Source: ABC News (Extract)
Posted: August 16, 2021

The passengers on this plane usually travel in cargo, but not on this flight.

Inside this twin commander aircraft, dogs, cats, ferrets and even goats sometimes make the journey across Bass Strait, to be greeted by their owners – some for the first time.

Fiona Millhouse set up Pawmobile, a weekly pet air service between Victoria and Tasmania, after seeing the challenges faced by many pet owners during the pandemic.

“During COVID-19, there was no way for people to transport their animals, with so few commercial jets flying,” Ms Millhouse said.

“I did a lot of road transport last year and it occurred to me that there might actually be a better way to do this.

“I’d heard the stories about animals being stressed on planes and cargo holds, and I thought: ‘What would I want for my golden retrievers?'”

First-class experience for jet-setting pets

So, for the past eight months, hundreds of our furry friends have been travelling across the sea in style.

“We don’t treat them like cargo,” Ms Millhouse said.

“They’re in the cabin of the aircraft with us. They’ve got someone travelling with them who is an experienced animal person, who can attend to them if they need anything.

“Commercial airlines are all about passengers, and if people can’t fly because of border restrictions, then they can’t fly as many aircraft, so there are delays — but these animals can continue to fly as freight.”

Pandemic sparks greater need

It’s something Tasmanian cattery owner Doris Rosenkranz knows all about.

“During COVID-19, some cats stayed with me for two or three months simply because they could not get flights to places like Perth and Sydney,” she said.

“So they just had to stay here because there was no alternative.”

But now her cats, and senior rescue pup Paige can travel between Victoria and Tasmania.

“I’ve sent about eight or nine animals on Fiona’s flight now … and little Paige is now with us, she’s such a delight,” Ms Rosenkranz said.

Animal passengers ‘don’t complain as much’

Pilot David Turner said he’s a happy man flying with the new clientele.

“It’s much better. The animals don’t complain as much,” he said.

“The dogs don’t make too much noise and they generally go to sleep for most of the flight, which is nice.”

Soon, Ms Millhouse is hoping to roll this service out Australia-wide.

“Eventually we want to be flying from Melbourne to all capitals in Australia, and we intend to be doing at least one return flight a month to New Zealand,” Ms Millhouse said.

“There’s no better job in the world.”

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