Trouble in the air for Pet Airways

Pet AirwaysThere’s trouble in the air for Pet Airways, the revolutionary pet-only airline that launched less than three years ago and showed such promise.  An article titled “At an Airlines That Caters to Pets, the Humans are Howling” in the Business section of the New York Times details problems with the carrier and ensuing numerous complaints.

When the husband and wife team of Alysa Binder and Dan Wiesel co-founded Pet Airways to fill a void, pet parents were relieved that finally they didn’t have to make the anguishing decision to put their beloved four-legged friend in the cargo hold on a cross-country flight. Their fur babies could travel in the main cabin on an airline that called them pawsengers instead of baggage. Tales of pets escaping, dying and getting lost in transit became a non-issue with Pet Airways.

Pet guardians lined up to book their dogs, cats, gerbils and even a pig on the airline that served four cities and its onset then added a few more. Since launching in July 2009, the airline has transported over 7,000 pets and has  over 38,000 “likes” on Facebook. Yet it appears that there have been no flights for months. Pet parents have had their reservations cancelled, leaving them stranded and scrambling to find alternative transportation options.

In an email exchange with the Times, Binder reportedly acknowledged that Pet Airways, which does not own an airplane, has had some problems since November when it decided to contract a plane from a new company.

“After several flights, it was apparent that the company and plane could not perform as represented, and that there was a definite safety issue, especially in cold weather,” Ms. Binder is quoted as writing in the article, which goes on to state and quote Binder as saying that that Pet Airways has since switched back to its previous contractor, but needed to cancel “some flights during the holidays and into the new year” because that plane was committed elsewhere.

Here it is late February and the problems persist. Though you wouldn’t know it by reading Pet Airways’ Facebook page. Not a negative remark among the numerous posts singing the praises of the airlines or inquiring about expansion.  It’s obvious that any negative comments have been deleted. As recently as today, this is how Pet Airways replied to a question about expansion to an Orlando to San Juan route:

“Hi Nadhya, Orlando is on our add-on list, but nothing as of yet outside of the US Mainland. Be sure to click on the ‘Pawsletter Sign-up” to get notices of updates. Thanks for your post.”

But Yelp is full of bad reviews, including this one from Meg H .on Feb. 6, 2012:

Pet Airways cancelled two flights in a row causing all kinds of stress and inconvenience for many people involved in the transport of a rescue dog to his new home. Now we may even have to find him another foster home!! And to have been holding my money for months, only to cancel a second time and then tell me I have to wait up to two weeks for a refund? You have got to be kidding me!  I think you will soon see this company go out of business! I say a big NO to using Pet Airways.

And this from Heather P. on Feb, 6, 2012:

This is an amendment to a previous review I had written. I flew both of my dogs on PA in August to stay with my parents while I worked on the east coast. The flight from LA to Baltimore was great and there were no snags in the process.

Cut to, the return flight from Baltimore to LA. I had originally booked the flight for mid-January. A few weeks prior to their travel, I received an email stating that the flight was cancelled. I phone PA and they said it was due to not having a plane available because they were upgrading their fleet. Fine. I rescheduled for mid-February and today received an email that that flight was cancelled. When I phoned them, they gave me the same reason. I opted to take the refund of the fare and find another way to get my dogs home.

Would I fly pets on PA again? I’d be extremely apprehensive only because I’d want to be certain I could get them back. When they are working, PA is a great way to go, but I guess for now, it’s a craps shoot.

That’s too bad. Here’s hoping that Pet Airways turns itself around and is able to provide a much-needed service. According to the  Times article, the carrier is burning through money at an alarming rate. What’s extremely disturbing are the reviews on Yelp that the airlines continues to accept reservations then cancels flights and returns the money.

Pet Airways should be in the doghouse for such behavior.


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