A new airline is starting up service today: Pet Airways. It's market niche comes in response to something most people traveling with companion animals have longed for for years: your companion gets to ride in the main cabin, rather than cargo.
As most people reading this blog are undoubtedly aware, most airlines have policies that allow animals under a certain size/weight limit to ride in small carriers under the seat. It can be a frustrating experience, even for owners of small cats and dogs, to try to book a ride for their companion, as the carriers generally will only allow a few animals per flight. Even if you are lucky enough to get one of those slots, your status on the plane seems to be only a notch or so above suspected terrorist as far as most of the other passengers and flight crew are concerned.
Of course, it's even worse for people whose animals are relegated to the cargo hold, where notoriously the temperatures and even air pressure have not always been sufficiently maintained to support life. As most people reading this blog are again undoubtedly aware, thousands of animals were dying every year as a result of inadequate air travel conditions. These deaths eventually led to the passage of the Safe Travel for Animals Act, 49 U.S.C. 41721 in 2000. This was an improvement, but still a less-than-satisfactory solution for many.
So enter Pet Airways. This is certainly an intriguing business proposition, although it is not without its caveats either. Perhaps most importantly, cabin service is ONLY for non-humans. In other words, you still can't ride with your companion. (And no, they're not letting people ride in the cargo hold.) You just book the ticket, and the cabin crew takes care of Fluffy during the flight. Now that wouldn't be so bad, but without any restrictions on size, etc., this means that your little Pipsqueak will be riding on the same flight with Bruiser and Jaws. Ostensibly, the airline has precautions to keep Simba from eating Tweety for lunch on the cross-country flights, but well, you have to wonder... ? Hmm.
I certainly wish them well. At the very least, it will hopefully prompt the major airlines to take another look at their policies - and cabin space - and better serve this market niche as well.