Pet Airways is a boon to everyone who wants to transport a furry family member across the country but doesn’t want to drive — or treat their pet as cargo. This innovative airline, which debuted in 2009, is also a godsend for shelters. A plane that holds 50 dogs and cats in the main cabin can get animals to locations where they are more likely to get adopted without subjecting them to the trauma of traveling in the hold.
The Pet Airways Way of Flying
In some respects, Pet Airways is like standard commercial carriers. It has its own passenger lounges, aircraft tailored to its flights, and a select group of hub cities. But when the bulk of those on board are nonhuman, you figure certain adjustments will need to be made.
And they have been.
Pet Airways Aircraft
The Beechcraft 1900, a twin turbo-prop often used by commercial airlines for short flights, was chosen for its safety and reliability record. The 19-seater — that’s 19 seats for humans — was converted to accommodate pet carriers. The Beechcraft’s slower air speeds and lower flight altitudes put less stress on the “pawsengers” — as Pet Airways dubs them.
Pet Airways Pre-Screening
Advance interviews with owners create a medical and temperament profile of every pet that flies with Pet Airways. No breeds are discriminated against but the airline needs to know in advance whether a pet has a history of aggression. Would that human passengers were screened so thoroughly — and denied alcohol if their profiles indicated potential problems.
Pet Airways Routine
Owners check their charges into the pet lounge two hours before the flight. Not only do the Pet Airways representatives look for visible signs of ill health, in addition to checking the required health certificate, but they also make sure that animals are not tranquilized. “Drugs can impair breathing. Pets flying in temperature-controlled, pressurized cabins don’t need to be tranquilized,” says Pet Airways representative Aly Tognotti.
The pets, who tend to nod off because of the engines’ hum, are checked on every 15 minutes. If the flight is long, the plane will land and the dogs will get a walk, potty break, and maybe a drink of water.
Because owners can’t fly on Pet Airways, they have to book separate travel to their desired destinations. They needn’t worry if a flight is delayed, however. Pets are always cared for by airline staff until they are reunited with their people.
The Future of Pet Airways
With pet travel taking off, a dedicated airline for animals is clearly an idea whose time has come. Currently, Pet Airways goes to New York City, Washington D.C./Baltimore, Chicago, Omaha, Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Ft. Lauderdale and Atlanta. Houston, Austin, Dallas, and St. Louis will soon join the Pet Airways roster. Tognotti says that the representatives are constantly fielding calls from people who want to know when Pet Airways is coming to their city. According to Tognotti, the goal is to service the country’s 25 top cities as soon as possible.
To learn more about Pet Airways, including some of its more unusual passengers (hint: one is a “clawsenger,”), listen to the interview with Tognotti, who has been with the company from its start.