Natalie Paris, The Daily Telegraph, July 3, 2013
Pets are being rewarded for loyalty not just by their owners, but by airlines, as part of a growing number of pet frequent flier programmes.
Dogs and cats that travel on a Virgin Australia domestic flight can now collect points for their owners that can then be used to obtain discounts on future flights.
The animals travel in hold, as usual, but with the benefit of earning participating Virgin Australia club members a minimum of 300 points.
“Virgin Australia flies almost 30,000 pets each year around Australia,” said Neil Thompson, chief of Virgin Australia’s Velocity club, “and a large proportion are owned by Velocity members.”
This is Australia’s first frequent flier programme for pets, but similar schemes are already available on other long-haul flights.
Virgin Atlantic launched its Flying Paws scheme in 2005 which entitles each canine and feline passenger to a welcome onboard pet pack. Dogs receive a Virgin Atlantic t-shirt and a sparkly dog tag, while cats have a toy mouse to play with and a collar tag. Each will also receive a pet passport with a record of their flights and points which they can redeem for gifts such as dog bowls or bonus miles for their owner.
Loyalty schemes for animals are just the latest example of a movement towards catering for pets within the travel industry.
Earlier this month a luxury holiday for dogs was launched, by canine hotel the Paw Seasons, costing £47,000.
Treats offered during the dogs-only fortnight break included walkies led by a Commonwealth hurdler and snacks selected by a personal chef.
A “love motel” for pets in Brazil, complete with chocolate dog biscuits, heart-shaped mirrors and, for the under-whelmed, assisted reproduction services, opened for dogs last year. It is part of Animalle Mundo Pet, a large pet complex in Belo Horizonte.
In Britain, Best Western and Travelodge both offer customised beds for dogs and cats that don’t like to leave their owners’ side.