Flying Cargo? It’s Not Safe

posted August 9th, 2010 by
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Story by Kristi Eaton

With the recent news that seven puppies died after flying in the cargo hold aboard an American Airlines flight from Tulsa to Chicago, some travelers may be thinking twice about how to get their beloved pet from one destination to the next. 

The puppies aboard the Chicago-bound flight were half of 14 puppies that were initially put on board the flight that was delayed for an hour, as temperatures in Tulsa increased to 86 degrees Tuesday morning.

Coincidentally, just a few days before, Petfinder.com released its list of most pet-friendly airlines for the year. Pet Airways, the first ever pet airline, stands out among the rest, according to Petfinder, because “pawsengers,” as they are referred to as, fly in the climate-controlled pressurized main cabin and are checked on by pet attendants every 15 minutes during flight. Also, the plane will be diverted to the nearest airport if a pawsenger falls ill, so that the pet can be treated.

Unfortunately, Pet Airways does not have a presence in Tulsa. (It can found be in Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington, Chicago, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Hawthorne/Los Angeles, New York, Omaha and Phoenix.)

Because of its limited availability across the country, Petfinder looked at commercial airlines to find the best airlines for pets. JetBlue was commended for its refusal to permit pet transport in cargo, and is another important animal safety measure.

Evidence, like the recent incident aboard the American Airlines flight to Chicago, supports JetBlues policy: from May 2009 to May 2010, the only airlines with zero reported pet deaths were those that required pets to travel in-cabin.

“Pets are becoming more of an integral part of our families so it’s only natural that airlines are taking pet travel more seriously,” said Betsy Banks Saul, Petfinder’s co-founder, in the release announcing the most pet-friendly airlines. “This list will raise awareness on criteria that pet parents should take into consideration, such as the risks of traveling in cargo, so they can make well-informed decisions.”

– Kristi Eaton

2 Responses to “Flying Cargo? It’s Not Safe”

  1. Erin says:

    Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple. Certainly flying pets in cargo should be avoided when used as a convenience measure, but there are times when it’s not always possible to go get the animal yourself and/or fly it in cabin. Case and point, when I purchased a show Aussie from Puerto Rico. Even if I had flown to Puerto Rico myself to get him, he was 4 months old at the time and too large to fly in cabin. It wasn’t exactly like I could drive to Puerto Rico. My only option was to ship him in the safest way I could. Continental has the PetSafe program which will not leave pets sitting in the cargo area of the plane during extreme weather. Instead, they are in a climate controlled vehicle until the plane is ready for takeoff. It’s not perfect, but it’s safer than many airlines, and sometimes there is just no other option that to ship.

  2. Marilyn says:

    Thank you for this information Erin. It’s good to know this.

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