12 March 2024

If I'm paying through the nose to fly, spare me the pet set

| Ian Bushnell
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Virgin staff

Don’t be fooled. Stuck on a plane with a bunch of uncooperative cats and dogs could turn nasty very quickly. Photo: Alex Coppel.

A couple of suitably cute canines – fluffy and smallish – and photogenic flight attendants accompanied the announcement from Virgin Australia that it intended to establish Australia’s first cabin service for pets, cats and dogs at least.

Eligible passengers with appropriately sized animals would be able to fly on selected flights sitting in designated rows, maybe in 12 months if the regulator OKs the proposal. Conditions apply.

Apparently it’s a done thing in the US and Canada.

Virgin aren’t rushing the move. In fact, the announcement caught Canberra Airport by surprise and it needed time to digest the news and assess what implications a cabin pet service would have for its facilities.

You would think the Canberra demographic would fit perfectly with Virgin’s modelling – high incomes, inveterate travellers and a peak level of dog and cat ownership.

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Nearly 70 per cent of Australian households own a pet and Virgin research indicates that pet owners would fly more if they could take their furry friend with them.

Virgin can’t be blamed for wanting to tap into that market, giving it a point of difference with the behemoth that rules the skies, Qantas.

It calls it innovative but in the cut-throat air travel business it’s about getting more bums on seats, even if you have to put pet carriers underneath.

Of course, it’s discriminatory. Just cats and dogs (and definitely no snakes), and don’t expect the Lab to join you, unless he or she is an accredited guide or assistance animal.

Virgin says they’ll have to fit into a carrier and under the seat or in front of you.

I know it’s done overseas – and I can’t help picturing a rickety third world flight with a crate of chickens – but the last thing I would want to do is have my account gouged for the privilege of a domestic flight that I have to share with a clutch of anxiety ridden critters with no bathroom manners – there are enough of those on flights already.

I’m still recovering from the cattle car out of Uluru last year when a procession of sunburnt yobs lurched repeatedly to the toilet during the entire flight.

It’s a very small world inside a steel tube tearing through the atmosphere and defying gravity.

All one wants to do is sit back, relax and forget just how unnatural and unforgiving air travel is.

The cries of young children and babies are enough to set one on edge. Do I want to have to contend with wailing cats and yapping dogs as well?

Do they get a flight briefing before take-off? No walkies, you’ll just have to wait darling.

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Hanging on isn’t in their make-up. That’ll be a lovely aroma to share with the rest of us for the duration. And there is no where to hide.

Or will pet owners be tempted, even encouraged, to dope up their animals pre-flight so they sleep through the entire experience? Parents do it with babies.

But if you’ve got allergies, Virgin has got you covered. The air filtration system will keep particles at bay but if you have severe allergies they can make arrangements to keep you safe.

I’m predicting there will be a sudden increase in pet allergies among Virgin passengers.

Will pet-free flights attract a premium or will pet-allowed flights a discount, unless you’re the pet owner? I can’t wait for the icon.

Anyway, just fly Qantas, you say. Except how long before they match Virgin’s service?

Flying really is going to the dogs.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on Riotact.

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