Imagine traveling in the cargo area of a Boeing747. Your seat is a dusty cushion inside a wooden crate with a few holes for ventilation. All you can do is take a sip of water and maybe munch on some stale snacks (and you thought the pretzels were bad!). You can hear the engines roar as if they were right there sitting next to you and the air is growing staler by the minute. You quickly start to feel claustrophobic and afraid you won’t make it to your final destination.
Does it sound like your usual flight experience? Probably not. Unfortunately, that is the kind of ordeal some pets have to endure when they travel on commercial airlines. A study by the San Francisco SPCA revealed that an estimated 5,000 pets of the two million transported in cargo holds are injured in transit. Would you get in a plane if you knew that one in every 400 passengers could get hurt, considering that most commercial flights on average have around 200 to 500 people?
Fortunately, a new airline decided to offer a unique service: safe and comfortable pet air travel. Last Thursday, the aptly named Pet Airways started to take reservations. The response was so overwhelming their website crashed, even though the flights are set to begin in July. For now, they will only fly to and from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Denver. The reported cost comes up to $149 per trip (without the applicable taxes).
The perks of flying your animal companion with Pet Airways seem too good to be true. Your four-legged friend, big or small, gets to be in the main cabin with temperature control and plenty of fresh air. The airline announced it would keep the pets in special lounges until shortly after takeoff. They also mentioned the employees would walk the dogs to the airplane, giving them a last chance to stretch their legs before the trip. The pets will travel in crates (for safety) and each flight will have an attendant to oversee your companion’s comfort and needs throughout the flight.
The concept is extremely appealing to pet owners and the airline seems to have a sound business plan. Limiting their service to once a week and only to a few cities gives them a chance to test the waters. In these tough economic times, starting a new airline with a completely new concept takes a lot of courage. Hopefully, the company will hit off so that fewer pets have to go through the traumatic experience of traveling with your luggage.
Right now the website for Pet Airways is over capacity, but they are encouraging folks to check out their Facebook Fan Page , follow them on Twitter (@petairways ) and inquire about reservations by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.