Abbas Zoeb successfully checked into his Air Canada flight from Toronto to San Francisco on July 6, meaning staff loaded his luggage, including his two cats Mimi and Bubba, onto the plane, according to reporting from Insider.
However, Zoeb was denied boarding the aircraft due to an issue with his visa.
Once he realized he wouldn't be able to fly, he told crews that "under no circumstances" could his two cats remain onboard separate from him, the outlet reported.
After hours of waiting, Zoeb's worst fears were realized – he was notified that his cats were never taken off the plane and arrived in the Bay Area without him.
According to Zoeb, Air Canada officials told him that he had to either find his own way to San Francisco or tell someone in the city to pick them up for him.
"I said this is absurd and I don't have anyone to collect them," he told Insider.
Eventually, after 15 hours of stress and traveling, Zoeb was reunited with his pets, who were returned to Toronto.
"My pets were being treated like throwaway luggage and I was in anxiety all this time since no one could tell me where they were," he told the outlet. "Once I collected my pets they were visibly tired and feeling sick. Both were sneezing." The cats were stuck in a kennel during the entire 15-hour ordeal.
Air Canada recently changed its policy to where pets can no longer travel in the baggage compartment of a plane. Pets must either be either taken on board as passengers’ hand luggage or shipped using Air Canada Cargo. The airline said the rule change is due to "longer than usual airport delays." It’s unclear if the policy was altered before or after Zoeb’s situation.
"I am glad they won't be taking pets in cargo anywhere because I don't want any pet parent to go through what I did," Zoeb said.
KCBS Radio reached out to Air Canada for comment and did not receive a reply prior to publication.