Commercial airlines are raising a stink about the legitimacy of ‘companion’ animals being allowed in the cabin during flights. Pets and other animals are required to fly cargo unless special dispensation for passengers with medical conditions allows them to accompany their owners in the cabin. It’s become a touchy subject because so many people are abusing the privilege with negative consequences. Pets with bad manners are causing problems for flight crews and other passengers. Behaviours such as aggressiveness and soiling are marring the original good intentions of the policy. Pet owners are understandably stretching the rules rather than check their beloved pet with baggage. What’s the solution? Anyone who has ever tried to fly with a pet on a commercial airliner can attest to the multitude of problems involved.
Small pets that can be crated and stuffed into the six inches of foot space under the seat are allowed. But don’t try to open the cage door or unzip the top a bit to let the poor animal stick it’s cramped head out or you’ll be threatened with eviction. So you’re forced to listen to your pet whine (or worse) for several hours while they’re cramped under the seat. Sedation is a last resort and often results in unpleasant side effects. The alternative, checking your caged pet with the baggage in cargo is even more disturbing. It’s extremely stressful for both pets and their owners.
While I sympathize with the concerns of fellow passengers with allergies or asthma, as a pet owner I don’t see why the airline can’t sort out the problem. People will always want and need to travel with pets and something has to be done. I know space on airplanes is limited but couldn’t a bit of cabin space be designated to accommodate crated pets? Perhaps a special locker in the rear of the plane could be designed with shelves, like open luggage racks for stacking crates where owners could check on them and pets would not be subjected to being squished under seats or banished to dark, cold cargo spaces. Pet owners also pay fares for their pets to fly and they deserve to be treated like the paying passengers they are, not incidental baggage.
This week United Airlines stashed a puppy in the overhead bin despite protests by its owners and the animal died. The way airlines treat pets is long overdue for changes. Pets regularly get lost, ill, misdirected and sometimes die. I know many Canadians who winter in Florida and cannot fly back and forth because of concerns for flying with their dogs or cats. It doesn’t take a genius to come up with a workable solution. I’m just a simple pet owner who has suggested a simple solution. Are any of the airlines listening?
P.S. And while we’re at it, here’s the solution for abuse of excessive carry-on baggage. Make checked baggage free and charge for carry-on. It’s not that complicated.