One thing you soon realize when you work in business aviation, if there was ever any doubt, is just how much people love their pets. You also realize many people in our industry love paperwork (often, I should quickly add, rightly so – where health, safety and security are concerned, there is never any room for compromise or cutting corners). With planning and experience, though, it’s perfectly possible to keep everybody happy, from passionate pet owners to rigorous airport staff.
The number of passengers travelling with pets on business jets is rising, so the need to handle these requests efficiently and sensitively is increasingly important.
Firstly, operators should ensure the pet travel request is clearly recorded when the client’s initial flight request is received, so there is no risk of overlooking what needs to be done.
The next task for the operator is to confirm there is a pet clearance facility at the airport to which the passenger wishes to fly. If not, the nearest alternative should be offered.
Are pet passports necessary?
In terms of regulation, let’s start by looking at the basic requirements when flying dogs and cats into the UK from a European Union (EU) country. Fundamentally, the UK government stipulates the pet must have been microchipped, must have a pet passport, and must have been vaccinated against rabies.
Dogs must also have been treated for tapeworm, no more than five days and no less than 24 hours before entering the UK. Exceptions include the fact dogs do not need to be treated for tapeworm if coming directly to the UK from Finland, Ireland or Malta, or, indeed, the non-EU country of Norway.
The UK accepts pet passports from all EU nations, as well as many European countries that are not members of the EU such as Switzerland, Iceland and Norway. However, pet passports are not necessarily essential when flying pets into the UK. An official veterinary certificate is acceptable for pets coming from so-called ‘listed’ countries outside the EU including the USA, Canada and the United Arab Emirates.
In terms of flying pets out of the UK, it is simply a case of different countries and regions have different restrictions in place. This subject could take up whole chapters in a book, but it is worth noting that Europe, as a whole, is more relaxed about pet travel than the UK is.
Ensuring inflight comfort
Regulations are not the only challenge. Practical inflight needs must be met too. We carry dedicated pet blankets, food, water bowls and beds. Cabin crew get to know the specific requirements and preferences of our regular pet passengers and the pets feel like friends just as much as their owners.
Pets enjoy a freedom in the cabin of a business jet that they cannot experience on commercial airlines. And, when pets relax, it’s amazing how much their owners relax too. Nonetheless, safety is always the top priority and so, during take-off, landing and turbulence, pets must be comfortably secured.
Business jet passengers may well object if you suggest feeding a tin of cheap dog food to their beloved bichon frise (or, put differently, you need to think carefully about how chow chows chow down). Ask the owner about specific preferences and requirements. Some examples meals and treats we offered on a bespoke ‘Flying Paws’ menu for one of our canine customers earlier this year are fresh organic grilled chicken with boiled carrots, Laverstoke Park beef with ground bone and organic ‘aeroplane biscuits’.
With careful preparation and sensitivity, we can make sure our animal friends enjoy their flights just as much as their owners.
Here are my top five tips for operators when flying pets on business aircraft:
1. Ensure every member of your staff, from the sales team to pilots and cabin crew, understands the unique sensitivities involved. A careless word or action could be costly.
2. Take responsibility for ensuring the pet has all the necessary and up-to-date documentation (originals, not copies) to fly. If you have organized everything properly, clearance at the arrival airport should only take a matter of seconds.
3. Treat pets as human passengers, not extra baggage. Assume whatever humans need on the flight, pets will need the equivalent.
4. Provide water, but monitor to avoid excessive consumption. Pets and their owners both deserve outstanding inflight food.
5. Walking dogs immediately before take-off and immediately after landing can help relieve pre- and post-flight stress for owners and their pets.
March 9, 2018