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Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia has announced its intention to be the country’s first airline to operate flights with pets onboard under a plan unveiled today.

The Australian-first service, which may have pet lovers rejoicing but will be met with horror by others, is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to launch within 12 months.

The airline says that 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. It adds that In more recent research conducted by Virgin Australia with Australian pet owners, nearly 70 per cent of respondents advised they would travel with their pet in the cabin, with 57 per cent saying they would fly more regularly if the service was a reality.

Almost all major carriers in North America offer pets onboard service for domestic flights, including United Airlines and Air Canada.

Proposed pets in cabin in-flight experience

For the comfort of all guests, Virgin Australia has today announced several parameters for pets in cabin flights:

  • The service will be limited to small cats and dogs on specific domestic routes;
  • Pets will be restricted to a limited number of designated rows and will 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.

Speaking at a press conference at Melbourne Airport, Virgin Australia Group CEO, Jayne Hrdlicka, said Virgin Australia is thrilled to finally reveal its plans to be the first Australian airline to offer pets onboard flights.

“Our love for animals has always been in the Virgin Australia DNA and we are excited at the prospect of taking off with Australia’s first-ever pets in cabin flights,” said Ms Hrdlicka.

“Overwhelmingly, our guests tell us they want to travel with their pets, and we are now on a journey to make that a reality. It’s something that commonly happens overseas and is proven to work well.

“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.

“Pets on flights is another example of Virgin Australia leading the way with new and improved service offerings and first-to-market experiences for our guests.

“Innovation has always been a hallmark of Virgin Australia. We were the first airline in the country to offer online check-in. This year we were the first Australian airline to launch baggage tracking and a fully integrated self-service disruption management tool. It’s this innovation and first-to-market drive that underpins who we are in the market,” she said.

The airline said that the proposed pets in cabin flights 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. Additionally, Virgin Australia will continue to offer pets to be transported as cargo through approved pet carrier services, as this remains an important part of the Virgin Australia pet offering.

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