Pet Airways – an airline for pets only

pet-airwaysAmerica’s first pet-only airline, Pet Airways, will launch in July to fly dogs and cats between five major US cities.

As mentioned in yesterday’s article, more and more people want to travel with their dogs and take them on holiday and Pet Airways will help relive some of the anxiety owners might feel about their dogs or cats travelling.

The airline will only fly pets and will travel between five cities: New York, Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago and Baltimore/Washington International Airport. A specially adapted aircraft, a Beechcraft 1900, will be able to fly up to 50 average sized pets with one pet attendant and two pilots as crew. No human passengers will be allowed. Each route will fly once a week and will cater to just cats and dogs to begin with.

Pet Airways will launch on the 14th July with an introductory airfare of $149 each way. Each dog will have his own individual crate in a pressurised, lit cabin and the pet attendant will check on them at fifteen minute intervals. They’ll have their own airport lounges and have overnight lodges on long haul flights. Dog or cat owners will be able to track their pet’s travel online and even earn frequent flier ‘pet points’.

The founders of Pet Airways, husband and wife Dan Wiesel and Alysa Binder believe there will be high demand for the service and they expect to expand quickly to an estimated 25 cities in the next few years. They believe that despite the recession, they can make this project a success with a niche market and modest operating plans. Binder commented:

“There’re about 87 million U.S. households that have pets. It’s a niche market, no doubt. But the pet community — pet owners and pet lovers — they get it. They’ve known for a long time that there’s a need for this. We’re pet owners ourselves. We are our own market.”

The aircraft that Pet Airways is using, the Beech 1900, used to be a widely used plane by airlines but the demand for jets meant turboprops were abandoned in the 1990s. To obtain a 1900 aircraft will cost around $1.5 million each, a small price to pay compared to the high $10m – $35m paid for today’s used jets. The 1900 doesn’t fly as far or as fast as a jet aircraft but pets are less likely to mind than humans and the fact the plane needs to refuel more frequently could be a good thing for the pets as it will give more chance for a toilet break or a walk to stretch their legs.

The idea came to the couple in 2005 when they moved from California Bay. They felt their 17 year old Jack Russell was too old to travel by car and so they flew the dog in the bottom of a jet. They spent the entire flight worrying although the dog was fine.

Over 1 million animals fly on commercial airlines each year and few have trouble. In 2005, airlines were forced to give numbers or these issues and in that year 102 pets died, 30 were lost and 48 were injured. In 2008 this number reduced to just 31 deaths, four lost and eight injured, according to Of course, no matter how low the numbers it is still a concern. The main worry for owners is not the statistics but the fear of a lack of comfort and that the animals will be traumatised by the anxiety or hassle. Pet Airways aims to relieve those concerns and ensure all ‘pawsengers’ as they refer to them, travel in comfort.

Pet Airways is by no means the only airline to allow pets. Many have different policies and some have specialist operations such as Continental Airlines PetSafe program. There are also around 300 independent pet travel agencies worldwide, members of the Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Assocation (IPATA) helping dog and other pet owners to sort out complicated animal travel rules.

In the UK, the PETS (Pet Travel Scheme) allows pets and dogs to enter Britain without going through the six month normal quarantine period.