Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fido is Flying in Style

Imagine your dog sitting in a first class seat on a flight to New York or L.A. Kibble being served in a silver dish. Chew toys available at the wag of a tail.

Not quite. Pets will not be strapped into seats, but rather will be getting their very own plane to travel across the country. Pet Airways, the first airline exclusively for pets, is launching its new service starting next week, July 14. The airline currently is only available in 5 cities—New York, Washington D.C., Denver, Chicago, and L.A.—but hopes to expand nationwide.

It's simple. Right now animals that travel with their owners on planes are treated as baggage and kept in crates in the cargo area. This can be a scary and traumatic event for pets; especially since cargo holds can reach temperatures up to 120 degrees. Also, many airlines recently have disposed of their pet-acceptance policies and will no longer allow pets on flights. Of the airlines that do still take pets, they have policies that state they cannot accept them when the temperature outside is below 45 degrees or above 85 degrees. These regulations are for safety reasons, but it makes traveling with a pet extremely limiting.

Pet Airways provides pets a ride in a Beech 1900 airplane, where the seats have been removed, so pets can be placed in their private pet carriers and secured using a proprietary restraint system. Pet attendants monitor the comfort of the animals every 15 minutes throughout the flight. Dropping off and picking up pets is made easy with Pet Lounges at every airport where owners check their animal in two hours before the flight. If people need to check in earlier, their pet can stay at the Lodge provided by the airline up to 72 hours before the flight. For peace of mind, owners can track their pets the whole way online at the Pet Airways website.

The prices are a little steep, if you ask me--as low as $149 one way. I spend less on regular round-trip tickets. I know that airline policies for pet travel are changing, and can be limiting at times, but is it really worth it for that much money? For people who love to pamper their pet, probably. But I find it's just better to find a pet-sitter, and leave your animals at home.

Currently, the airline only provides services for dogs and cats, but reptiles, birds, and pigs are soon to follow.

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