Air travel looks a bit different these days. As the United States enters another spike in COVID-19 cases, airlines are beginning to introduce additional safety plans to their regular operations. From not allowing passengers to sit in middle seats to requiring masks for all aboard the aircraft, commercial air travel is going to be a lot more spacious for quite a while.
But while air travel for humans is changing, pet travel is still functioning similarly to how it did in pre-pandemic times. Some airlines are changing things up a bit, but for the most part, you shouldn’t expect to see much – if any – difference when you bring Fido on your flight.
Still, it helps to hash out what airlines are specifically commenting on pet travel. Below, we’ve detailed the most prescient information we’ve been able to find, as well as what pandemic flying could do to the pet travel industry farther down the road.
What We Know
For the most part, it doesn’t seem that airlines are prioritizing pet travel changes when conceptualizing their COVID-19 policies. For example, carry-on pets, service dogs, and emotional support animals are still allowed to fly in the cabin on American Airlines if they meet the airline’s requirements. Commercial airlines see a lot of animals traveling, but with fewer people in the cabin, there are fewer animals overall in the air.
If anything, fewer passengers in the cabin will be more accommodating to animals. With additional space between each passenger, perhaps maximum height and weight requirements will shift a few months down the road. And, with nobody occupying the middle seat, maybe your service dog will finally get his own chair for the duration of the flight.
Changes to Pet Travel Services
While commercial airline pet policies aren’t changing much, services designated for pet travel, like Happy Tails Travel, look a bit different. The company has been developing a model for private, customized ground travel for animals throughout the contiguous United States. Citing the “unprecedented” demand for an alternative to air travel, the company is expanding its operations to include these ground transport options. We wouldn’t be surprised to see more businesses moving in this direction going forward. Pet parents understand the risks of flying during the pandemic, and they’re looking for cost-effective alternatives.
Looking Forward for Pet Travel
The COVID-19 contingency plans developed and published by airlines are temporary. We don’t know much about the decision making happening in the board rooms, and we don’t know when these measures will be lifted. In all honesty, we expect them to lift before it’s safe to do so. But, for now, when there are fewer people in the air, more safety measures practiced on flights, and more space between passengers, it seems like it’s a surprisingly good time to travel with a pet. That said, check back in a few months. Prevention fatigue is real, and even the most well-meaning airlines will ease up on their safety measures eventually.
In the distant future, depending on how long the pandemic lasts, COVID-19 precautions may change the way we fly. The United States revamped its entire flight security process in the wake of the 2001 attacks. Who’s to say something like that won’t happen in a post-coronavirus world? If, when all of this is over, airlines continue to prioritize passenger safety – including the safety of their furry friends – air travel will look a lot different in 2030 than it does in 2020.