A friend of mine who has recently moved back called me 5 days before leaving rather desperate as even though she had not had trouble with having American Airlines accept her cat as baggage, she did not yet have a reservation number for her cat and her travel agent was concerned that it had not come through by then. She had reserved her direct flight on American Airlines thinking that it would be easiest on her 18 month old daughter and since the airline said they accepted cats thought that was it BUT after checking around (5 days before flying at probably one of the most hectic times), found out that American Airlines would only accept the cat basing themselves on if weather temperatures would never be over 80 degrees. Well, when she figured out the language (because it wasn't quite that straight-forward) she realised that they were not going to accept the cat because even if it was under 80 degrees in Madrid, it was never going to be under 80 degree in Dallas when they landed.
She called around and found out which airlines do accept cats in the cabin with passengers - Delta is one, I think Luftansa provides air-conditioning to pets flying as baggage-- and she was lucky that my sister was in Spain on a short holiday and flying Delta. Well, between us we managed to convince my sister to do a favor and bring the cat back with her (my sister, the saint, was travelling alone with her four daughters and now a cat).
J, the cat's owner, called Delta and found out exactly what we would need to bring the cat. She also found someone to keep the cat for the weeks between her leaving and my sister's leaving (allergies at my house). They also brought the cat an hour and a half north to us in Vinaros.
Anyway, the cat arrived. We sequestered it in my empty laundry room for the night, giving it food, water and a clean litterbox -- I don't think the poor thing used any of it. At 5:45am my sister and I mashed up an anti-anxiety pill for the cat, made her take it and got her into her carrier for the 2 hour trip to the airport. We did not have a problem getting the cat on the plane, she got x-rayed with the rest of the hand luggage and got on a plane to Atlanta with my sister's family. A bit of wetness and smell was detected towards the end of the flight but they made it without incident to Atlanta.
In Atlanta, the first step is to go through passport control and then pick up your bags. After this you take your bags through customs and since my sister had a cat they had to deal with the agricultural customs agent. He wasn't interested in looking at the cat's passport, no, he wanted to see the cat's orifices, I am assuming that he thought a cat being brought into the states by a mother travelling with 4 children was at high risk for being used as a drug mule because if that is not the case, I have no explaination for it. My sister told J. that the good news was that the cat was not hiding any drugs and the bad news was that she was raped.
Finally, they did manage to get through and even managed to make their conecting flight to Dallas where J. met them to pick up her cat.
I have two large boxers that are somewhat deformed and are on the ugly side of the spectrum but we love them very much and they are very good and sweet. I already know that there are airlines that refuse to take dogs with short muzzles (like bulldogs, pugs and boxers - because they can have respiratory issues) so I guess we would have to fly in the winter on an airline that would accept them or I will have to do my homework and find out if Luftansa really does have a climate conrolled baggage compartment for pets.