Forget the Cargo Hold: More Pets Are Flying Private

By: Krystal Etienne · May 22, 2023 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

Furry Frequent Flyers

Pet ownership is more popular than ever. Furry friends helped many Americans stave off loneliness and isolation during COVID closures, with nearly 20% of households welcoming a new pet into their home during the pandemic. And now that the pandemic has subsided and travel demand is rising, those same fuzzy friends are taking to the air.

As a pet owner, it may make plenty of sense to just bring your beloved furry friend along for the ride. Depending on the length of your trip, it could also be much cheaper than paying for pet-sitting services. Delta Air Lines (DAL) estimates around half a million pets — not service animals — travel on flights every year.

Although flying with Fido may seem like a simple solution, flying alongside pets has widely mixed reviews, and has even caused major controversy among airlines and passengers alike.

Pet Rules & Regulations

Most airlines have policies in place that allow you to travel with your pet, but it could still be disruptive for non-pet passengers who didn’t necessarily sign up to sit next to your best friend. Depending on your sensibilities, two hours of cat yowls or wet dog smell could leave some longing for the days of toddlers kicking your seat back.

In contrast, service animals have always been allowed on flights. But the Federal Aviation Administration tightened the definition of “service animal” in 2021 following complaints from both airline employees and passengers that the policy was being abused.

Flight Options

To combat the growing conflict, many commercial airlines have tightened requirements for pet travel. Non-service animals can still catch a ride, but under certain stipulations such as limiting the type and number of animals allowed, requiring a health certificate, and insisting the pets remain in their carriers. For large dogs, this may mean spending the flight with the checked luggage in the cabin beneath the plane. Also, you’ll have to pay a fee. It is air travel, after all.

Luckily for pet owners, private pet-friendly airlines such as NetJets and VistaPet are popping up to shuttle humans and their pets safely around the country. These options often advertise having the most comfortable accommodations for pets, but these private airline tickets will cost an even prettier penny than commercial options.

If you prefer to sit next to humans on your flight as opposed to something furrier, just remember you can always ask to have your seat changed. At the end of the day, while opinions on pets may vary dramatically from traveler to traveler, most airlines share the same goal: getting passengers from Point A to B.

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