Misplaced Cat Covers Nearly 180,000 Miles Undetected on Pan Am Jet
Jan. 15, 1988
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Felix the cat must surely qualify for a feline frequent flier award, having logged more than 179,000 miles on 64 flights to three continents in 29 days.
''I just want to see her. I want to hold her,'' said Felix's owner, Janice Kubecki, who emerged from a Dec. 3 flight from Frankfurt, West Germany, to Los Angeles to find an empty cat cage awaiting her in the baggage claim area.
''To me it's a miracle,'' Mrs. Kubecki said Thursday in a telephone interview from her home at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
The 2-year-old calico, who is a female despite her name, was coaxed out of the plane's baggage compartment on New Year's Day in London, after covering an estimated 179,189 air miles and touching down in Europe, the United States and South America.
''The cat was quite thin when it was finally caught,'' said Pan Am spokesman Alan Loflin.
''We really have no idea what the cat ate, if the cat ate anything,'' said Loflin, turning aside queries about the possibility that the jet has a resident mouse population.
Felix is in quarantine in London because of that country's strict laws on animal importation, her bills paid by a cat-loving airline employee who adopted her before Mrs. Kubecki was tracked down.
The stalking of the flying feline and search for her owner is another tale in itself.
A London baggage handler spotted her in the cargo hold the morning of Dec. 31, but couldn't catch her before the plane was scheduled to take off, Loflin said. She eluded capture at all stops as the plane continued on to Frankfurt, Germany, London, Washington, D.C., and back to Frankfurt.
Finally, in London the afternoon of New Year's Day, quarantine and airline workers coaxed her out from behind a bulkhead.
Jane Ford, who supervises the calculation of airplane fuel weights for Pan Am in London, offered to pay quarantine fees so Felix - whom she renamed Amelia Earhart - wouldn't be destroyed, Loflin said. Upon discovering the required six-month stay would cost $1,300, Ms. Ford raised money from fellow employees.
''She's a cat lover to begin with,'' Loflin said.
Meanwhile, another cat lover in the airline's New York headquarters for lost baggage went by hand through baggage claim records looking for a report that matched Felix's saga.
She found Mrs. Kubecki, who took the flight while moving from Frankfurt to Edwards Air Force Base with her husband, William, who is with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
Quarantine officials in London have indicated they will release Felix if the Kubeckis have valid travel papers for her, Loflin said.
Felix's story surfaced Wednesday, a day after a Dutch tourist learned his dog had been killed in traffic after escaping from an airplane kennel during a stopover in St. Louis.
Leo Koewe identified the body of Loekie, a female terrier-poodle mix, at Lambert Airport in St. Louis, where he had changed planes last week Thursday en route from Dallas to Los Angeles.