Pet Airways, which offers “per-seat” (per carrier, actually) priced service to five community airports in major US cities including New York, L.A. and Chicago, is not in the business of transporting animals and their two-legged pets. Pet Airways is strictly an animal-only carrier whose mission is to provide its clientele with the same level of single–cabin, amenity rich service enjoyed by humanoid executive and recreational air taxi passengers.
Before boarding one of Pet Air’s fully pressurized and luxuriously customized, 19-passenger (when configured for humans) Beech 1900 twin-engine turbo-prop ExecLiners, canine, feline and other furred, finned or feathered fliers are greeted by their flight crew in an airport VIP Lounge and given ample opportunity for a pre-flight snack, drink or — most important — potty break.
Once on board, each passenger receives individual attention from a specially trained corps of flight attendants who assist in getting guests comfortably and safely buckled into Pet Air’s proprietary animal-carrier restraint system and, presumably, dispense such airline staples as mini-pillows and catnip mice.
During flight, pilots keep passengers informed about estimated time of arrival, weather conditions en route, and ground transportation at destination airports. They also provide updated scores of major sporting events such as the IFCC (International Frisbee Catching Championship) that may be underway.
The brainchild of husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Alysa Binder and Dan Wiesel, Pet Air began — like many 21st Century air taxi services — as a dream based on a nightmare. The nightmare being that traveling on scheduled carriers — for man, woman, beast, or checked suitcase — is continually becoming more of a fight than a flight. A battle about inconvenient schedules, late arrivals, lost baggage, disappearing customer and passenger service and — above all — outrageous price increases not-at-all cleverly disguised as BS surcharges.
Or, as Binder and Wiesel’s Pet Air prospectus probably pointed out, there are many flight segments where some airlines charge higher fares for the three-pound Chihuahua under the seat than they do for the 250-pound dog lover in the seat.
The situation is even worse for pets — even relatively small ones — forced to fly in the cargo hold because they are a.) a tad overly large to meet the airlines’ ridiculously undersized (much smaller than, say, a roll-on suitcase) pet-carrier requirements b.) the airline has already booked its maximum number of cabin-class pets (usually two or three) or c.) the airline is one of the increasing number of major carriers that refuse to transport pets in the cabin at all.
United Airlines, which is pretty much typical of most airlines in this area, was charging humans $47 to fly from Los Angeles to Las Vegas as this was being written in mid-July. The fare for Chihuahuas accommodated under a seat in the cabin was more than 200 percent higher ($125) and the rate for pets unfortunate enough to have to travel rough — and in danger of “early termination” by a pilot forgetting to enable the “dead dog” switch — in the baggage compartment was $250.
Pet Air, by comparison, would transport the same pet in main cabin ease and luxury, complete with a flight attendant courtesy visit at least once each 15 minutes and guaranteed freedom from listening to human children shriek, all the way from L.A. to New York — an additional 2,000 air miles — for the same $250.
Admittedly, Pet Air isn’t for everyone. Some animals prefer to keep all four feet planted firmly on the ground. Others simply won’t go anywhere they can’t turn on their cell and respond to texts and tweets. Also, in these challenging economic times many animals that can afford Pet Air fares for their own vacation can’t handle the additional expense of booking their pets on a people carrier or hiring a human-care service to feed and water them at home.
Fortunately for the Binder-Wiesel family and pet owners from coast to coast, there still seem to be enough inveterate animal travelers to keep Pet Air flying high. As of now, all five of its Execliners are booked solid two months in advance.
And that’s really something to bark, or meow about!