Pets could soon be allowed to travel in plane cabins

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has announced plans to change general flight and operating rules that will come into effect in December. The rules, which currently ban any animal other than designated service dogs from flying in the cabin, will be relaxed and airlines will be able to decide whether pets can sit with their owners, or will still need to be transported in the cargo hold.

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Currently, Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Regional Express allow service dogs to travel free with their owners, but all other animals must be transported in the cargo hold – a measure that’s costly and often distressing for both the pets and their owners.

Responsibility for allowing pets in the cabin will be passed to the pilot in command from 2 December, but a few general guidelines will have to be observed.

“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,” the new CASA rules state.

“A large animal should always be secured so as not to damage or affect the balance of the aircraft in flight. A small or medium-sized animal carried in the cabin would normally need as a minimum to be restrained during take-off and landing and in turbulence.”

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Many overseas airlines allow pets to accompany their humans in the cabin for a fee, subject to weight restrictions.

Qantas and Jetstar have already ruled out allowing pets in the cabin, but Virgin Australia is leaving the door open with a spokesperson saying, “We’ll consider the regulatory changes as part of a wider pet travel review we’re currently undertaking.”

Regional Express is also not ruling anything out, with deputy chairman John Sharp suggesting Rex could let passengers buy a second seat for their pet.

“Already on a lot of airlines you can buy the seat next to you. This could simply be an extension to that, with a section of the aircraft designated for passengers with pets.”

How would you feel about being able to fly with your cat or dog in the cabin? Would you mind sitting next to someone’s pet on a flight? Share your opinions in the comments section below.

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Written by Ellie Baxter