My First (and Definitely not Last) Experience as a Flight Parent

Published on August 09, 2017

For the past 6 months, my girlfriends and I have been planning our first trip abroad together. After a lot of researching and reservations, we were finally set for the epic trip ahead of us. About a week before our flight, I saw a Facebook post by the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA) asking for flight parents heading to a list of different countries. Being an avid animal lover, I was ecstatic to see the word “Amsterdam” on the list. I went into full contact mode; messaging their Facebook page, calling their listed numbers and emailing them. Since ESMA is one of the biggest and busiest animal shelters in Egypt, it’s perfectly understandable that I didn’t get an answer right away. However, the next day I woke up to a message from Lia, whose husband George owns the animal foundation in Amsterdam that was fostering the cats.

After going back and forth with her, we realized that only my friend Nadine and I were able to be flight parents, as we were the only ones taking a direct flight to Amsterdam. All we needed to do was send them a copy of our passport, our flight information and just show up at the airport an hour early. Even though that meant we had to wake up around 5 am, Nadine and I were excited to help in any way possible. At the airport, a (super)man named John was waiting for us with the cats. He took our passports and told us to just follow him. We felt like celebrities, not having to stand in any lines or do anything. We basically just stood there – playing with the 7 adorable cats – for like half an hour and suddenly we had our passports and boarding passes in hand, the cats were checked in and we basically just had time to kill before boarding our flight.

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At Schipol, we passed through passport control, got our bags, and asked someone working at the airport about the cats. We waited for like 5 minutes until the cats were brought up to us, and just walked out. I repeat, we walked out. With 7 cats. Not a single person asked us anything as we passed the Nothing to Declare line at customs and that was it!

Lia was waiting for us outside to take the cats. What a sweet lady! She gave us gifts and hugs and was just overall fantastic, taking pictures of us and thanking us like we were heroes. It was funny to us, since all we had to do is show up an hour early, and got a 5 star treatment in return.

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After this experience with ESMA, I decided that I will always check with them before I travel abroad in case they need flight parents to whichever destination I’m heading to next. Lia, John, and everyone I spoke to from ESMA were extremely respectful and accommodating, making sure that we were comfortable and happy with the procedure. If anyone is considering helping ESMA by being a flight parent, I say go for it in a heartbeat! You have nothing to lose, and so much to gain, knowing that you’re helping a poor soul find a loving home somewhere.

If you aren’t traveling anywhere abroad soon, there are other ways to help ESMA.