Washington Post: Changing the way we think about pet air travel

The Washington Post has a feature article up today about pet air travel and the sometimes stressful act of putting your pet on a plane in the hands of someone else. 

Reporter Joe Yonan writes:

As we exited the car at the cargo building, I was nervous: Was I putting my gentleman of a dog at risk? ... Lounge manager Denise Rocks immediately asked, "Is this Red?" and reached out to scratch him. Pilot Casey Martin called out, "Hey, buddy!" from behind the counter. Rocks took the leash while I filled out paperwork and led him around so he could sniff, sniff and sniff some more. Separation anxiety? It was all mine.

The article was primarily about his experience with PetAirways, a boutique airline that came onto the scene in June of 2009 and made a big splash by announcing they'd only accept pets.  As we mentioned at the time, PetAirways is not responsible under Department of Transportation rules to report live animal deaths or losses.  Despite this, many people feel safer knowing their pets are in the hands of a person whose sole responsibility is to tend to their pet -- and why shouldn't they?  Airlines, including Continental, Lufthansa, and KLM, have spent the last few years improving their pet air programs to cater to pets by keeping them in climate controlled conditions and offering "pet hotels" at their major hubs.  Yonan touches on this in his article:

Some say that the airlines have gotten somewhat of a bad rap and that the situation is improving. All large jets have pressurized and climate-controlled cargo areas, says Rachel Farris, PR director for PetRelocation.com, so it's more important how they handle the pets when they're not on the plane. She praises Continental's PetSafe program, which among other things promises that pets are held in climate-controlled cargo offices and transported to planes in climate-controlled vehicles. Even though Continental has had the most deaths since the DOT started tracking the figures, the airline says that's simply because it flies so many animals: about 110,000 a year. "The animals are cared for at every point by trained ground personnel and handled with extreme care," said Continental spokeswoman Christen David.

If you're planning a pet move, it's important to also keep in mind that pet air travel is still relatively new, which means that while you might not think much about hopping on a plane for a quick weekend getaway, your pet's health and well-being should still be seriously considered when making your pet travel plans.  Anxiety, underlying health conditions and improper travel crating can all cause your pet's flight to be a bit more turbulent than your own, and have very little to do with the airline itself. 

Farris and others stress the need for dogs to have a thorough veterinary exam before flying, especially if they are older, and be trained to be comfortable in a crate. "If people approached air travel the way they approach major surgery - is your pet healthy enough to fly, young enough to fly? - pets would fly a lot more safely," said Farris.

You can read the rest of the Washington Post article here.


PetRelocation Team




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