Pets allowed in cabins of Australian planes, airlines still reluctant

Australia’s aviation regulator now leaves it up to airlines whether or not pets can be carried inside the passenger cabin.

Relaxed rules currently in place state that animals other than designated service dogs can theoretically travel in the seat next to you on your next domestic flight.

“Regulations do not require the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to approve the carriage of animals on aircraft,” the regulator says, with “the responsibility of the operator and the pilot in command of board the aircraft to ensure flight safety when an animal is transported on board an aircraft.

Despite the rule change five months ago, Australia’s major airlines have expressed mixed views on the matter.

Qantas and Jetstar have confirmed that there are no plans to change the current position on allowing animals other than assistance dogs in their passenger cabins. Airlines have said that pets travel in a special part of the cargo hold where the temperature and noise are similar to those in the passenger cabin.

Virgin Australia has a more open mind on the issue and is exploring the possibility of offering such a product in the future. For now, its policy of only allowing assistance dogs will remain in place, as will the ability to earn Velocity Points for pets traveling as cargo.

As of this writing, Rex has yet to respond to the rule change, but Vice Chairman John Sharp previously suggested the airline could let passengers buy a second seat for their pet. For now, the current policy for transporting pets in the hold remains active, with the exception of assistance dogs.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority suggests that a number of factors will need to be considered by airlines.

“When authorizing, you may need to consider the type of animal and how it is transported, contained and restrained; its reaction to noise and the fact that it is out of its natural environment; the nuisance to other passengers; distraction to flight crew; and how feces or fluids will be contained,” the new CASA rules state.

The logistics of transporting pets on airplanes raises some questionable points. Some travelers are likely to be allergic to cat hair or other animal parts, so how would this affect their flight?

For airlines, will affected customers be allowed to reschedule for free, or will the pet owner be asked to upgrade to a later flight (and potentially risk the same issue repeating itself)?

Jetpets is a service that helps travelers transport their pets.

Jetpets is a service that helps travelers transport their pets.

According to Australian Financial Review, Virgin Australia transported up to 30,000 pets a year on its services before the pandemic. If passed, the new allowance could increase the likelihood that someone will choose to travel with their pet over another means of transport, and thus increase the chances of you encountering a pet on your flight.

Conversely, some travelers may simply prefer not to have pets in the aircraft cabin with them, for a myriad of reasons not yet discussed. For now, the status quo remains.

A traveler wishing to see the rule adopted has started a Change.org petition calling on airlines to follow the regulator’s lead and agree to allow pets in cabins.

Citing her preference for flying to visit interstate relatives rather than a nine-hour drive, the traveler says Australia is behind many other countries in offering a robust system of catering for pets on flights, suggesting that one designated flight per day between major capitals should be a minimum standard.

“Australia claims to be a ‘pet/dog’ country, but why are we years behind other leading countries when it comes to traveling with our furbabies,” the petition reads.

“Our airlines need to serve us better and be more inclusive. It’s time for us to put pressure on them to make this change.

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