This was supposed to be the best summer ever for pets that fly.
Pet Airways, the upstart air carrier for animals, is just starting to hit its stride. It recently added flight to Orlando and St. Louis, and its revenues more than doubled from a year ago. Not too shabby!
Several airlines have also introduced pet-friendly promotions, most notably JetBlue Airways, with its quirky JetPaws program, which is now in its third summer.
Even the airlines that weren’t exactly pet-friendly appear to have gotten in touch with their animal side. Sure, there are still sporadic pet deaths — here’s a site that tracks them closely — but it’s nothing like it was a few summers ago, when animals were routinely dying the cargo hold, and often under tragic and inhumane circumstances.
There’s an unwritten rule in travel journalism that any story about pets on planes must contain at least one Chihuahua anecdote. I know, because I’ve written many of them. So let’s get right to Charlotte Coan and her travel companion, Cricket.
Coan, a retired educator from West Yellowstone, Mont., frequently packs her nine-pound dog in her carry-on luggage. But like an increasing number of travelers, she doesn’t tell anyone. She’s been caught twice, and the airline has forced her to pay a $150 surcharge for the pet.
“When I asked why I had to pay a fee in order to stuff my dog under the seat in front of me, I was told it was their policy,” she said. “I concluded that it’s really just a ploy to charge another fee.”
During a recent 2 1/2-hour flight from Portland, Maine, to Charlotte, N.C., Tom Meador heard nothing but crying.
“The baby in the back row screamed bloody murder,” he remembers. “Its mother did everything she could think of to quiet the baby. She actually was dripping with sweat because you could tell she worried about what it was doing to the other passengers. I think she had reason to worry, too, because there were some very sour fellow passengers.”
The problem is as old as air travel itself: Adults seated next to misbehaving kids while confined to a pressurized aluminum tube. But it seemed like until now, at least, we knew whose side the parents were on. Like the mom on Meador’s flight, they did everything they could to keep their offspring from driving the rest of the passengers quietly mad.
Words to live by, not just if you’re a pilot, but if you’re a passenger.
Sandra Langer explains why: On a recent trip from Amsterdam to New York, she watched a good number of her fellow passengers get hammered. “Red-faced men blocked the aisles, puked in the bathroom and groped the females — along with a laughing crew,” says Langer, a writer who lives in New York.
That’s right, some crewmembers were also inebriated. The trip made a lasting impression on Langer. “Never again will I take a connecting flight through Amsterdam,” she says.