Boarding soon - your pets; airport OKs 24-hour kennelFliers won't have to worry about a place to leave their dogs or cats
BY LIALA HELAL
Twin Cities air travelers will soon be able to give their pets a vacation of their own - right at the airport.
The Metropolitan Airports Commission approved a plan last week to start taking bids on a proposed pet day care, boarding kennel and grooming facility at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
These facilities, sometimes called "pet resorts," usually pamper pets while their owners vacation or go on business trips. Travelers would be able to drop off their cats or dogs at the 24-hour facility and take a shuttle to the terminal.
"More and more people have pets these days, and there are issues with what to do with their pets when they travel," MAC spokesman Patrick Hogan said, noting Americans spend $38 billion annually on their pets.
"We're increasingly becoming a nation that values and pampers our pets."
The MAC will take bids on the project through the first week of December. Officials hope to rent out the space by March.
The chosen pet boarding vendor would pay about $48,000 annually to lease the airport space, and an estimated $1 million to renovate the facility. A portion of any profits would go to MAC.
The company MAC selects will set the rates for pet owners.
Other airports with pet hotels include New Orleans, Seattle, Denver and San Diego. Two more will open next year, one at each Houston airport.
The airport in Portland, Ore., houses the Airpet Hotel. Knowing the facility is open 24 hours puts pet owners at ease, assistant manager Alisha Forwood said.
"A lot of people don't like to leave their pets at home," Forwood said. "This way, (the pets) really get the chance to be socialized and play instead of being home by themselves."
Pet day care corporations are eager to expand to meet growing demand. Pet Paradise Resort and Day Spa, which has branches in or next to airports in New Orleans and Seattle, also will open in Houston next year.
"From a convenience standpoint, we're a place people can drop off their pets and board the plane," said Pet Paradise Chief Operating Officer Fernando Acosta-Rua. "It obviously makes sense when you're traveling."
In Minneapolis, the plan is intended to be a solution to challenges travelers face when coordinating hours of pet facilities with travel plans.
"Other kennel facilities are only open certain hours of the day," Hogan said. "If your flight gets in at 7 or 8 p.m., you would sometimes have to board your pets an extra day just because of the hours."
Not everyone is content with the change, however.
Smaller, local pet boarders worry the airport facility could hurt their businesses.
"I'm concerned because it's going to offer a few things that I don't, namely 24-hour service and parking," said Chris Snyder, owner of Al's Boarding Kennel in Mendota Heights, the pet facility closest to the airport. "But my prices can be a lot more competitive. Convenience isn't the only criteria people look at when boarding a pet."
Her pet kennel is about a seven-minute drive from the airport, and several customers who are frequent air travelers have told Snyder they'll remain loyal.
"I think a lot of people are looking for more than just proximity and convenience. It's going to be a totally different facility," Snyder said. "It does have me concerned, but I think in the long run, competition is good."