Sam Miloro recently found out that flying with a cat can be expensive — even more expensive than his own ticket. And now he wants to know if the Elliott Advocacy team can do anything about this “outrageous” fee.
Flying with a cat — no matter how small — is going to cost you
Miloro booked Southwest Airlines tickets from New York to Florida for his wife and their cat, Maximus. Then he found out that according to Southwest’s pet policy, his cat’s airline ticket would cost more than his own. He couldn’t believe it.
“We are senior ‘snowbirds’ and often travel from Florida to New York on Southwest,” Miloro told me. “Every time we fly with our cat, Maximus, Southwest charges us $95. Why? He only weighs 10 pounds!”
Why? That’s easy. In the airline industry, nothing is free.
The airlines are continually searching for new sources of revenue. Ask Mary Bradley about the confusing array of costly amenities that United Airlines thrust her way like a street peddler during her recent ticket purchase.
Remember the days when your favorite airline would provide a complimentary meal to enjoy during your travels? Or the pleasant experience of paying for your ticket and conveniently being able to select the seat of your choice without an additional fee?
Those days are long gone.
Now airlines have marketing teams charged explicitly with figuring out how much revenue the company can extract from each passenger.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at the seat map for your next flight. You will notice that your airline has meticulously diagramed a price point for each seat throughout the main cabin. And the differences between seat 20C and 35A may be quite minimal, but you can be sure that the airline’s team of revenue extractors (yes, I just made up that term) has studied and determined exactly how many extra dollars each seat can generate.
In fact, Our publisher, Christopher Elliott wrote all about airline seating schemes earlier this year.
But I digress. Back to Miloro’s question about the costs of flying with his cat.
Southwest Airlines’ pet policy
Maximus is a perfect example of an easy source of revenue for Southwest Airlines.
First, Southwest directed Miloro to its amenity store. There he could purchase a Southwest-branded airline-approved pet carrier for $58 from the “Southwest Store” for Maximus. Which he did. And each time he flies with his cat on Southwest, the airline charges Miloro $95 each way for the cat to fly, stowed under the seat in front of him. Maximus is a fountain of revenue for Southwest.
For an airline that is known for low-cost fares, a $95 pet fee can frequently outprice a human ticket on a flight. Miloro pointed out that his own fare is often $59. But the airfare for his cat is inflexible and remains set at $95. That fact doesn’t sit right with Miloro.
“It seems very unfair that we are charged to fly with our cat. We receive no service concerning Maxie,” Miloro argued. “Many folks carry on suitcases, which can weigh up to 50 pounds, at no charge.”
Flying with a cat? Your cat counts as your carry-on
And as Miloro discovered, if he brings his cat on a flight, Maximus also counts as his carry-on.
So what does that $95 fee cover?
I scoured Southwest’s pet policy page to find out what Maximus can expect from Southwest for the cost of his ticket.
Not even one complimentary treat!
Southwest’s pet policy covers merely the cost of transporting a pet from point A to point B, no airline employee intervention or service provided.
Flying with cats and dogs on other airlines
To be fair, Southwest’s pet policy does appear to have the lowest pet transportation fee among the major air carriers. And it seems to be standard procedure that in-cabin pets do not receive any airline employee attention or assistance.
It’s too bad that the United Airlines flight attendant who inexplicably jammed a puppy into the overhead compartment, ultimately causing his death, didn’t follow this employee hands-off approach.
Under United Airlines’ pet policy, that passenger paid $125 to United for her pet’s “transportation.”
Guidance for air travel with pets
If you decide to take your cat or other pet on your next flight, make sure that your veterinarian approves your little friend for travel. Air travel, in particular, can be very stressful to animals. In general, cats don’t like to fly. In fact, the Humane Society advises pet owners to carefully consider all options before deciding to transport any pet by air.
And make sure to confirm your pet’s reservation ahead of time. We receive a steady stream of complaints from passengers (Did he really abandon his dog “curbside” at the airport?) who arrive at the airport ready to fly with their pets who didn’t reserve their pet’s space in advance. The number of pets per flight is always limited. So it’s imperative to let the airline know ahead of time that you intend to fly with your animal — or your pet may not be going anywhere.
Unfortunately, our advocacy team is not able to facilitate a refund of the fare Southwest charged for Maximus. The Southwest pet policy is unbending, as are most airline policies. But I advised Miloro to use our Southwest company contacts to voice his concern about the costs associated with flying with his cat. He assured me that is what he will do next.