Bone voyage

Fly the pet-friendly skies | Dan Weisel, Zoe and Alysa Binder founded the first airline for pets.

Pet Airways, which plans to add Dallas as a destination this summer, treats pawsengers better than some airlines treat people

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Zoe, a Jack Russell terrier, came up with the idea for Pet Airways — at least according to company founder Alysa Binder.

This summer, Pet Airways is coming to Dallas, Austin and Houston. Exact dates and which airports will be announced later, airline officials said.

Rather than try to get people airlines to treat pets better, Binder, Dan Weisel and Zoe decided to start their own airline just for dogs and cats — and a hermit crab, some gerbils, mice and maybe rabbits soon.

On Pet Airways, all of the pawsengers fly first class. Pets even walk down a red carpet. And unlike most people airlines, meals are included in the price of a ticket, although some picky pawsengers prefer to pack their own.

Binder said drinks are also included. No need for your pet to carry a credit card to purchase those amenities.

And, of course, Pet Airways has a generous frequent flier program — fly five times and get one flight free.

The airline already flies to nine cities including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. This summer they will add Austin, Houston and Dallas.

The fares run from $99 to $249 each way on Pet Airways. On traditional carriers, pets fly as cargo or, when available, under the seat.

The least expensive carry-on is offered by Southwest Airlines for $75. The carrier must be small enough to fit under a seat.

In cargo, Delta Airlines is the most expensive at $275.

But on Pet Airways, an animal would never be treated as cargo. Binder said that a cargo hold is dark and the flight is loud and not always fully pressurized. The pet is normally alone and often scared.

Compare that to Pet Airways where, in some ways, Binder said, pets get better treatment than people do on those people airlines.

While security measures are tight, pets are not scanned or x-rayed and no one touches their junk.

No need for any of that, said Binder. Each animal is visually examined before boarding.

“We won’t take a sedated pet,” she said.

She said that no animal should be sedated before flying because it can affect their breathing.

And a recent health certificate is required from a vet for each animal.

On-board pet attendants understand the different needs of dogs and cats of different ages.

Puppies and kittens are fed on a frequent schedule. Medications for older dogs and cats are appropriately administered as well.

Pet attendants check the comfort of their pawsengers every 15 minutes and the flights take longer than people flights, partially to give every animal a potty break — the longest breaks are in Omaha and Baltimore/Washington airports where there’s a several-hour layover.

Attendants are well-trained specialists. Binder said her employees include vets and even a former lion trainer (although Pet Airways doesn’t transport lions).

The cabin is well lit, pressurized and temperature controlled. Pets do not sit out on the tarmac facing extreme heat and cold, where most airline mishaps with pets take place.
Cages are arranged side-by-side along the cabin walls. Although no pet gets a window seat, each one faces the aisle.

Check in is required two hours before flight time. Pawsengers are picked up at the Pet Lounge about 30 minutes after arrival because a potty break is given between the plane and the lounge.

Sometimes people are flying the same day as their pets and the people airline bumps or delays a flight. If that happens, just call Pet Airways and they’ll arrange for the dog or cat to spend the night at a Pet Airways Affiliated Pet Resort.

Safety, care and comfort are the company’s mission, Binder said.

And what does the airline do with their unsold seats? Space is used to transport rescued animals to their new, permanent homes.

Now that’s something special in the air.

Reservations can be made on line at PetAirways.com or call 888-PET-AIRWAYS.

—  John Wright