Happy New Year to all you petsetters and the people who love them. The pet industry gets bigger and better every year with more perks for pets than ever before. Distinguished dogs, fine felines and other furry friends are being catered to like never before by their humans and businesses looking to boost their coffers. With the new year comes changes. Here’s pet travel news you need to know for 2014:
Southwest Airlines: The airlines was a johnny-come-lately to the pet dance party and didn’t allow pets on board when I began traveling with my Lucy in 2001. But the airline eventually got with the times. And the times are a changin’. The fee per carrier jumps from $75 to $95 beginning Jan. 15. However, that $95 is still less than the $125 pet fee charged by American, Delta, United and US Airways. Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways charge $100.
American Airlines and US Airways: Now that the two airlines have merged to create a behemoth company, the question becomes what to do with the pets? The old American allowed pets to fly in the cargo hold while US Airways didn’t. No one knows yet what will happen. “All those different policies, whether it’s carry on bags or boarding announcements or premium service of clubs, all those kinds of things we have to make decisions on,” Robert Isom, American’s COO, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. One thing that has already been decided and that I’m bummed about is as of March 22, 2014, American Express Platinum Card Members will no longer receive complimentary access to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges and US Airways Club locations. My pooch Lucy and I spend a lot of time in Admirals Clubs due to delayed flights and we’ll miss this perk.
JetBlue Airways: Launches Mint service, a premium section with lie-flat beds and private suites on its coast-to-coast routes, in June but no pets are allowed to fly in style. Instead, they will remain banished to the back of the plane. However, the airlines continues to be the only one to give humans frequent flier points when their dog or cat flies with them.
The ARK at JFK: Hailed as the world’s largest, state-of-the art airline animal transport facility, The ARK at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York is expected to open in Building 78 in the fourth quarter of 2014. The $32 million facility is conceived as the world’s only animal terminal and the first USDA-approved, full-service, 24-hour, privately-owned airport quarantine facility for import and export of horses, pets, birds, exotic/zoo animals and livestock. The center will set new national airport standards for comprehensive veterinary, kenneling and quarantine services. It will be partially run by The Spot Experience, New York’s premier and fastest growing pet services provider, and which also oversees United’s animal lounges at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Newark International Airport. I visited the facility in Chicago last summer and was very pleased with the care given to traveling pets.
Australia: Planning to take your pet Down Under? It’s slightly easier now that Australia changed its pet entry regulations. As of December 2, 2013, Australia reduced its quarantine from 30 days to 10 for dogs and cats entering from the United States. Approved animals can start to arrive in Australia after February 3, 2014. Visit the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture site for more information.
Weather restrictions: This isn’t new but just something to keep in mind as many of you start thinking about your summer travel plans. Keep in mind that most airlines that transport pets as baggage have embargoes when the temperature rises so animals aren’t exposed to extreme heat (or cold) in the animal holding areas, terminal facilities, when moving the animals between terminal and aircraft or on an aircraft awaiting departure. For example, neither Delta Air Lines nor American Airlines accepts checked pets when the ground temperature is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit at any location on the itinerary. There is also a summer restriction that prohibits pets checked on baggage on Delta- and Aeromexico-operated flights from May 15 through September 15. However, pets can be shipped as cargo. United doesn’t have any weather restrictions because of its PetSafe program that is dedicated solely to pet travel. But note that this can still be risky in the summer and really any time of year because checking pets as baggage comes with risks.
I look forward to the day when I can write there’s pet travel news about the launch of a pet-only airline to replace Pet Airways, which ceased operations in 2011. Until then, I’ll continue to write about options for transporting your pet safely. They’re not cheap but in the end you can’t put a price on a family member’s life.
Where are you and your pet going in 2014?