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VIRGIN AUSTRALIA: Starts airline pet sky wars

VIRGIN AUSTRALIA: Starts airline pet sky wars

Oh dear, it looks like Virgin Australia has started the small-animals-in-cabins pet wars for Australian Airlines by announcing that it intends to be the first airline to offer pets onboard transport.

I think today must be a slow news day, or Virgin Australia wants to capitalise on the current bad publicity for Qantas over the fines and penalties imposed for the sacking of a safety officer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virgin Australia puts the armrests up for ease of boarding [Schuetz/2PAXfly]
Virgin Australia puts the armrests up for ease of boarding, and you put your pet bag under the seat [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

More press release than actuality

Of course, Virgin Australia doesn’t have all its ducks in a row yet. The proposal is subject to regulatory approval, and as one commenter already noted – many Australian airports don’t currently allow animals on their premises.

Virgin is giving itself 12 months to implement the policy, so this announcement is a ‘bit previous‘ as they say.

Policy based on three-year-old social media survey

Back in 2021, Virgin Australia conducted a scientifically certified (not!) survey of its own Facebook followers where 85% of responders voted in favour of launching pets in cabin flights.

‘In more recent research conducted by Virgin Australia with Australian pet owners, nearly 70 per cent of respondents advised they would travel with their pet in the cabin, with 57 per cent saying they would fly more regularly if the service was a reality.’

Virgin Australia Media Release
a room with tables and chairs
Virgin Australia Melbourne Lounge 2023. Will they let pets into the lounge? [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

Importing a shit-fight from the USA?

Virgin Australia is about to import a complete shit-fight about the transport of animals in cabins from the USA, where most Airlines, including Virgin partners United Airlines and Air Canada, support the practice on domestic flights.

The standard charge for having your pet onboard domestic flights in the USA is around US$125 per pet, one-way. In Europe, Lufthansa charges a €50-€70 levy per pet for the same service.

In 2022, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority changed the rules on passengers and pets in Australia. Virgin Australia is the first airline to propose a new pets-on-planes policy, which goes beyond the existing assistance or service dog policies.

The controversy in the USA has mainly centred around emotional support animals, with everything from snakes and chickens to a miniature horse applying to travel. Australia so far has resisted this emotional support animal trend. Virgin Australia currently allows approved assistance animals (think seeing-eye-dogs for the blind) to travel in the cabin, free of charge. That policy will not change. Virgin will also continue to offer pet cargo services as well,

Virgin Australia Lounge entry, Adelaide [Schuetz/2PAXfly]
Virgin Australia Lounge entry, Adelaide [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

How will it work?

Don’t worry; passengers will not be able to board with their pet python wrapped around their arms. Virgin Australia will be imposing some conditions, including:

  • Only small cats and dogs allowed
  • Only allowed on specific domestic routes – so not all routes
  • Pets can only be transported in designated rows
  • Pets will not be able to roam in the cabin or sit on laps
  • Pets must be housed on a Virgin Australia approved pet carrier
  • The pet carrier must be stored under the seat in from of the owner for the duration of the flight

We are going to have to wait on the full details on pets in cabin flights. That means available routes, the cost of bringing a pet onboard, are yet to be finalised, and will be announced later.

Speaking at Melbourne Airport, soon-to-be retiring Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said:

“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,” said Ms Hrdlicka.

Pets on flights is another example of Virgin Australia leading the way with new and improved service offerings and first-to-market experiences for our guests.”

Jayne Hrdllicka, retiring CEO, Virgin Australia

It also looks like animals will have to remain in their packaging while transported through the participating airports. The Melbourne Airport CEO, Lorie Argus chimed in:

“We’ve been investing significant effort into providing relief areas for assistance animals and these facilities have ample capacity to serve Virgin Australia’s new guests.

Animals being carried on board Virgin Australia flights will be required to remain in their approved pet carriers at all other times within the terminal.”

a group of women posing with dogs
Pets on Planes initiative. Dogs with Virgin Australia staff [Virgin Australia]

2PAXfly Takeout

Now, let me start by saying that I do not have a small animal. I was brought up by a farmer’s son, who believed that if an animal could not be useful to its owners (catching mice or rounding sheep), then it didn’t really have a legitimate place in a family.

So, I probably have a minority view when it comes to the attachment between humans and their pets.

I applaud Virgin Australia for the initiative and for limiting to certain flights and routes.

I also have an allergy to most pet hair, particularly dogs and cats.

So, forgive me, readers, if you have a contrary view, but I do not support this new Virgin Australia initiative.

S’pose I’ll just have to add some antihistamines to my travel pack.

1 Comment

  1. AA56

    I hope that Qantas doesn’t implement the same policy. The thought of hearing barking dogs and the associated smell makes me shudder.


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