A man almost pulled off the purr-fect plan.
Russian airline Aeroflot told CNN in a statement Tuesday that it has stripped a passenger named Mikhail Galin of his frequent flyer miles after he smuggled his cat Viktor into the cabin of a plane.
Aeroflot allows pets in the cabin if they and their carrier weigh under 17.6 pounds, according to The Washington Post. But Viktor weighed in at 22 pounds during check-in, and Galin was told that his furry friend would have to travel in cargo — which has been responsible for many pet-related fatalities — for a flight from Moscow to Vladivostok.
“I was very worried that during the duration of an eight-hour flight, something would happen to him in the cargo and he wouldn’t survive the trip,” Galin, 34, told The Post.
Galin said he pleaded, but the airline wouldn’t budge. So he decided to delay his flight — and then came up with a pretty wild scheme.
While he was in Moscow, Galin told CNN that he published a Facebook post asking friends to help him find a smaller cat who looked like his — or a “mini Viktor.” He eventually found one named Phoebe, and with the slimmer feline body double secured, Galin used his flyer miles to book two seats in business class from Moscow to Vladivostok just days after the original flight.
On the day of the flight, Galin presented Phoebe at check-in. She made weight and was allowed to fly in the plane’s cabin.
Galin then swapped out Phoebe for Viktor before boarding the plane.
Galin almost got away with the whole plot as well — but he couldn’t help but brag about the switcheroo on Facebook and Instagram in now viral posts.
In the posts, Galin outlined his plan, and included two photos of him and Viktor. In one photo, Galin is holding his kitty up to the airplane’s window with Aeroflot’s branding clearly visible on the seat’s headrest. In the other, Viktor sits pretty in his carrier behind what appears to be a glass of champagne.
Aeroflot told CNN that it launched an “official investigation” after Galin’s posts went viral. In retaliation, the airline has decided to kick Galin out of its loyalty program and stripped him of his airline miles for “several instances of deliberate violation” of its rules, including not checking the cat into cargo and also taking the animal out of its carrier on board.
“This information was confirmed by recording from video surveillance cameras,” the airline said in a statement to CNN. “During the preflight inspection procedure, the passenger took out a large-sized cat that looks like a photograph of the cat he posted.”
The airline’s reaction reportedly sparked a backlash on Russian social media. NBC reported that a Russian politician even wrote a letter to Aeroflot urging it to return Galin’s miles and rethink its policies.
Yet Galin — who told The Post that he found out about the penalties against him through media reports — doesn’t seem too upset about the punishment, even if he did lose 370,000 miles.
“I did break their rules,” Galin told The Post. “Because of that, their internal program decided to hand down a punishment, and I can only agree with it.”