Virgin Australia has announced it will allow small cats and dogs to fly onboard specific domestic routes.

The plan, which is expected to launch within 12 months, would make Virgin Australia the country’s first airline to operate flights with pets onboard. Almost all major carriers in North America, including United Airlines and Air Canada, offer a pets onboard service for domestic flights.

Jayne Hrdlicka, Group CEO of Virgin Australia, said almost 70 per cent of Australian households have a pet, so this announcement is really significant for a large proportion of the country. 

“It’s also a great thing for pet-friendly accommodation providers who will benefit greatly from increased connectivity and the ease for travellers to fly with their pets. It really will be a whole new economy for pet travel in Australia.”

The news does come with parameters though; the service will be limited to small cats and dogs on specific domestic routes, pets will be restricted to a limited number of designated rows and will not be allowed to roam freely or sit on laps, and pets must be carried in a Virgin Australia approved pet carrier under the seat in front of the owner for the duration of the flight.

“Overwhelmingly, our guests tell us they want to travel with their pets, and we are now on a journey to make that a reality. It’s something that commonly happens overseas and is proven to work well,” said Hrdlicka.

Lorie Argus, CEO of Melbourne Airport, said they expect the pets in cabin concept will prove a popular offering, and they look forward to working with Virgin Australia to make it a reality.

“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.”

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