By Arden Moore
Some of the best ideas are born during the worst economic times. The latest gem: an airline that caters strictly to pets — or, “pawsengers.” Pet Airways officially takes flight on July 14.
Credit this new flying venture to the husband-and-wife team of Dan Wiesel and Alysa Binder of Delray Beach. The pair adores Zoe, their 17-year-old Jack Russell terrier, who is just a tad too big to fly in a carrier under the seat in the cabin.
When the couple relocated from California to Florida a couple years ago, the San Francisco-to-Miami non-stop flight was anything but serene.
“We were in a total panic with Zoe being in the cargo hold,” recalls Binder. “At 17.5 pounds, Zoe was a little too big to fit under the seat. We told ourselves that we never want her to have to fly in the cargo again. And, we wanted to do something to help other pets who need to travel by air.” But why start an airline when the economy is in a nosedive?
“Why not? If you believe in something, you can do it,” says Binder. “Dan and I have served as consultants and recruiters for some successful high-tech start-ups. We love Zoe and saw that we had the chance to fill a void in airline travel.”
Pet Airways officially began accepting reservations for its introductory fares of $149 one way on April 16 — yes, the day after income taxes are due. Eventually, fares will average up to $250 one way.
And the response? “Our server crashed the first day of taking reservations — the response was overwhelming,” says Binder. “This was a good problem to have. We quickly were able to correct the problem. Think about it. With 87 percent of U.S. households with pets, there’s a definite market for this type of airline.”
Combining their passion for pets with their business-savvy skills, they secured financial backing for a fleet of turbo-prop Beech 1900s that will initially offer service to a handful of airports in Baltimore/Washington, D.C., Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and New York City areas. Within two years, plans call for expanding to up to 25 hubs, including South Florida.
Keep in mind that Pet is an airline strictly for pets, not people. The insides of these 19-passenger planes have been renovated to accommodate up to 50 pet carriers per flight. Gone are the passenger seats — replaced by a potty area and play area. The only two-leggers welcomed aboard are the pilot, co-pilot and a flight attendant who has a background in pet care.
Pet Airways offers climate-controlled cabins so pets can fly in any type of weather — an advantage over major commercial airlines that do not accept pets as cargo when outside temperatures hover above 85 degrees or below 45 degrees.
Starting slowly, Pet Airways will fly each route once a week. People drop their pets off at pet lounges located at each of these five hubs. Overnight boarding is also available. If you miss a flight or get delayed for any reason, Pet Airways guarantees that your pet will be under the supervised care of a trained employee from drop-off to pickup.
Alysa Binder and Dan Wiesel are betting that making the skies fur-friendly is an idea that will really take off. Learn more about Pet Airways by visiting its Web site: www.petairways.com
Arden Moore, an animal behavior consultant, editor, author and professional speaker, happily shares her Oceanside, Calif., home with two cats, two dogs and one overworked vacuum cleaner. Tune in to her “Oh Behave!” show on Pet Life Radio.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.