12 March 2024

If I'm paying through the nose to fly, spare me the pet set

| Ian Bushnell
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Virgin staff

Don’t be fooled. Stuck on a plane with a bunch of uncooperative cats and dogs could turn nasty very quickly. Photo: Alex Coppel.

A couple of suitably cute canines – fluffy and smallish – and photogenic flight attendants accompanied the announcement from Virgin Australia that it intended to establish Australia’s first cabin service for pets, cats and dogs at least.

Eligible passengers with appropriately sized animals would be able to fly on selected flights sitting in designated rows, maybe in 12 months if the regulator OKs the proposal. Conditions apply.

Apparently it’s a done thing in the US and Canada.

Virgin aren’t rushing the move. In fact, the announcement caught Canberra Airport by surprise and it needed time to digest the news and assess what implications a cabin pet service would have for its facilities.

You would think the Canberra demographic would fit perfectly with Virgin’s modelling – high incomes, inveterate travellers and a peak level of dog and cat ownership.

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Nearly 70 per cent of Australian households own a pet and Virgin research indicates that pet owners would fly more if they could take their furry friend with them.

Virgin can’t be blamed for wanting to tap into that market, giving it a point of difference with the behemoth that rules the skies, Qantas.

It calls it innovative but in the cut-throat air travel business it’s about getting more bums on seats, even if you have to put pet carriers underneath.

Of course, it’s discriminatory. Just cats and dogs (and definitely no snakes), and don’t expect the Lab to join you, unless he or she is an accredited guide or assistance animal.

Virgin says they’ll have to fit into a carrier and under the seat or in front of you.

I know it’s done overseas – and I can’t help picturing a rickety third world flight with a crate of chickens – but the last thing I would want to do is have my account gouged for the privilege of a domestic flight that I have to share with a clutch of anxiety ridden critters with no bathroom manners – there are enough of those on flights already.

I’m still recovering from the cattle car out of Uluru last year when a procession of sunburnt yobs lurched repeatedly to the toilet during the entire flight.

It’s a very small world inside a steel tube tearing through the atmosphere and defying gravity.

All one wants to do is sit back, relax and forget just how unnatural and unforgiving air travel is.

The cries of young children and babies are enough to set one on edge. Do I want to have to contend with wailing cats and yapping dogs as well?

Do they get a flight briefing before take-off? No walkies, you’ll just have to wait darling.

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Hanging on isn’t in their make-up. That’ll be a lovely aroma to share with the rest of us for the duration. And there is no where to hide.

Or will pet owners be tempted, even encouraged, to dope up their animals pre-flight so they sleep through the entire experience? Parents do it with babies.

But if you’ve got allergies, Virgin has got you covered. The air filtration system will keep particles at bay but if you have severe allergies they can make arrangements to keep you safe.

I’m predicting there will be a sudden increase in pet allergies among Virgin passengers.

Will pet-free flights attract a premium or will pet-allowed flights a discount, unless you’re the pet owner? I can’t wait for the icon.

Anyway, just fly Qantas, you say. Except how long before they match Virgin’s service?

Flying really is going to the dogs.

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Orhun Bicakci7:40 pm 14 Mar 24

Cats and dogs on a flight will never be remotely as annoying as little human bastards with a no-limits societal licence to be as noisy and irritating as they wish for as long as they want. Father of two btw. Just try to evolve beyond the primitive hubris of being human.

Ken the Third2:27 pm 12 Mar 24

Waiting for the news article on someone who let out poor little Paws who was distressed in the turbulence so the owner could give them some comforting pats, only to have Paws proceed to run up and down the aisle causing havoc and perhaps maul a child in the middle of a flight.

I boarded a flight in PNG, along with locals bringing chickens and pigs to market. Crossing the mountain range we hit turbulence in a thunderstorm. Babies were screaming, chickens were squawking, pigs were squealing.

kbbornandbred11:40 am 12 Mar 24

Would I fly Virgin with pets in the cabin … Yeah Nah !!

I know. I’m sick of hearing dogs barking.

Violet Mouse5:41 pm 14 Mar 24

Give me dogs barking over children crying, screaming & kicking the back of your seat or drunken passages causing a scene any day

I know in Australia it hasn’t happened (and I hope it never does) but in the case of an emergency evacuation, does little Fefe or Schmoppie remain on the aircraft, just like all other hand luggage

GrumpyGrandpa2:47 pm 11 Mar 24

Hmmm. Inclement weather or turbulence; I reckon the puppies are going to off.

We have a neighbour with dogs that bark if they sense anyone in the area. Imagine travelling with that!

Then again, the ACT Government allows guide and companion dogs on our buses because it’d be discriminatory to deny someone the right to use public transport.

I’m not that happy about potentially having dogs on buses, but at least I can always change seats if they are a problem, and the dogs have a purpose.

The more bizarre thing is what are people going to do with the dog, when they arrive at whatever airport? Are they expecting to take the dog in the Uber, the Shuttle Bus or train? Is the dog staying with you at the hotel?

Leave your dog at home and have a neighbour feed and walk it or put it in a kennel.

Leigh Bunting11:35 am 11 Mar 24

And what happens during an emergency evacuation? Those pet owners aren’t gonna leave their pet behind!

My pet tarantulas don’t make noise or smell. Why can’t I take them?

James Croftfield10:30 am 11 Mar 24

Why did you even bother publishing this? The guy doesn’t even know how it’ll work. By the list of demands for flying sounds like he needs to charter his own flight or be less entitled. I am yet to meet a dog or cat that would be less appealing to share a flight with than this guy.

Pets are nothing compared to a kid kicking the back of your seat the whole flight

This is an extension of the post-modern or relativistic idea that humans and animals are equal – a misinformed idea, in the extreme, that many assume only involves bringing animals up to the level of humans, without understanding that there’s no mechanism for why people shouldn’t be brought down to the level of animals. As such, not only will people eventually be degraded by this thinking, but the process has already well under way – and for what? Virgin, in this instance, to make a few more quid. It’s very dehumanising indeed.

Thanks for the quality Monday laugh. Degrading and dehumanising because someone can take a little animal on a plane. Hahahaha talk about a desperate take.

I’m fairly ambivalent to the idea, but is that really the best you can come up with?

What utterly ridiculous tripe.

I can help you JS9, and because you need the help, I will give it!

The normal hierarchy is that humans are superior to animals. As such, humans go inside, and dirty animals go outside (regardless of whether some bore can think of a clean animal or two). Once this understanding gets confused, you start to see, at first, little compromises here and there, and this includes allowing the animal inside on the carpet, or letting them fly with people on a plane. And while this might not be such a big deal in and of itself, it nevertheless belongs to the ‘humans are equal to animals’ movement, and thus represents dehumanisation, in fact.

And while you might think this is funny – or was it you’re inability to think more deeply that made you laugh? – I myself am not so easily amused, which is often the difference between people like you and me

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