Finally, an airline has truly gone to the dogs (as well as cats)— and that's in a good way. Pet Airways will launch the first pet-only airline specifically designed for the safe and comfortable transportation of pets in the main cabin and not in the cargo hold (where temperatures can reach up to 120 degrees). The first flights are scheduled for July 14 and will begin out of New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles. The airline plans to expand nationwide with easily accessible pet check-in lounges to serve its "pawsengers" in major metropolitan areas. Owners will be able to book and track their pet's travel progress online at www.petairways.com.
"Currently, most pets traveling by air are transported in the cargo hold and are handled as baggage," said Dan Wiesel, president and CEO of Pet Airways. "The experience is frightening to the pets, and can cause severe emotional and physical harm, even death. This is not what most pet owners want to subject their pets to, but they have had no other choice, until now."
Pet Airways' Pet Attendants ensure an animal-friendly travel experience from drop-off at the Pet Lounge through the fully-lit and climate-controlled flight in which there is a proper level of fresh air circulation. All animals are boarded and de-boarded from planes as quickly as possible, never left in the cold or heat, and depending on transit time, will be offered toilet facilities, food and water as necessary during stops.
According to the American Animal Hospital Association, approximately 76 million cats and dogs travel with their owners each year. Many airlines allow small pets to travel with their owners, stowed under the seat, but most airlines will only accept one or two pets per flight. Pets that are too big to fit under the seat are relegated to cargo and, unfortunately in many cases, are treated as such. A study by the San Francisco SPCA found that, out of the 2 million animals transported in the cargo holds of commercial airliners per year, approximately 5,000 are injured in transit.
According to the Animal, Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS), "virtually every major airline has been cited and fined for repeatedly mishandling animals." As a result of a lack of oxygen and temperature control in the cargo holds, the most common causes of death are suffocation and heat prostration, although one airline was cited for placing a dog too close to a motor, which burned the animal.