After a series of stories about the travails of oversized passengers and baggage fees, now I have a story about an oversized dog sent to me by one of our contributors, Karen Cummings. (Where does she come up with these things?) She notes that Giant George, the world’s tallest dog, was treated like a king on his way to the Oprah Show. Of course he (or Oprah) purchased more than one seat (even though it is not American’s policy to force oversized passengers to purchase an additional seat).

It all started when Giant George was selected by the Guinness World Records as the “Tallest living dog” and the Oprah Show decided that they just had to have Giant George on their program.

‘We then began coordinating the logistics of transporting a 43ins and 17.3 stone (242.2 lbs.) dog to Chicago.

‘After much deliberation and discussion, American Airlines offered to fly Giant George to Chicago.

‘He would not fit in a first-class row, so he got three of his own seats at the bulk-head…This meant that Giant George would be in the fuselage, like a regular passenger.

Oprah introduced Giant George as, “taller than Shaquille O’Neal, weighs more than Peyton Manning and eats 110 pounds of food every month.”

After a morning of Senate hearings, a good dog story was a welcome relief and begged some questions. So, I contacted Tim Smith, a spokesperson for American Airlines.

He immediately responded with a witty comment:

I saw you had called about the large dog we transported recently. While we certainly considered him our guest, his multiple seats were fully paid for by a well-known television program where he was to be a guest on-air.

I can’t discuss the financial details of someone else’s ticket – dog or human – but we were certainly compensated for the space used by the dog. I’m also told he was an excellent passenger and was quite courteous with our staff.

I asked Tim whether AA’s dog rules would allow him to fly as a pet.
He is a dog, but almost the size of a horse. Do dogs get the same treatment as luggage and have a weight cut-off? Can anyone pay for multiple seats for their pet, or was this a special case?

Tim’s response:

No, regular pet travel fees did not apply here. We occasionally allow “celebrity” pets to travel in the cabin under different rules. We used to transport the dog from Frasier quite often, for example, and we have handled other celebrity animals from time to time over the years.

They are not covered by standard pet travel fees. But as noted, these seats were paid for.

So in the interest of making this a legitimate consumer column, Tim did point me to American Airlines’ regular pet rules and regulations for United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Obviously, Giant George wouldn’t fit into an approved pet carrier and qualify for the $100 cabin fare. However, according to Tim Smith, for $150, Big George would be welcome to fly as a checked pet in the temperature-controlled, pressurized belly of the aircraft. AA makes no differentiation between big dogs and little dogs. They all fly for $150 in the belly of the plane.

It is a good thing that AA has not begun to unbundle fees for dogs. If he was treated as a piece of checked baggage, he couldn’t fly because he weighs too much and is far too large.

Other than exceptions for certain special items, no article will be accepted as baggage if it weighs more than 100 pounds or has a total out side linear dimension (length plus width plus height) of more than 115 inches. Additional restrictions apply to some American Eagle flights. Further information is available at any American ticket office.

Yes, it’s obviously good to be the big dog rather than the big bag on American Airlines.

I think Clifford the Big Red Dog must have said that. Being a big celebrity, he would probably get at least a row to himself. Then again, “as big as a house” may make him too big even for a dog-friendly airlines like American.