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Pets on planes for holidays send their owners stress levels soaring

A dog being loaded on to a Qantas flight in Canberra. Photo: SuppliedMany holidaymakers packed and booked through an extra bag over the Christmas holidays, containing their pet dog or cat.

Qantas issued a statement before the holidays saying it would fly 120 pets on planes a day, or 10,000 over the holiday period.

Two days before Christmas at the Qantas freight terminal at Canberra Airport, tensions soared as dogs were late arriving.

One man sat patiently, as parents and their children came and went, either picking up their dogs or sending them on their way for the holidays. He was waiting for his dog from Sydney.

Finally a man in a yellow fluro vest came from behind the ‘staff only’ doors, opening his arms to emphasise an apology to the man.

“The plane was chockers with passengers and their luggage. Your dog didn’t make it,” he said.

“But I have been hearing that all afternoon?” the dog owner said.

From behind the counter, another man said: “Have you contacted [specialist pet transport] Jetpets?”

“I have tried. They are not answering their phone,” the man said. He lowered his voice and said: “I am livid.”

He declined Qantas’ offer to speak to a supervisor.

“I am livid. Livid,” the man said.

A woman loading her dog into a crate for a flight to Perth fiddled with the door, dropping the leash attached to her dog, who began walking to the automatic exit doors which opened. The livid man alerted her. She caught the leash, avoiding a repeat of a border collie escaping from the terminal in September.

A spokesman for Qantas says animals are given the highest priority from a freight point of view. “We understand they often travel with people. Even when they don’t travel with people they are a living, breathing animal and need to be treated with care if they are flying.”

The spokesman said pets were the last to be offloaded if there was an issue with freight.

Jetpets marketing manager Janine Janides says pets are treated as a priority when boarding and departing a flight

“Upon arrival to the destination pets are picked up from a different area of the terminal to the baggage, and therefore there may be a wrong perception pets are last to get off a plane,” Ms Janides said.

Online reviews show the man’s ordeal in Canberra is not unusual. Customers rated air freight services for their pets poorly, saying they had lost track of pets.

In one case a Birman kitten was sent to the wrong state, and a Siamese cat was mistakenly sent to the owner instead.

One complainant says he had booked his dog two months in advance, only to discover on Christmas eve the courier had forgotten to book a flight. “Did they admit to this? No of course not, I had to call the actual freight company to confirm that the first they heard of my animals was the 23/12/15”.

Ms Janides says Jetpets does not forget to book in clients flights. “Unfortunately flights do occasionally get rescheduled and shifted, and this did on occasion happen during the recent peak travelling season.”

Ms Janides says pets are part of the family these days, and are being booked on flights for holidays. “The key reason for owning a pet is for companionship and people enjoy the company of their pet not just at home but during outings and holidays.”

The company, which flies dogs, cats, fish and reptiles around Australia and abroad, employs pet handlers to collect animals from their homes and organise their flights.

“Some pet owners are anxious about their pets travelling,” Ms Janides said. “Our consultants try to put their minds at ease by explaining how pet travel works and what their pet will experience.”

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