Source: Daily Mail (Extract)
Posted: March 6, 2024

Virgin Australia has announced it will become the country’s first airline to allow pets onboard so they can travel with their owners.

The plan to allow small cats and dogs on specific domestic flights will be announced on Thursday morning in Melbourne.

Pending regulatory approval, Virgin Australia is expected to launch the new service within 12 months.

Virgin Australia Group CEO, Jayne Hrdlicka, said the airline is ‘thrilled’ to be finally announcing their pet-friendly plan.

‘Our love for animals has always been in the Virgin Australia DNA and we are excited at the prospect of taking off with Australia’s first-ever pets in cabin flights,’ she said.

‘Overwhelmingly, our guests tell us they want to travel with their pets, and we are now on a journey to make that a reality. It’s something that commonly happens overseas and is proven to work well.’

Although it would be a first for Australian skies, most major airlines in North America offer a pet service, including United Airlines and Air Canada.

Virgin Australia proposes to have a limited number of designated rows for animals and their owners, and the pooches and felines will not be able to walk around the cabin, or sit on laps.

All pets must instead be carried in an airline-approved pet carrier under the seat that is front of their owner for the entirety of the flight.

There will be a fee to bring a pet onboard, but assistance dogs’ free payment will remain.

The airline surveyed their Facebook followers in 2021 and 85 per cent of customers who voted were in favour of having pets onboard.

Additionally, recent research done by the pet-loving airline showed 70 per cent of Australian cat and dog owners would travel in the cabin with their furry friend.

The survey also found 57 per cent of travelers would fly more frequently if the service goes ahead.

Melbourne Airport CEO, Lorie Argus said the airport will have ‘ample capacity’ to serve Virgin Australia’s new furry guests.

‘We expect the pets in cabin concept will prove a popular offering and we look forward to working with Virgin Australia to make it a reality,’ she said.

Ms Hrdlicka said 70 per cent of Aussie households have a pet and believe the announcement is not just good news for owners, but for economy as well.

‘It’s also a great thing for pet-friendly accommodation providers who will benefit greatly from increased connectivity and the ease for travellers to fly with their pets,’ she said.

‘It really will be a whole new economy for pet travel in Australia.’

Details on costs and pet-friendly routes will be announced in due course.