Tuesday marked the debut flight of the world’s first all-pet airline, run by husband-and-wife team Alysa Binder and Dan Wiesel. While nearly all major U.S. airlines allow small dogs and cats to accompany paying passengers in the cabin, anything larger than a lap dog must travel in cargo, a scary place for doting pet owners, that's somewhat notorious for its drastic changes in temperature. One nerve-racking flight with Zoe – the couple’s Jack Russell Terrier – in the cargo hold convinced Alysa and Dan to find a better way for animals to fly. Their solution is Pet Airways, a five-plane fleet that's been 4 years in the making – onboard all seats have been stripped and replaced by animal carriers for dogs and cats (reptiles, birds, and even pigs will be welcome in the future).
Flying between airports within the vicinity of five major cities (New York, DC, Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles) with one-way fares from $149, the airline focuses on making flying paw-friendly. Perks include: a Pet Lounge in every airport; monitored bathroom breaks before, during, and after flights; pet checks every 15 minutes in-flight; and even a PAWS Lodge at the airport if you can’t pick your pet up that day.
Accommodating animal needs means a bit of inconvenience for pet owners, however. Pet Airway flights run longer than those of their people-passenger counterparts. A trans-continental flight, for example, from New York to Los Angeles would include an overnight stop in Chicago, where pets can potty, play, eat, and get a good night’s sleep. The airline also operates out of smaller regional airports – think Republic Airport in Farmingdale, NY, instead of New York City's JFK.
While some business analysts speculate on the sustainability of such a target-specific company during times of recession, Pet Airways seems to be proving that animal love is abundant: the airline’s already fully booked through the next 2 months, the website crashed soon after launch because of the flood of viewers, and even ever-critical Rush Limbaugh sends his huzzahs.
So tell us, pet owners – are you ready to throw Pet Airways a bone?