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Pet Airways Takes to the Sky … Really!

Today we’re going to concoct a little recipe. Here goes:

Start with

4 cups massive recession

mix in

1 cup struggling airline industry
3 tablespoons volatile jet fuel prices
3 cups widespread unemployment

blend, and then add

a pinch of good, albeit extremely niche idea for a new company

bake at 350 for 35 minutes

When you pull out your finished product, what do you have? A successful enterprise? A failed business venture? That’s exactly what Pet Airways is going to find out. The first ever pets-only airline launched its inaugural flight yesterday with roughly 50 animals onboard, according to Newsday. Fares start at $149 for shorter trips, and I was quoted $399 for a New York-to-Los Angeles flight in September. This is more or less in line with what passenger airlines charge to transport pets, though at $399, Pet Airways’ fare is higher than most pet fees.

Here’s how Pet Airways works: Rather than fly in the cargo hold of a traditional passenger jet, animals fly in the main cabin of a small turboprop. The cabin is climate-controlled and lit, and there is a flight attendant on hand to keep an eye on the animals (here are some photos). The plane flies from New York to Baltimore, then on to Chicago, Denver, and finally Los Angeles, mostly using out-of-the-way airfields instead of major airports (Baltimore and Chicago being the exceptions). Animals continuing on to successive destinations are given a walk at each stop. A cross-country flight takes over 24 hours with an overnight layover between Chicago and Denver, and there is only one per week, departing on Tuesdays.

This sounds to me like a fairly arduous trip for a dog or cat (I’m not sure my dogs would be too keen on all the take-offs and landings), but certainly the presence of an attendant and the regular walks makes it easier to handle. Whether or not pet owners will find the Pet Airways experience preferable to their current options remains to be seen, but that’s precisely why I’m hoping Pet Airways succeeds. If people want to pay for a better flight for their animal, why shouldn’t they be able to? And if it works, perhaps the airline can expand to other cities and make its itinerary less cumbersome.

Ah, but that recipe. This sure seems like a tough time to launch a new airline, doesn’t it? How about an airline with limited service for a small, niche market and, oh yes, that doesn’t fly people? Do you think Pet Airways can succeed? Do you think the airline industry needs a pets-only carrier? Pet owners, what do you think about Pet Airlines service? Share your thoughts and pet travel stories in the comments below.

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