Pet airline travel may reach new heights in 2009 with the launch of a pet friendly airline called, Pet Airways.
This will be a significant change for pet travelers and a relief for many pet owners.
According to the American Animal Hospital Association, approximately 76 million cats and dogs travel with their owners each year.
Pet travel is on the increase and in response to that demand more and more airlines are allegedly becoming pet friendly.
But pet friendly is not always what you think.
For instance, despite the high number of pets that are traveling with their owners, relatively few currently travel by air.
Why? Just take a look at these constraints:
• Small pets may travel with their owners only if stowed under the seat.
• Most airlines will only accept one or two pets per flight so if you don’t book early your pet might not be one of those animals.
• Pets too big to fit under the seat are relegated to cargo and are treated as such.
• Cargo pet travel is not available when outside temperatures are below 45 degrees or above 85 degrees.
• Due to the lack of oxygen and temperature control in cargo holds, the most common causes of death to pets transported that way are suffocation and heat prostration.
• Several airlines (including Southwest, USA Air and America West) have announced they will no longer accept pets on board their aircraft.
So pet friendly isn’t exactly the phrase I would use for most commercial airlines.
I hate to even tell you that out of the two million animals transported in the cargo holds of commercial airliners each year, the Society for the Protection of Companion Animals (SPCA) estimates that approximately 5,000 are injured in transit.
That is a lot of injuries.
These numbers are more disturbing when you discover that it has only been since June of 2005 that airlines have been required to report animal incidents at all. (No verifiable statistics exists for the number of pets permanently injured or traumatized.)
Now if that doesn’t make you think twice about traveling by air with your pet, perhaps this will:
The Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) states, “Virtually every major airline has been cited and fined for repeatedly mishandling animals.”
So, if you are like me, you are glad to hear that there is going to be another airline option available to pet owners by the summer of 2009. Pet Airways will be in operation and offer its “pawsengers” comfortable and efficient transportation inside the cabins of their planes.
Pet Airways (PAWS) will also be the first scheduled airline specifically designed to transport pet passengers who will travel in the specially equipped main cabin of their planes instead of the cargo hold.
The Pet Airways currently maintains a fleet of 20 planes including a Falcon 20, Convair 580 and 5800 and B- 727-100 aircraft.
As for pet comfort, the plane cabins will be fully lit, climate controlled and pressurized and include a trained pet attendant who will be on duty at all times.
A typical pet friendly flight will depart with 100 pets. Initial routes are round trip flights from New York to Los Angeles with stops in Washington DC, Chicago and Denver.
Pet Airways plans to offer nationwide coverage and easily accessible check-in lounges in major metropolitan areas.
The group will also offer flights out of more convenient and less congested secondary airports which will allow for easier access and quicker loading and unloading.
Above: The Pet Airways Pawsenger Process
Trained personnel will assist “pawsengers” onto their planes and supervise them as they disembark. The goal is to get animals into and out of the planes as quickly as possible, and depending on transit time, offer toileting opportunities, along with food and water as necessary during stops.
Pet Airways goal is to provide sensitive, careful handling and peace of mind to all pet parents using the service.
According to Dan Wiesel, CEO of Pet Airways, “We want people to know that their pets are well looked after by people who care as much about their pets as they do. The goal is to make the pet travel experience more comfortable and enjoyable for both the pawsengers and their human families.”
The unique animal airline has also developed a proprietary reservation and tracking system called Pawprints™, which will allow pet parents to make reservations and track their pet’s travel via the web.
So, what are the rates?
It is too early to tell but estimates are that this service will only cost slightly more than it would if you sent your pet in the cargo hold of other airlines.
The goal is to keep the service affordable so all pets can be safe and treated well.
Fares will vary according to the size of the pet and the distance traveled. Preliminary estimates are that the rates may start as low at $150 per animal.
Pet Airways has also started a furry flyer bonus program called the MyPAWS Club. For just a small membership fee all MyPAWS club members can get discounts off purchases of pet supplies, pet medicines, pet health insurance, pet-friendly hotel stays, pet foods, and more.
Pet Airways is now accepting reservations for it first flights and I will be interested to see how this new venture goes.
For more information visit Pet Airways.