Please Help Get Justice For Feline Soumo
By: Nada Makarem
I am sure most of you have already heard about our loss. For those of you that haven’t details of the tragic incident are written below. However to get to the point, Middle East Airline’s neglectful treatment of pets aboard their flights, led to the our cats escaping onto the runway and ended with the death of Soumo. The sweetest, happiest, one year old cat.
However, the story does not end there! MEA’s disrespect and lack of consideration towards their customers is a close second to MEA’s mistreatment of animals aboard their flights. It has been two months since the punishing death Soumo endured, and to this day, we have not had an official apology or in fact a reply of any kind, good or bad from MEA. MEA attaches so little value to its customers that they have not taken any time to reply to us. They could not even afford us the respect and consideration as fellow human beings to offer us a reply! MEA has decided to handle the situation by ignoring us! They did not respond to our letter, they don’t return our phone calls, and refuse to meet with us.
Our letter to MEA was very amicable (details are below!) we did not want to create problems for MEA we wanted only to ensure it would not happen again. yet we obviously are not worthy the common courtesy of a reply. People with lost luggage have been given better treatment and in here, we are talking about a soul, a living breathing being! No a piece of luggage.
Karim and I have three requests. The first is to boycott MEA, for two reasons, their negligent treatment of animals and their disrespect towards their passengers, they do not value their customers enough to award them the respect of a reply! At the very least if you have the choice of two airlines, choose the other one!
Secondly please write to MEA and complain, attached to this letter is an already written complaint for your convience, you can forward the attachment or you can write your own.Please, please, please, we ask EACH ONE OF YOU to forward the complaint to MEA from the short letter below. It will only take a minute of your time and will make a difference.
I am absolutely shocked by the death of Soumo the cat following a flight aboard your airline. And I outraged by your lack of consideration towards the guardians of the cat who have not as yet, two months on, received a written apology or at the very least a reply to the letter. Is this the kind of disrespect you show to all your customers? I am sorry you attach such little value to your passengers.
(YOUR NAME HERE)
Possible e-mail addresses:
Thirdly please forward this message to as many people as possible.
The reason your complaints make are so important is because legally, even though their exists a case, the way the legal system is in Lebanon, it would take years and years and years for it to come to court, and even if it was not laughed out of court by the judge, the court could not force MEA to implement changes. Furthermore, it would cost thousands and thousands of dollars, and the maximum MEA would have to pay is the cost of the cat. They do not even pay the legal fees if they lose, as they woudl have to do in the United Kingdom.
Although MEA is an IATA (International Air Transport Authority) member they did not follow any of the IATA regulations.
However, IATA does not have the systems in place to fine or ban MEA from IATA membership even though it disregards the rules. Therefore MEA will continue to disregard IATA regulations, yet still keep IATA membership, and be able to fool people into a false sense of security that it indeed follows IATA regulations.
Therefore, without you ALL writing to MEA, MEA will continue to believe that it can continue to neglect animals and disrespect passengers and not be penalised!
Outline of story:
Recently my husband and I boarded an MEA flight from Dubai with our two cats, as we had done numerous times before. However upon arrival in Beirut, I was finally told after some delay that the cats had managed to escape out of the cage and were on the runway!
After some time, they managed to catch one of my cats, when they brought her to me in the cage I noticed that the cage door was open and that the cage had a crack on it.
Finally, an hour later they located my other cat Soumo, when they brought him to me, he was alive but motionless, and unfortunately he died before we reached the vet.
The autopsy revealed that the main reason Soumo had died was due to a heart attack, due to the fear he endured, the deafening sounds of planes landing, dogs chasing him on the airport grounds (at least that is what MEA and ground staff said to us, which concerns me, surely there should not be wild dogs on the loose on airport grounds!). There was also internal bleeding which could be due to the heart attack but also could be due to an impact such as from a piece of luggage hitting him. That night MEA staff claimed they had found Soumo surrounded by dogs and they claim that that was the cause of his death. However, the autopsy shows that although there were two marks that could not be identified as dog teeth marks and that nevertheless these marks did not cause his death. The question I need to know is why and how did they get onto the runway in the first place. The cats were secured in their cage.
There are two alternative theories. Unfortunately I do not know enough because MEA is ignoring us. The first theory is that upon arrival at Beirut airport, while unloading the cage it must have been dropped carelessly from the plane onto the runway. From that great height, it caused the cage to crack and the door to open and the cats to flee. However, one MEA staff member told me they believed that the cage was not latched in properly at the start of the flight, causing the cage to bang from side to side throughout the flight, causing it to crack and finally causing the door to open. They believe this because she claimed that the cats were loose in the cabin already and upon opening the cabin door the two cats proceeded to jump of the plane and onto the runway. I can not believe my cats would jump from such a height, but it is another theory.
My husband and I wrote to MEA asking for an explanation and asking them to implement a new travel scheme for pets so that this does not happen in the future. I have not as yet, nearly two months on, received an official reply! However, unofficially, I was told that MEA already had high procedures with animals, to which I replied obviously not, or this would not have happened. The other indirect reply was through gulf news newspaper in the UAE where an MEA staff member misquoted IATA regulations to claim that the pet is my (the owners) responsibility aboard the flight and that MEA can not be held accountable for any accidents. I was also told that no apology would be given as this would mean taking on responsibility!
Furthermore, I have bought the IATA Live Animal Regulations book and I have noticed that MEA although an IATA member did not follow all the proper regulations. They did not label the cage, or fill in the form or check the cats. They did not have a vet at the airport, and so on... I also realised that it would only be the owner’s responsibility if the cat had died within the cage, after all the proper checks had been done. But Soumo, died outside the cage and as far as I am aware, none of the IATA checks had been carried out and the cats should not have been outside their cage.
I have tried to approach MEA amicably. My goal was to improve safety for the animals and not to make problems for MEA. I made three requests, the first was asking for an apology and an investigation into what occurred, the second was to set up and highlight in the in flight magazine a new pet travel scheme outline, which we suggested be called after our cat, and thirdly that they donate any compensation they wish to pay to SOS Veterinaire, our veterinary clinic for pets involved in accidents whose owners can not afford the treatment. However, MEA has seen fit to disregard my husband and I and to ignore the incident, which only seems to anger me and aggravate me and push me to take matters more seriously.
Many Thanks for your time.
Karim & Nada Makarem
Please write or e-mail the airport, when writing or e-mailing, please remember to be polite and to the point.
Airport contact details:
Beirut International Airport
Tel: +961 1 628000
Chairman - Mr Mohamed El-Hout
Tel: +961 1 628888
Fax: +961 1 629260 (Address: Mr Chairman)
E-mail (all MEA management emails): www.mea.com.lb/contactus/beirut.htm