12 March 2024

Pets set to jet: Virgin Australia to allow pets to travel with owners in Australian first

| Ian Bushnell
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Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka and a flight attendant with some potential travellers at Melbourne Airport. Picture: Alex Coppel.

Virgin Australia plans to tap into the huge pet-owning market, announcing it will be the country’s first airline to allow passengers to take their pets on board.

The fee-for-service proposal is subject to regulatory approval, but Virgin hopes to launch the service within 12 months.

Virgin says that almost all major carriers in North America offer a pets onboard service for domestic flights, including United Airlines and Air Canada.

In a social media survey of Virgin Australia’s Facebook followers in 2021, 85 per cent of respondents voted in favour of the airline launching pets in cabin flights.

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In more recent research conducted by Virgin Australia with Australian pet owners, nearly 70 per cent of respondents said they would travel with their pet in the flight cabin, and 57 per cent said they would fly more regularly if the service were a reality.

Virgin says the service would be limited to small cats and dogs on specific domestic routes. Pets would be restricted to a limited number of designated rows and would not be allowed to roam freely or sit on laps.

Pets must also be carried in a Virgin Australia-approved pet carrier under the seat in front of the owner for the duration of the flight.

Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said Virgin Australia said feedback from customers overwhelmingly supported being able to travel with their pets.

“It’s something that commonly happens overseas and is proven to work well,” she said.

“Almost 70 per cent of Australian households have a pet, so this announcement is really significant for a large proportion of the country.

“It’s also a great thing for pet-friendly accommodation providers who will benefit greatly from increased connectivity and the ease for travellers to fly with their pets. It really will be a whole new economy for pet travel in Australia.”

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Melbourne Airport CEO Lorie Argus said the airport looked forward to helping Virgin Australia deliver the Australian-first.

“We’ve been investing significant effort into providing relief areas for assistance animals and these facilities have ample capacity to serve Virgin Australia’s new guests,” she said.

“Animals being carried on board Virgin Australia flights will be required to remain in their approved pet carriers at all other times within the terminal.

“We expect the pets in cabin concept will prove a popular offering and we look forward to working with Virgin Australia to make it a reality.”

Virgin says more details on pets in cabin flights, including available routes and the cost for bringing a pet onboard, will be announced in due course.

It says the new service will not result in any change to approved assistance animals being able to travel in the cabin of Virgin Australia aircraft at no additional cost.

The existing procedure for assessing the eligibility of these assistance animals to travel onboard will not change.

Virgin Australia will continue to offer pets to be transported as cargo through approved pet carrier services.

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Leigh Bunting11:31 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?

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