Veterinarian Reviewed on April 24, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
That is all about to change, however, because on 14 July 2009, a new airline for only pets will take to the sky. Pet Airways will be the first pet only airline in the USA that flies domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, of all different sizes in the plane’s cabin instead of the cargo hold.
The cargo hold of a regular plane was designed to carry luggage, not pets, and because of this there have been numerous reports on pets being hurt, lost or worse, killed, whilst travelling in the cargo hold of an airplane.
The San Francisco SPCA conducted in a recent study in which they discovered that “of the two million animals transported in the cargo holds of commercial airliners per year, approximately 5,000 are injured in transit.”
The Animal, Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) backs this finding up by stating that “virtually every major airline has been cited and fined for repeatedly mishandling animals.”
Pet Airways mission is to change all of this and will start by offering flights from New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles. More major cities will be added as the airline continues to grow.
Pet Airways was started up by a husband and wife duo in Florida, after not being able to fly comfortably with their Jack Russel Terrier, Zoe.
Pets will be flown in a Beech 1990, a turbo-prop airplane that is used by many other larger commercial airlines. Although this plane is considered to be a 19 passenger plane, all fixtures designed for human use have been removed, such as seats and overhead bins. In their place, pets will travel in their own carrier which is then secured using Pet Airways’ restraint system.
Pet owners will be able to drop of their cats and dogs at a “pet lounge” inside those airports that are being serviced at least 2 hours before the scheduled flight. Here their pets will be in the care of trained “pet attendants” before boarding the flight. If, however, your own travel plans make it unreasonable to check your pet in 2 hours before their flight, Pet Airways is able to board your pet in their PAWS Lodge up to 72 hours before your pet’s flight.
Pet Airways makes sure that your pet will get adequate potty breaks and does this by monitoring the last time that your pet had a potty break.
Once all the pets have had their potty breaks, it is time to then board the plane. The Pet Airline Attendants will make sure that all the pets are on board and that they are safe and secure in their pet carriers before take off. Pet owners will be able to track the progress of the flight and their pet via the Pet Airways website.
Every 15 minutes during the flight, the Pet Attendants will check on each ‘pawsenger’ to make sure that they are still comfortable and handling the flight ok.
Once the plane has landed, all pets will be unloaded and immediately given a potty break. The pets will then be taken to the Pet Lounge to be picked up by their pet parents.
If, however, your travel plans do not allow you to pick up your pet when their plane lands, Pet Airways can board your pet overnight at their PAWS Lodge.
Whilst in the care of Pet Airways, cats and dogs will be fed Honest Kitchen pet food. Their food is made using 100% organic grains, hormone and antibiotic-free meats and non-GMO produce and all of the ingredients are 100% Human Food Grade.
The President and CEO of Pet Airways, Dan Wiesel, gave this statement recently to the press:
“Currently, most pets traveling by air are transported in the cargo hold and are handled as baggage. The experience is frightening to the pets, and can cause severe emotional and physical harm, even death. This is not what most pet owners want to subject their pets to, but they have had no other choice, until now. From the moment a pet is dropped off at a Pet Lounge, the pet is always under the care of trained Pet Attendants. Monitored by Pet Attendants, pets will fly in planes that are fully-lit, climate-controlled and have the proper level of fresh air circulation that pets require.”
He goes on to add that the pawsengers on Pet Airways will be “boarded and de-boarded from planes as quickly as possible, never left in the cold or heat and, depending on transit time, will be offered toilet facilities, food and water as necessary during stops.”
Pet Airways would like to stress to the pet owners of their pawsengers, that they will receive “sensitive, careful handling and the peace of mind that their pets are well looked after by people who care as much about their pets as they do.”
Photo Credit: Pet Airways
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan