Image by Pascal Meier
luggage with dog.jpg


It seems that airlines regard pet family members as “luggage.”  There was an incident about 1 or 2 years ago that involved an emotional support dog being stowed in an overhead bin with small carry-on luggage.  The dog was a brachycephalic breed (short muzzle) and it died.  There has been another recent incident of 20 dogs being left in O’ Hare airport for almost 3 weeks without care. Family pet members must travel in an airline approved kennel and if that kennel is too large to fit under a passenger seat then they are stowed in the luggage area.  There is barely enough room for my purse and my feet to fit under the passenger seat much less a kennel for a small pet.  It’s always a concern if the final destination requires a plane change.  The families of the pets can’t control the situation and be certain that their pet family member successfully makes the aircraft change.  It is also very concerning that kenneled pets are on the tarmac in cold or very hot weather waiting to be stowed in cargo.

I have written a book, Four Dogs And Their Tales, which addresses the issue of much needed safe and comfortable air travel for pet family members.  In my book, the families of the dogs try to start up a pet friendly airline.  I have some suggestions.

  1. Consider having pets housed in the people passenger cabin.

  2. Specific aircraft could be designated as pet-friendly so that people who are allergic to animal dander can avoid flying on those aircraft.

  3. Each pet should have a certificate of health from their veterinarian validating that their vaccines and rabies shots are current and that the pet is free of fleas and other vermin and well enough to travel. The certificate should include photo identification.

  4. Consider making modifications to pet-friendly aircraft such as having a larger ingress door to accommodate a large kennel being loaded into the aircraft and using a hydraulic lift to accomplish this.  This hydraulic lift could also be used to place a wheelchair bound passenger into aircraft. There isn’t enough aisle space to roll a wheelchair between seats.  I’m thinking that lots of elderly passengers would appreciate utilizing a hydraulic lift also.

  5. The portion of the aircraft dedicated to traveling pet family members could, of course, be a flex space.  That flex space could have metal rings/hooks/etc. affixed to the walls and/or floor to allow various size kennels and/or a wheelchair to be secured in place with straps.  I don’t know if regular airline passenger seats are permanently affixed to the floor of the aircraft.  If the flex space isn’t full perhaps regular passenger seats could be placed and secured there temporarily (if needed) and be removed whenever all of the flex space is needed for traveling pets.

  6. Another option is to modify some cargo aircraft to accommodate people passengers traveling with their pet family members.  I wouldn’t mind traveling in a cargo aircraft as long as I had a passenger seat and a light to switch on so that I could read.  I’m thinking there might be more leg room in a cargo aircraft – always a plus.

 Airlines could make money by providing safe and comfortable travel for pet family members.  Airlines would need to decide if pet airfare should be determined by the weight or size of the pet or a combination of both those factors.  For example, a Neapolitan Mastiff and an Irish Wolfhound might require the same size travel kennel; however, the Mastiff would weigh more than the Wolfhound. People who travel with their pets would pay to have safe and comfortable travel conditions for them.

On very long nonstop flights, a pet might need a potty break.  Although passengers traveling with their pets might have brought a supply of piddle pads with them, airlines could have these and other items available and charge for them.

In case of disaster, such as an emergency landing, pets housed with luggage probably wouldn’t survive.  Pet family members that are housed in the passenger cabin could slide down the emergency ramp with their people.  I recall the emergency landing that pilot Chesley Sullenberger made on the Hudson River, and all the passengers survived.  They stood on the wings of the aircraft waiting to be rescued.  Pets housed in the luggage compartment would have been below the water line and would not have survived.

Please give serious consideration to implementing safe and comforting air travel conditions for pets so that they remain physically close to their family.


Thank you,

Marcella Bursey Brooks (Author of Four Dogs And Their Tales)