Pet Travel

Delta fights back against woman who claims airline held dog ‘hostage’ at Guatemalan airport

Delta Air Lines had quite a doggie dilemma last week.

Mary Nguyen, a student from Minneapolis, Minn., claimed that the legacy carrier held her dog “hostage” at an airport in Guatemala because the pet’s paperwork was misplaced — and that the airline only released her dog after he was held for 33 hours in a storage area.

But a representative for Delta tells Fox News that officials at the Guatemalan airport were actually behind the dog's prolonged detainment while they waited for proper documentation.

Nguyen says she sent her dog — an 8-month-old German Shepherd named Bunny — to go live with her husband in Guatemala. To facilitate the trip, Nguyen utilized the services of Pet Air Carrier — a USDA-certified service that works to relocate pets domestically and internationally — in order to obtain and complete the neccessary documentation for international pet relocation services.

The student also claims she drove all the way to Wisconsin to get Bunny’s paperwork endorsed before the dog's trip.

Then, on May 26, Bunny was placed on a Delta flight that left Minneapolis at 5:25 p.m. Despite taking the necessary precautions and filling out the correct paperwork, Nguyen says her husband was not allowed to retrieve the dog from La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City until the evening of May 28.


According to Nguyen, officials at the airport informed her that the dog’s paperwork had been misplaced and, even though they had access to digital copies, they needed the physical ones before releasing Bunny.

"They have all the documents they need on their scratch pad to release her but refuse to do so without the hard copy that they lost," Nguyen told CBS News on Friday. "The document has been in their possession the whole [time] since I've surrendered my dog over."

A representative for Delta told Fox News that the company is uncertain as to why or how the documentation was misplaced, but that they are currently looking into the situation.

However, Nguyen further alleges that Delta told her she’d have to pay $3,000 to release the dog to her husband, prompting her to describe the ordeal as a hostage situation.

A representative for Delta tells Fox News that it was both Delta and a Guatemalan official who informed her that she owed an additional 3,000 Guatemalan quetzals — and not dollars — most likely requested by the Guatemalan airport officials in order to cover import duties, as well as the cost of hiring a customs agent.

Delta says that they, as a company, were never trying to collect additional money from Nguyen (and in fact covered these additional costs) which came to just over $400 in U.S currency, in order to help facilitate Bunny's release. Delta also claims they are unaware of the circumstances concerning Nguyen's travel arrangements, so they cannot be sure what fees she had expected to pay, or had already paid regarding her dog's travel.

Regardless, Nguyen claims she was overwhelmed upon hearing of Bunny's detainment, and she spent the subsequent 33 hours making phone calls and trying to secure the release of her dog.

Ultimately, Nguyen was informed that Bunny’s paperwork had been found and rushed to Guatemala. Later that day, the dog was released to her husband.

"After 33 hours, they finally released Bunny," Nguyen told MarketWatch.


Delta tells Fox News that they, too, worked diligently with the customer and the airport to provide officials with the documents they needed. They also confirmed to Fox News that they are refunding the customs fees and taxes Nguyen incurred through Delta, as well as the shipping fees, hotel fees, and any incidentals incurred.

"We know that pets are important members of the family and worked directly with the customer to ensure that she was reunited with her dog in advance of the paperwork arriving. We are fully refunding the shipment," Delta told Fox News in a statement.

An attempt by Fox News to reach Mary Nguyen herself has not been returned. 

Nguyen and her husband’s pet has since been retrieved by an owner, which is more than five Delta-flying pet owners can say about recent travel experiences: Earlier this year, the Department of Transportation determined Delta to be the second-worst airline when it came to animal deaths, with five total animal deaths in 2016 alone, or 1.23 deaths for every 10,000 animals transported. (United was the worst offender, with nine total animal deaths in 2016, or 2.11 for every 10,000 animals transported.)