Ariel Dale, a voice actress and singer says her recent experience on a flight from Los Angeles to New York City was her “worst nightmare.” Why? After carefully planning how best to fly her two beloved cats across the country, she says American Airlines lost track of them.
Dale was moving to grad school, bringing a car full of belongings and her two kitties from the west to the east coast. Her two adorable cats are named Mr. Tumnus and Stevie Nicks, and she wanted to make it as easy as she could for them.
In particular, she worried that Mr. Tumnus would be anxious. As a rescued cat who had a “hard life,” before Dale adopted him, he can be fearful of people and commotion. Unlike many cats, he is hesitant about being touched or held. So, she worried that taking him on a commercial flight would be too stressful. For example, when picked up, he becomes overcome with fear.
“I spent weeks and weeks up all night trying to figure out what the best way to do this was,” Ariel said on TikTok. “There is no good option to get your cats across country,” she said.
When Dale learned that all available flights had a 14-hour layover, she opted for flying her cats in a separate direct cargo flight. With an American Airlines flight, she learned she could fly the cats in one nonstop flight. Also, she thought driving was out since there would be so many stops and unfamiliar Airbnb’s every night.
“Finally I decided it was better for them to have one day of stress rather than have four, five days of stress on the road,” she continued.
Now, she had everything planned so that she would arrive shortly before her cats in New York. Although it all looked perfect on paper, how it played out in real-time was another matter entirely.
A Freak Out in Mid-Air
After she says she got instructions to take her cats to the wrong drop-off address, the 45-minute delay caused her almost to miss her own flight. However, she narrowly made it with two minutes to spare.
Then, right as she was about to take off, she got texts learning her cat’s separate flight would be delayed – not once but multiple times.
“At this point, I’m freaking out because I don’t know how long these cats are going to be sitting in cargo,” she said.
Online, a tearful Dale posted a TikTok video that went viral.
From there, she continued to post follow-ups as the distressing story unfolded. Although she may have thought only a few people would see the video, it was more like 4.8 million.
“This is actually my worst nightmare. They’ve already been in the kennel for over 14 hours bcuz their flight was cancelled,” read the caption.
All videos via TikTok/arieldale
Since Dale had WiFi on the plane, she had access to the internet. Suddenly, she discovered her cats’ flight was canceled. Then, she was relieved to learn about a rescheduled flight only to learn it, too, would be delayed.
“As long as they are on a plane, it’ll be ok,” she reassured herself.
Heading to the Airport
After landing in New York, Dale talked on the phone and emailed a spokesperson. To her relief, she learned the airline was caring for her cats, and they were on the way. In an email, she received instructions for where to pick up her cats at JFK Airport.
Now, she had time to get her apartment ready for Mr. Tumnum and Stevie Nicks before picking them up.
An Airline Terminal Mixup
Now ready to pick up the kitties, Dale headed to the airport. She went directly to the terminal when she arrived, only to go on a wild goose chase. First, she says the staff directed her to another terminal. Then, she learned her cats weren’t there either.
“Hey, I’m here to pick up my two cats,” she told the man at Terminal 8.
“We don’t have any cats,” the man replied.
Her worst nightmare was playing out. Why didn’t anyone know where her cats were?
“When the American Airlines worker told me they didn’t have my cats and didn’t know where they were, I panicked, and my heart dropped to my stomach,” Dale told Insider. “I immediately fell to the floor and started crying.”
From there, Dale says the man looked for her cats for around two hours. Finally, he said the cats are on the way. For another hour, she waited and waited.
In the meantime, she was “freaking out,” and even thought the cats might have died.
Reunited After Hours of Anxiety
Finally, the airline staffer brought her cats to her in their kennel. Inside, Mr. Tumnus had buried himself deep inside his favorite warm green blanket Dale had given him.
“I could see him breathing a little bit so I knew he was alive at least,” she said.
Even the normally chatty Stevie was silent but immediately got up when she saw Dale. After their stressful experience, the cats would also need to adapt to their new apartment. Fortunately, Stevie Nicks helped Mr. Tumnus feel confident to explore their new home.
“They’re ok now, they’re adjusting,” she said.
Throughout the process, Ariel Dale received many supportive comments from her 56,000 TikTok followers. During the stressful experience, she says their comments meant the world to her and her kitties.
Statement From the Airline
Asked for a response, an American Airlines spokesperson gave a statement.
“Caring for our animal travelers and ensuring they have a smooth and safe travel experience is always a top priority for us. We never like when travel plans are disrupted and are sorry for any inconvenience. Our team was in regular contact with Ariel throughout her pets’ journey and she has been reunited with her furry companions since then.”
In the recent post, Dale showed Stevie Nicks enjoying their new home and toys. However, Mr. Tumnus has gone into hiding, hanging out in an old closet Dale humorously calls the “murder closet.” When adjusting to new spaces, cats often hide until they adjust, and it takes a little longer for some kitties.
Although very shy, Mr. Tumnus is ok, as seen in a “Mr. Tumnus reveal” TikTok. (see below)
We’re thrilled that Ariel and her furry friends are doing well adjusting to their new home.
image via TikTok/arieldale
All images and videos: TikTok/arieldale