In the cargo area of Frankfurt airport in Germany is a building that accomodates some unusual passengers.
Whether in transit, departing, or waiting to be picked up, Lufthansa sees 110 million animals passing through its reception area per year; like these trained dogs destined for the Houston Police in the United States, these puppies expected by their owner in Los Angeles, these Czech hamsters who will soon be on their way to Japan, or again these one thousand fish in bags, newly arrived from Bali for despatch to German specialty stores.
Certain species such as rabbits or cats wait patiently, in calmer surroundings, where the temperature is regulated.
Pascal Lalagüe, Animal Keeper - “Frankfurt Animal Lounge” Lufthansa Cargo:
"This cat is going to Doha (Qatar), and she’s flying today at 1 :30PM. We have lots of food for all kinds of animals. Sometimes the owners send their own food, and when they have their own food, they get their own food. Just to make sure they have no allergies.’’
All animals travel in boxes, cages or containers. These horses bound for the Middle East, for example, will be loaded into the hold of a cargo plane, well strapped in and secured inside these metal boxes.
But, back to the main subject. At this "transitory zoo" they sometimes encounter other not so sociable passengers: snakes, spiders, scorpions ... 60 veterinarians, assistants and other custodians responsible for verifying the condition of the merchandise, must remain extremely vigilant.
Thomas Klappich, Reptiles & Fish Manager – “Frankfurt Animal Lounge” Lufthansa Cargo:
"Yes, sometimes it's dangerous. Sometimes I have venomous snakes or animals running out of the box and I have to catch them. And Sometimes I do not know what's inside the box, so it's a surprise every eorning. "
At Lufthansa, a pet weighing more than 8kg. and not placed under the seat in front of you, is required to travel in the hold. Apart from elephants, too heavy, and giraffes, too big, the centre sees all types of species from the animal world. A market that accounts for only 3% of the freight transported by the German national carrier - but all the same lucrative.
Axel Heitmann, Director - “Frankfurt Animal Lounge” Lufthansa Cargo:
"It depends of course on the size of the animal. A rough idea of the cost would be for a german sheperd for example shipped to the United States about 700 euros. "
Being slightly more expensive than for a passenger in economy class. But, it is well known, when you really love something, money just doesn’t count; and you must admit that sometimes it is difficult to remain indifferent to some cute little creatures.