Frustrated Pet Owners Turn to Private Jets to Fly Their Animals

Last year, seven pets died during flights, according to Transportation Department data. Of these fatalities, six occurred on Hawaiian Airlines flights. Five of these animals were short-faced dogs shipped in cargo, said Marissa Villegas, a Hawaiian Airlines spokeswoman.

Ms. Villegas said that before traveling to Hawaiian, passengers traveling with pets had to acknowledge and accept the risks.

Meanwhile, private jet companies have stepped in, offering air travel for pets inside the plane without having them spend hours trapped in crates or carriers. Some, like NetJets and VistaJet, have dedicated pet programs. On VistaJet flights, pets are fed prime cuts of meat, offered toys and given a soft mat to sleep on.

Leona Qi, president of VistaJet US, said there’s been a steady rise in the number of people traveling with their pets and that about half of the company’s customers bring their animals along. Most are dogs, but she said there have also been rabbits, falcons and once, a chameleon. VistaJet sells memberships that offer different levels of access to flights. Madelyn Reiter, a spokeswoman for the company, declined to detail prices.

Ms. Qi said that the pet program had frequently been “the determining factor” in convincing clients to upgrade to more expensive memberships which offer more cabin space.

On private flights, dogs under 150 pounds are usually allowed to sit on an aircraft’s seats, though pets must be secured by a seatbelt or placed in a carrier during taxi, takeoff and landing, private jet operators said. On some jets, once a person buys a seat, there is no additional cost to transport a pet or the requirement to purchase a seat. Multiple companies even help clients navigate country-specific pet restrictions and assemble required documents for entry, another obstacle to flying internationally with pets.

But these private flights can be incredibly expensive, with a price tag that can run to tens of thousands of dollars, even for a domestic jaunt from one coast to the other.

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