The fat-cat scam: The silliest way to lose your frequent-flyer miles

Nov 13, 2019

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A Russian man was banned from Aeroflot’s frequent flyer program, and lost all his 370,000 miles, after smuggling his overweight cat onto a flight last week. The scam was discovered after going viral on social media, according to NBC News.

So, what do a fat cat and frequent flyer miles have to do with each other?

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According to NBC, Mikhail Galin used a body-double cat to work around Aeroflot’s limit for animals transported in the plane’s cabin during a flight from Moscow to Vladivostok, on Russia’s Pacific coast. Galin said that Viktor the cat traveled with him from Riga, Latvia, to Moscow in the cabin but was barred from being in the cabin on the leg from Moscow to Vladivostok. The limit, according to the airline, is roughly 18 pounds.

He delayed his flight for a day in search of a slimmer cat and, after finding one, returned to the airport, according to the BBC. After the smaller feline cleared the check-in desk, Galin gave the cat back to its owners and smuggled Viktor onto the plane. His mistake was to post about the scheme on Facebook, earlier this month, along with photos of the overweight cat in his lap in the cabin and a glass of Champagne.

The airline told the network that Galin violated several airline regulations on transporting animals, including violating the weight requirement and removing the cat from his pet carrier, which led to him being kicked out of the Aeroflot Bonus loyalty program.

“In connection with several counts of deliberate violation of the air carriage agreement, Aeroflot has decided to exclude this passenger from the Aeroflot Bonus loyalty program,” the company told NBC News. “All miles accumulated during his entire participation in the program will be cancelled.”

Galin didn’t seem to be too heartbroken, telling NBC, “I violated the rules, and the carrier has every right to take action.” But a member of Russia’s Parliament reached out to Aeroflot’s CEO requesting to reinstate Galin’s miles.

Aeroflot is the flagship carrier and largest airline in Russia. It mainly operates out of its hub at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO) and flies to more than 140 destinations around the world. The airline is also part of the SkyTeam Alliance.

Related: A comprehensive guide to traveling with pets

If you’re curious what 370,000 Aeroflot miles will get you — and we know you are — we crunched the numbers for you. That’s quite a valuable stash that Galin gave up: According to Aeroflot’s own award chart, that amount can get you four one-way tickets between Moscow and Tokyo in business class, or three round-trip tickets between Moscow and New York-JFK, also in the front of the plane.

Featured image by Javier Rodriguez / The Points Guy

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