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Nation’s first airline to offer service to ‘pawsengers’

After Zoe, a Jack Russell Terrier, got off a plane’s cargo area from Northern California to Southern Florida, she was different. Knowing there must be a better way to transport pets, Zoe’s pet parents, Dan Wisel and Alysa Binder, started the nation’s first pet airline, Pet Airways.

The airline serves only four-legged ‘pawsengers’ and focuses on making their journey as comfortable as possible. Currently, only dogs and cats are allowed on the planes; pet parents book a separate flight and pick up the animal at their destination.

“We understand how important it is to make sure the ‘pawsengers’ are safe and comfortable and we do everything we can to make that happen,” Binder said. “If you’re a pet parent, you get it right away. You know the need for this service.”

From the moment the pet is dropped off at the terminal to the pick-up on the other end, there are pet handlers that accompany and oversee the safety, comfort and care of the animals. The pets fly in a climate-controlled cabin in the safety of a pet carrier, provided by the airline. For long, cross-country flights, the airline will make a pit stop and take all the animals out for a chance to stretch their legs, play and have a snack.

“I’ve never received so many ‘God-Bless Yous’ as I have from grateful pet parents who use our service,” Binder said. “There’s a huge difference in the comfort level of the pets with Pet Airways and the traditional service.”

Pet Airways opened in 2009 and has been expanding since. There is no stop in Salt Lake City, for now, but layovers in other cities can be arranged to transfer the animal to a Pet Airways flight. The cities serviced are Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New York, Omaha and Phoenix.

The airline tries to stay competitive and offers a frequent-flier program; buy five flights, get one free. The price varies by season and other factors, but the level of customer service makes the extra cost worth the investment, Binder said. Special needs, such as feeding schedules, can be accommodated. After a flight is booked, a concierge will contact the customer to explain the process, answer any questions and help make arrangements for special needs.

“It’s all about comfort. After you try us once, you’ll never go back. Give us a call and see what we can do to help,” Binder said.

For more information or to book a flight, go to PetAirways.com.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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