Our pampered pets are important members of our family and where we go, they go. Emanuela Nardini, founder of Luxury Pet Travel – the first pet-oriented online travel agency – tells us what we need to know when flying with our precious companions.
Transportation has changed dramatically in the last hundred years. In old Hollywood movies one could see glamorous film stars carrying their little dogs in their arms whilst travelling elegantly by train or joining a cruise to travel across the Atlantic. Aeroplanes were a limited and exclusive privilege. Today, everything has changed. Whether for work, vacations, visiting friends and family, or simply exploring, we are a generation of global nomads ready to book a flight at a moment’s notice and head to the airport.
Pets Are Not Cargo
For many of us it is important that airlines can accommodate our pets. Not in the cargo compartment, because we believe that a pet is not a piece of luggage. It's a living being. The dangers linked to this kind of transportation are sadly well known: Temperatures in the cargo hold can fluctuate wildly, it’s dark, the noise can be deafening and air pressure can drop significantly. However, many of the European and American airlines accept cats and small dogs in their cabins. A pet is welcome on Air France, KLM, Alitalia, SWISS, Austrian Airlines, Aeroflot, Iberia, Lufthansa, SAS, Aer Lingus, Tap Portugal, Delta, United Airlines and American Airlines (although not on transatlantic flights). Some airlines accept pets only in their economy class, which many pet owners consider to be something of a contradiction in terms when it comes to the pampered lifestyle of their pets.
Business and First Class
Of course, our pets are so very precious to us that we want only the very best for them. And that means business and first class travellers want to have their furry friends as close to them as possible. Some airlines, such as Delta in 2012, have banned pets from premium cabins due to fears over the pets being crushed by flat beds in premium cabins, but airlines like Lufthansa, Swiss and American Airlines have solved the inconvenience by making some structural changes or by offering alternative spaces for pet packs, such as in wardrobes, baggage compartments or under economy seats for take off and landing only.
The Long Haul
Most airlines accept pets with a maximum weight of 8kg (with some setting limits of 6kg or a generous 10kg), including the pet-carrier. Pet-carrier sizes depend on the airline's policy, but it must be waterproof, big enough for the pet to be able to stand, and approved by the International Air Transport Association. Much as you would love to take him or her out for treats or a walk in the cabin, the pet must stay in its carrier during the entire flight. To make the journey more enjoyable for your pet, we suggest you put a blanket and a toy in the bag, together with fresh water or, better still, ice cubes to avoid over drinking during a long-haul flight.
Before and After the Journey
JFK Airport in New York City is one of a growing number of airports in the US to have installed a "pet relief area" inside the terminal. This includes a luxury pet toilet – just as your pet deserves. With an increasing proportion of passengers seeking to travel with their pets, European airports are beginning to understand the need to put in place such facilities too.
Don’t forget that your pet needs documents to be able to travel. These include a pet passport, vaccination record, and some countries may require a health certificate, which your vet can provide a few days prior to departure. To book a ticket for your pet it is necessary to contact the airline directly and, we suggest, well in advance, as many airlines allow just one pet per cabin. Bear in mind that the cost will vary from airline to airline and is dependent on your route and that it is not yet possible to book a pet flight online. Bon voyage to you and your pet.
Photos: courtesy of Luxury Pet Travel and Victor Private Jet Charter