For years, flying alongside one’s pets has been a wish of many owners forced to wave goodbye as their pooches are sent off to the plane’s hold.
Now, it is becoming a reality for many middle-class flyers after the first private jet for pets was sold out in weeks.
K9 Jets was launched in March to allow dogs and cats to sit alongside their companions in the air, with flights carrying 10 owners and 10 pets at a time, from Britain to both transatlantic and European destinations.
Within four weeks, all 15 scheduled flights laid on by K9 Jets between April and September for 2023 had sold out with approximately 150 pets and 150 owners grabbing a seat. Many of the dogs were larger breeds including dalmatians, Great Danes and German shepherds.
The flights cost £7,000 per seat which covers both human and pet, but the British-based company says middle-class families – not the super-wealthy – have become their main clientele as one member flies private with the pet and the rest of the family go commercial.
Departures are running roughly once a month, taking off from Farnborough Airport in Hampshire, with Teterboro Airport in New Jersey the main destination. There are also a handful Lisbon-bound and Paris-bound flights.
It is the only option of its kind available to Britons, with most airlines requiring pets to be in specially made air-conditioned cargo crates in the hold, requiring them to be separated from their owners for several hours at each airport.
Adam Golder, 42, the co-founder of K9 Jets, said “The demand is phenomenal, we could just keep on listing flights all day.” There were sales of more than £800,000 in the first four weeks after launching.
Mr Golder said that following a boom in cargo prices and pet uptake during the pandemic, “people see their pets as family members and they wouldn’t want to put a baby in cargo. For a lot of our customers their pets are their kids.”
He added: “The reason this was born is because people don’t want to put their dogs in cargo. These are all middle-class people. Some people’s companies pay for it as a relocation costs, some have sold their house and are relocating, but they’re just everyday people who want to travel with their pets”
Mr Golder, a self-professed aviation geek who learned to fly 12 years ago, said that around 25 per cent of the bookings are for holidaymakers going to the US, or Americans heading to the UK, including second home owners. The remaining customers are relocating permanently.
Owners get afternoon tea
With “so many requests” for the Algarve, Nice, Spain and Dubai, the firm is looking to expand more for holidaymakers.
On board, dogs get treats and their owners get afternoon tea replete with sandwiches, scones, an open bar and waiter service, with the owners engaging in “very sociable” conversation.
“We have a personalised seating plan done for their temperaments and all the dogs meet with their owners an hour before the flight to socialise, so they’re all familiar with each other,” Mr Golder said.
Pets flying back into the UK must have a health certificate, tapeworm treatment and a rabies certificate.
Lufthansa is one of the handful of mainstream airlines that allow pets in the cabin. However, they must be in the hold with cargo for the return flight into the UK. A spokesman for the German airline explained that they transport “mainly dogs and cats with its passengers either in the cabin or in the belly”.
Other airlines to allow it for certain destinations include KLM, though only dogs and cats can go in the cabin and passengers are “not allowed to take your pet out of the kennel during the flight”. They must be at least 15 weeks old.