CASA has announced pets will be allowed to travel with passengers in the aircraft cabin from December, but major airlines are divided as to whether they will change their internal policies to allow animals to travel.
Currently, unless for health reasons, pets are treated as an additional set of luggage – coasting extra and transported in a separate cargo hold.
Qantas and Jetstar have opposed the change, but Virgin, Rex, and Alliance have signalled they might be open to changing their rules.
“When giving permission, you may need to consider the type of animal and how it is carried, contained and restrained; its reaction to noise and being out of its natural environment; nuisance to other passengers; distraction to flight crew; and how excrement or fluids will be contained,” CASA stated.
Virgin Australia, in order to understand its customer’s stance, posted a poll of whether passengers would support the policy or not. A total of 351,000 customers responded, with 68 per cent voting “yes”, and 32 per cent voting “no”.
Over 700 comments within two hours displayed customers discussing reasons why they chose their answer: some said they would definitely support the change, however, others had concerns such as emergency liabilities and hygiene.
Rex’s deputy chairman, John Sharp, said, “If people are prepared to pay, I’m sure it will happen eventually.
“We’ll look at it from a positive perspective. We’ve carried people’s pets in our baggage areas in a specially designed container for many years and we’re aware there is a market for it.”
A Virgin spokesperson said the company would be open to the possibility: “We’ll consider the regulatory changes as part of a wider pet travel review, we’re currently undertaking.
“Regardless of the outcome, designated service dogs will still be able to travel in the cabin.”
Currently, the only alternative way to transport pets is through outsourced service providers, however, during the pandemic, prices for these soared as most airlines halted pet policies altogether.
All airlines have different policies as of now. Qantas allows pets as long as they have been freight approved and have been consulted with a specialist.
Virgin Australia only allows dogs and cats, however, all must be transported via the cargo container. Rex also allows pets aboard for $5.50 per kilogram, however, need to have an RSPCA-approved pet pack and will travel in the cargo hold.
Jetstar does not provide a pet service but suggests using outside providers.