security with my in cabin dog was a bit different this time. They wanted me to walk through the metal detector with my dog on its leash instead of carrying her. After the metal detector went off, they had us walk back and try again. This time I walked through by myself. Then airport security tried walking my dog through the metal detector, but she would not budge because of the alarms that had gone off. They had me go back through security and walk with her again. They ended up letting us go, because of the long line of people behind me. Security told me that next time I should go through the “in cabin/carry on line” or something like that… I’m not sure what they meant, but I’m guessing there must have been a special line I was supposed to go through with a pet. It was quite confusing and comical at the same time… most likely due to my lack of sleep!
In order to board your overseas flight you have to show your passport along with your boarding pass. The plane is huge with 3 columns of seats (2 seats on each side of the plane and 4 in the middle). There was plenty of space on our flight at about 25% maximum capacity. We had new blankets and travel pillows already on our seats. Our headrests were movable from the sides to conform to your head like a neck pillow. The flight attendants came around with sleeping masks, headphones, and ear plugs at the beginning of the flight.
We had touch screens on the back of the seat in front of us to control the reading light, call the flight attendant, and view our flight progress. The screen also included “complimentary” in-flight movies, TV shows, games, and music. We watched two recently released movies both of which came out this year. I also watched an episode of TV, played Solitaire/Sudoku, and listened to some calming sleep music during my nap. It made time go by much faster!
At the beginning and end of our overseas flight they came around with warm towelettes to use for freshening up. The first thing we were served was snacks and beverages. Alcoholic beverages were complimentary on our flight, which included beer, wine, and liquor. A couple hours into our flight they served dinner and shortly before our flight ended they served breakfast. Both of our in-flight meals were quite impressive. They also came around with coffee, tea, and water bottles after each meal. It was one of the best flying experiences I had ever had!
The baggage claim process at Marco Polo was pretty straight forward. We found some free luggage carts located next to the carousels for our bags and dog crate. My husband waited at the carousel for our luggage and I went to the over-sized baggage area to look for our dog that had flown beneath the plane. The over-sized baggage area for carousels 1, 2, and 3 was located behind carousel number one (1). Our dog was sitting calmly by herself in her crate waiting at the doorway. Nobody was around to check any paperwork, so we simply took her.
The military liaison spotted us and started helping with our luggage. He told us we were allowed to take our dogs out of their crates if we wanted to walk them on their leashes before leaving the airport. The baggage claim area is a secure area closed off by double doors, so nobody (like your sponsor) can enter to help or greet you until you walk out. Once you go out the double doors you will see a row of people lined up like paparazzi holding up signs with names on them. To your right will be the military liaison “desk” although I would consider it more of a ticket window than an actual desk. They can help you with locating the free military shuttle to base. Keep in mind if you have pets and plan to take the military shuttle the pet must remain inside of their crate and the carrier must be able to fit on the seat. For size reference the bus is a commercial size tour bus. From there you can check into your hotel, drop off your things, and go explore the base. If you want to check in from leave and start in processing you will need to go to the central processing facility (CPF) on base.