They don’t throw drunken tantrums, but they still pay more to fly

by Janice Hough on January 30, 2009

The combination of a slow travel season and a down economy have led to some incredible fares. For example, with United flying for the weekend between San Francisco and Los Angeles costs about $139 with two weeks notice. Want to travel from San Francisco to New York? There are round-trip fares under $300.

But want to bring your cat or small dog along? Add another $350 round-trip. Yes, $350! That’s $175 each way. Across the country or across the state. And that’s for a small animal in a case that fits under the seat in front of you. If your pet needs to go in cargo it’s $250 each way.

It’s not that other airlines are much better. Delta charges $150 each way. American, JetBlue and US Airways (as of now) charge the relatively bargain price of $100 for in-cabin pets. And cargo rates are higher, although US Airways, which has hubs in the hot-weather cities of Las Vegas and Phoenix, will not accept checked pets. (Southwest sidesteps the whole issue by not allowing pets at all.)

I understand that airlines need to make a profit. But charging more for a 10-pound cat than a 200-pound human does seem more than a bit ridiculous. And pets don’t drink sodas or wait in line for the limited lavatories. Nor do they throw tantrums or get drunk. Or for that matter, hog the armrests!

And yes, I know some travelers are allergic to animals. But some people are allergic to perfume, and that’s not banned on planes. In the same vein, traveling next to someone whose clothes and hair reek of cigarette smoke can be a problem. Ditto sitting next to a passenger with a bad cold or other illness who didn’t change their flight because of the change fees involved.

Besides, the rules state that animals must remain in their under-seat kennels for the duration of the flight, although I have heard of that rule being broken.

In any case, it seems like a fair solution might be to say that an in-cabin pet pays no more than their human owner.

Fair? Yes. Likely? Probably not.

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  • Sean Elms

    See my comment on “fur flies across atlantic for a price.”

  • Carlo

    I will say this again. Pets do NOT belong in cargo. Ever. Frankly, pets belong at home, but sometimes, people do have to bring them along. Maybe they’re show animals or they’re actually making a cross-country move. The cargo hold is no place for an animal. They may not be people, but they are not inanimate objects either.

    I guess these new pet fees will encourage people to leave their pets at home where they belong, but I do think they are incredibly excessive for a “passenger” that takes up space under the seat, doesn’t eat or drink any of the free stuff (except maybe the water, but don’t we pay for that now?), and makes virtually no trouble. I’ve always left my furbabies at home when I travel because I think air travel would be simply too stressful for them. I don’t judge what others need to do when they travel.

    Keep in mind that not all animals are merely “pets.” Some are service animals, including some unusual types of animals you wouldn’t suspect of being service animals. Just because it’s not a yellow lab working with a blind person doesn’t mean it’s not a working animal.

    And kudos to the article writer making a point about allergies near the end. Great point!

  • Janice Hough

    Hey Sean, its a free country and you are entitled to your opinion. And I know there are some ridiculous people in this country. (My personal opinion, when you spent more money on clothes for your pet than most people do on their children, there is something wrong.) But simply wanting to take a pet along on a vacation, especially if it’s to family, or for that matter moving with a pet, strikes me as well within the bounds of reason.

    And my last flight was delayed 30 minutes for cleaning, no joke, because a drunken passenger had thrown up on a seat and they couldn’t get the smell out. Will take pet odors etc any day.

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