Pets in Airplanes – Open Question About the Airline Industry

Pets on Airplanes can Affect People with Cat Allergies (Charlyn Wee via wikicommons)The news occasionally reports stories about pet dogs and cats that get loose in cargo holds of airplanes, or get sick, or even die while stowed during air travel. It’s disturbing to contemplate, and may result in more people wanting to put their smaller pets in airline approved pet carriers and stash them under their airplane seats.  Traveling with pets on airplanes is nothing new. But what does this mean for those of us who fly frequently (or even infrequently) and are allergic to dogs, cats, and other furry pets?  I’m not allergic to cats, but a relative of mine is, and she recently sent me this email (edited for clarity):

 “Wanted your advice as a travel professional. I had very unpleasant experiences on my last two JetBlue flights. It appears that cats and small animals are permitted in the main cabin of planes, per FAA regulations. I was never aware of this, and neither are most people I have spoken to.

I am highly allergic to cats, and on the flight home from Los Angeles, a cat got loose on my flight. I had a terrible allergic reaction, and it developed into a raging eye infection. On my next flight there were two cats a few rows behind me. In contact with Jet Blue, I was told the onus is on me to change flights if I find cats to be on my flight. Not only is this highly inconvenient, I would only know this just before boarding the plane.

How can I get the word out that airline policy allows pets, and that people who are allergic need to be warned of the possibility there are pets on their flights. As I stated to Jet Blue (who by the way never responded to my request to have someone in management contact me) a severe allergic reaction could cause the plane to make an emergency landing.”

Very interesting issue! I asked my relative, PMG, if she contacted JetBlue’s customer service, which is ranked as one of the best three in the airline industry in terms of customer satisfaction. PMG is a resourceful grandmother of eight older kids and teenagers, well-traveled, and not one to sit back and accept life’s grievances. So, yes, she did. I should note that the customer service employees at JetBlue have been exceptionally polite and respectful, although the lip service is obvious. I’m editing only for spelling errors and clarity here.

  • PMG: On our flight a cat got out of its carrier, and was running around the aisles. I am HIGHLY allergic to cats and this caused me great discomfort. Luckily I had Bendadryl with me, so I was spared more problems. There should be a way to notify passengers that pets are on board. What would have happened if my throat started to close up; an emergency landing would have been necessary. You stopped serving snacks that contained peanuts because of allergies, now you need to revise your pet policy too. Your flight crew were as helpful as possible, but it took a while to locate the cat’s owner.
  • JET BLUE: Thank you for contacting JetBlue Airways regarding your recent travel. We welcome the opportunity to assist you. We regret to hear that a pet was not properly controlled onboard by its owner. We apologize for the distress and frustration caused. We appreciate you taking the time to provide us with valuable feedback. We will forward your letter to inflight operational leadership for their internal review and to improve service for the future. Please feel free to inquire with us at check-in if there are any pets onboard, so that we may best assist you in having a pleasant travel experience.
  • PMG: Thank you for your reply. I am a frequent JetBlue flyer, and am concerned about the pet policy. I am flying again to Los Angeles soon, and will inquire about pets onboard my flight. My concern is even if the person is sitting a few aisles away from me, I am still likely to have a reaction.  Would I have to change my flight or would the cat owner have to change? Can advance reservations somehow be tagged to indicate passengers with severe allergies to cats.
  • Jet Blue: Thank you for your additional email to JetBlue Airways. We appreciate the opportunity to follow-up. If you are not comfortable and your seat cannot be changed to be farther away from the cat you would be the one who would need to change your flight. In addition to the four small pets allowed aboard we are required to allow customers with a medical documentation to bring Service and Emotional Support Animals aboard…As a result we regret to advise that we are not able to ensure that any flight will be cat free until the last customer has checked in.
  • PMG: I was at the eye doctor yesterday and have an infection in my eye. It was caused by my allergic reaction. I am on heavy medication for five days now. I hold JetBlue responsible for my discomfort and complications. I also want JetBlue to know I think it is totally unfair to give more preference to a pet owner than a True Blue customer who regularly upgrades her seats.
  • Jet Blue: Thank you for your additional correspondence which has been forwarded to JetBlue’s Corporate Office. On behalf of our Corporate Officers we sincerely apologize for the frustration you have experienced.  JetBlue must accommodate customer requests to travel with service animals, which are not required to be in carriers. We generally allow up to 3 pets on each flight, while the number of service animals on a flight has no limit. You can check prior to flying whether pets or service animals are booked for you flight by calling us at 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583) and we will try to seat you as far away as possible from any animal on the flight or allow you to take the next flight if there are no cats. However, we cannot guarantee that there will not be animals on a flight.

Allergy Eyes (DeiterPaas via wikicommons)…At this point, the level of lip service this elderly passenger was receiving grew too much for her. JetBlue, with its famously personal and friendly customer service, sounded too cut-and-dried and impersonal. The cats that are in carriers are not necessarily service animals since those pets don’t need to be in carriers in the first place; this seemed to be a slight-of-hand regarding the real issue. PMG wrote a letter to JetBlue management, but has yet to hear a response. It’s a long email, so I’ve edited it down without changing the issue of pets in airplanes vs flying with cat allergies.

PMG: I have been a True Blue member for many years and carry a Jet Blue AMEX card, so you know I am a committed JetBlue passenger, and would like to continue as one.

I am highly allergic to cats, and my last two flights (both from LA to NYC) have had cats on board. These flights were highly uncomfortable for me and in the first flight caused such a severe allergic reaction that I developed an eye infection that required I see an eye doctor and go on a very costly medication regime. It is over six weeks now and my eye still has not fully healed.

I know your policy allows up to three pets, plus service animals.  My issue is with your policy of giving the pet owner preferred rights over me. I was told the onus is on me to find out if cats are on board, and that I would only know this at the boarding gate. Since I had such a bad experience on my March 27 flight, I did everything I could to find out the situation on my upcoming trips. But of course it was not until I boarded that I found out that indeed there were cats on board and that I should change my flight. At that point it was impossible for me to change my flight, as I had to be in LA that day. You are putting me in an impossible situation. Why favor the pet owner over a valued customer?

__________

She received no response and, frustrated, PMG emailed me her issue about flying with pets on airplanes. I emailed JetBlue’s media relations.

JWM: A relative visited my family in April, and flew JetBlue round trip JFK-LAX. Today, she emailed me this [here I included her email to me, as seen earlier].

I know she is very allergic to cats as she says. I also COMPLETELY understand the need for support animals to be on flights (seeing eye dogs and cats). However, I’m hoping you can tell me where the line is drawn; when an elderly woman suffers from a pre-existing condition brought on by the presence of cats, and has a continuing reaction days later? I’d think that there would be ways to prevent this. The Americans with Disabilities Act must be followed of course, but do you think that there is something to be done here, in terms of not making bad situations worse for your otherwise healthy passengers? Perhaps airlines should consider pet-free flights. I don’t know if this is the right answer, but certainly the free-for-all that currently exists is not tenable, either.

JET BLUE:  Thanks for your inquiry…We allow customers to travel with their pets as we recognize they’re an important part of the family and many customers wish (or need) to have their pet accompany them when traveling.

Customers can call reservations at 1-800-JETBLUE to find out if a pet is booked on their flight; however, we can’t guarantee that there will not be a pet on the flight once they board. JetBlue will make every reasonable effort to re-accommodate the customer with allergies in another seat away from the animal onboard.

Customers can find out whether any pets are on their flight prior to booking their tickets. If someone with a pet ends up booking a ticket after this, we would work to move the customers away from each other on the plane; if that doesn’t work, the allergic passenger would be offered accommodation on the next available flight.

JWM: Thank you for your quick reply, Allison, I’m impressed!

Why must people allergic to cats be made to suffer? We both know that air is recycled throughout the plane (one reason why the “smoking sections” were so silly, back in the day). Moving passengers away does little for this. Also, if passengers picked seats to sit with their families, the amount of people being reorganized around the plane would be at the very least uncomfortable and embarrassing for both parties. Is the corporate response that people with cat allergies should bring their inhalers/epi pens and prepare to deal with it?

Everyone’s been exceptionally polite, but this does seem to be a disaster waiting to happen. There are no more peanuts served on flights even though most passengers don’t suffer peanut allergies. The airline doing nothing about highly fur-allergic passengers on flights is neglectful, and not in keeping the the level of customer care I know JetBlue takes pride in. By the way, PMG has up to this point had nothing bad to say about her JetBlue experiences.

JET BLUE: We’re happy accommodate customers on the next available flight.

And, that’s it, that’s where it stands, today. The Jet Blue representative is aware that this post is being published, but before she knew that, she was as polite and professional as seen above.

JetBlue Airlines and Others Allow Pets in the Main Cabin of Planes during Travel (Magnus Manske via wikicommons)Now, my relative hasn’t heard back from anyone, although she does raise some very salient points. Why is the onus on the passenger with cat allergies to check at the gate? And why be expected to change her flight, especially if she needs to be at her destination at a specific time? Even if she wasn’t a True Blue member, it would hardly be fair.  And — what if a passenger experiences a serious reaction to the pets on airplanes? An emergency landing would obviously be a very expensive inconvenience for all aboard, seeing that the allergic passenger is not of great concern to the airline (or else PMG would have received more than lip service from customer service about this issue).

As airline regulations have been changing to accommodate passengers who want their cats and small dogs in carriers in the main cabin, other passengers have just had to be quiet and deal with it, so far. Some airlines don’t allow pets as carry-on for overseas flights, but a customer with years of loyalty to an airline shouldn’t have to give up her miles at (or affection for, though that apparently holds less water) an airline. JetBlue management is being shortsighted about the effects of severe allergic reactions. Aside from service animals, I think the answer is to have pet-free flights as an option. It’s not a perfect answer, of course, but finding out you have to change your flight when you’re already at the gate — or onboard — is hardly an acceptable answer either.

56 Comments on "Pets in Airplanes – Open Question About the Airline Industry"

  1. I’d like to reiterate that everyone involved in the discussion at JetBlue’s end has been professional and polite. JetBlue isn’t the issue; other airlines have the same policy. The incident with my relative just happened to be on a JetBlue plane.

    • Keri Thompson | June 5, 2017 at 11:16 pm |

      Do these people who MUST have their “family member” pets have to pay to bring them on board? I discovered, after sneezing an entire flight, that there was a cat 2 rows back under someone’s seat. So frustrated! I had not know before then that this was allowed. Seems there should be a fee to bring another family member or even service animal.

  2. Jenn Willey | May 25, 2012 at 9:19 am | Reply

    WOW, I am completely amazed at Jet Blue. I to love their flights, but I will no longer choose them as a selected airline. I also have a severe allergic reaction to cats and am in no way going to put myself in a situation where I would be unable to breathe.

    As for having “Pet Free Flights”, it could be a solution, but if that flight previously had a cat on board, and they switch it to a “Pet Free Flight”, there will still be an issue, as the pet dander is still on board. It would have to be a “Pet Free Plane”.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. I too am highly allergic to cats, but have never had a problem with them on a flight. If a cat is properly contained, the risk of a reaction is relatively low. The majority of reactions are caused from cat saliva, urine, or dander, all of which would have a hard time circulating if the cat is in a travel crate. One would be more likely to have a severe reaction from sitting next to a cat person traveling with no cats, but with clothes covered in pet dander.

    There are always risks associated with air travel, and I think all passengers need to be flexible (both those traveling with pets and those not). For all your grandma knows, the person traveling with the cat could be one of JetBlue’s Million Miler members, or have loyalty and status that trumps her own. And as for that pet owner, he or she should have never allowed that cat to be roaming the plane. I think that’s very rude (not unlike passengers that put on nail polish during the flight.) I also think that passengers traveling with pets should be flexible in their seats. I think JetBlue limiting the number of Pets per flight is great (remember its extra income for them, so saying no to pets is probably not a reality.) Perhaps JetBlue could implement a policy letting pet owners know that they might have to change seats to accommodate allergic passengers?

    And finally, in terms of your grandma, I
    in addition to asking to be sat as far away as possible from the animals, I’d recommend taking allergy medicine preemptively before the flight (pro-tip from decades of living with allergies to everything) just to be safe.

    • I have had an allergic reaction with a small dog who was properly contained. If I am in proximity of a cat or dog on a plane I am miserable the entire flight. I am an animal lover and when I travel I make accommodations for my pet at home.

  4. So You Think You Can Mom? | May 25, 2012 at 9:50 am | Reply

    We only have a pet goldfish, BUT…if I had pets, I personally, would not take them on flights. I would think that the flight would be cruel. Again, I am not experienced in having pets so I don’t understand why they fly….but I agree with “PET FREE” Flights vs. airlines that allow pets for those that do choose to travel with their furry friends.

  5. I have to disagree with most opinions on this – the cat owner paid to have her cat on the flight, and it should be allowed to safely travel. That owner should be held responsible if the animal gets loose, but if the animal meets the size requirements and the owner wants to pay for their pet to be in the cabin vs. under the plane, that’s their right, too.

    There are still airlines that hand out peanuts. If you have a peanut allergy, would you expect a peanut-free flight just for you?

    • Bravo!

    • Yeah um if you had the sever life threatening allergy you would respond differently. Once allergies have a direct impact on your life then you are allowed to have an opinion. To someone with a life threatening allergy the allergy is the equivalent to you being forced to sit next to a toxin that effects your ability to breathe. I don’t think pets need to not be allowed onboard. But I do think that it needs to be a first come first serve system. So if someone books a flight with no pets onboard and they are allergic to say cats then that flight should be cat free. If the cat owner booked first then allergic person would need to try for a different flight. The reality is its not so much that a cat is on the flight its how close the cat is seated next to you. And Jet blue doesn’t seem to be willing to accommodate to say even create a buffer zone. I think service animals are different as they should be allowed on regardless and then allergic person would have to change flights. The system needs to be rehabbed and yeah nuts have no place in the air unless yo’ve got medical staff onboard with proper equipment to deal with anaphylactic reactions. I think you can live without peanuts for a few hours in your lifetime.

    • If someone has a peanut allergy….they do make the flight peanut free…DUH. So yeah its extremely rude for someone to bring their damn cat on a plane knowing many people have severe allergies

  6. It sounds like the onus is really on the traveller to be prepared with any allergy medicine they may need in case they come into contact with a pet. Sometimes there’s no good answer and this seems to be one of those times.

  7. I think if you have a severe allergy (whether it be to cats, bees, gluten, strawberries), it’s always your responsibility to be prepared for an attack. If there are three people on board who paid extra to transport their pets (maybe they are True Blue members too), of course it makes sense for the allergy sufferer to take the next flight.
    Unfortunately, in severe cases, allergies come with tons of inconveniences, all of which are the allergy-sufferer’s responsibility to deal with. If that means taking the next flight, sorry! A delay is better than a life-threatening attack and possible emergency landing, right?
    It’s not fair, but that’s the way it has to be. You wouldn’t expect everyone in the world to stop eating strawberries because you’re deathly allergic. You also can’t expect people to stop traveling with their pets. Your allergy is not their problem.

  8. Interesting issue! (note I am allergic to cats, yet have two and resign to taking allergy meds daily).

    I’m also asthmatic and sensitive to certain fragrances. So where do we draw the line? Do we ban parfume on flights also? I don’t think that’s reasonable. I just know as someone with high sensitivity that I HAVE to take allergy pills before being in crowds. I have to ALWAYS have my inhaler with me. Most people I have met have been able to regulate their allergies to cats by insuring they don’t touch the cat and are diligent about not touching their face until they have washed hands.

    If someone it that allergic to cats I don’t think it would be unrealistic to see that they might have just as severe of a reaction if they were sitting next to a cat owner who had recently held their pet (before getting ont he flight). There is no way to regulate that.

    My pets are just like family members, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable allowing them in the cargo area. My husband (years ago) was a conductor on trains and was horrified at how the animals were treated – noting how many of them got loose or other traumatic issues. He had said he was one of the only ones that would ever go back and visit the animals to be sure they weren’t freaking out.

    It’s a tough one. I can see both sides. 🙁

  9. I don’t think that there is a right or wrong side to this. If you have animal allergies, then you won’t want animals on flights. If your pet is a very important part of your family (and they ARE to many, lonely, especially elderly folk) then you will. The airlines can’t win either way, they can only do their best.

    We were asked not to eat nuts on a recent flight, which I found slightly ridiculous to be honest, given that nuts have been served regularly on flights for dozens of years. What did people with allergies do before?

    Oh – and, yes, pet-free flights would be an option…..so would child-free flights, PLEASE! After my last transatlantic torture!

  10. First, I am definitely going to start traveling with Benadryl in my on-board pack. I’ve seen small pets on flights, but never been seated close enough to trigger my cat allergy. This is a good wake up call.

    I think it’s like everything else about flying today, passengers need to go on board with a positive, flexible and community-oriented attitude. Pets are family members and if my dog fit under the seat in front of me, she’d be going everywhere with us. Oh wait, she wouldn’t because certain noises upset her causing her to make high-pitched barks and sometime pass foul-smelling panic gas. I love my puppy very much, but it would not be cool to subject other passengers to that.

    If someone brings, say, a cat on board, I would hope that passenger would be considerate enough to let the passengers around her/him know about it at seating, so they can seat swap if needed. Also, they should be responsible enough not to take it out of the carrier and let it run away. (They can survive 5-7 hours without eating.)

    If someone has a severe allergy that is being triggered, they should let the flight crew know and both passengers swap seats to get each other as far away as possible. (and while I don’t think the airlines would every do it because it allegedly burns more fuel, ask to increase the air circulation.).

    Here’s the really grey area I’m not sure how to best address, once my allergy’s been triggered, they is no going back. If I get away soon enough, I can avoid scratching my eyes out, hopefully. So, by the time I ‘notice’ a cat close enough to effect me, it’s too late.

  11. I am allergic to dogs, and have often had issues traveling on flights with dogs, where I have to seriously medicate to be able to breathe. I suggested years ago that airlines should have a box you can check when you book the flight that says “I require an animal alert if animals are scheduled to travel on this flight” and then you would get a text, call or email to advise you, so you could switch to a different flight or pre-medicate. Even if you got the call on the way to the airport, it would give you some advance notice to get the medication in your system.

  12. As a long-time schoolteacher who has had to deal with peanut allergies, I guess I feel that the onus is on the person with the allergy. As much as I would like to say society in general will revolve around my allergy, I know that simply can’t happen.

    I’ve worked at schools where one out of 600 was allergic to peanuts and the school put a ban on peanuts for everybody. As a parent of a non-allergic child, I would find it absurd that my child couldn’t take a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.

    I do realize that, if it was MY child who was allergic and stood the risk of dying if she was exposed to peanuts, I would want the school to take every precaution possible. Still, I think I would understand that it’s not possible (I think I would understand anyway!)

    It’s a bit more difficult situation in the plane in that there are times when we really do need to fly. I could choose to homeschool my child in order to avoid peanuts at school, but it would be harder to avoid flying.

    There are no easy answers, that’s for sure!

    • While I agree a food allergy is, in the end, the problem and responsibility of the person with the allergy, I find your attitude as a schoolteacher somewhat disappointing. First of all, an education is a right (and in fact a requirement) in our society, so we do need to make accommodations to make sure all kids have access to a healthy school environment. Second of all, not everyone can just choose to home school. It requires a parent to not work or to work a schedule that isn’t always feasible. It’s also silly to say that there are “times when we really need to fly.” There are people who go their entire lives without stepping onto a plane. You can drive, take a boat, walk, ride a bike, etc.

      My son is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. His allergy isn’t as severe as some, but on a recent flight they didn’t serve peanuts for several rows in front of us and behind us. Why? Because we were unable to get seats together and I was highly nervous about my 6-year-old being seated alone next to someone snacking on nuts. You don’t know what a situation is or why it came about.

      As for the cat situation, we need to be able to co-exist. I fly frequently and rarely see a cat on a plane, so I find it interesting that it seems to be a problem in certain airports. I agree with Ida (below). Jet Blue could certainly set aside a group of aisles in a plane as “pet free.” There are seats you can’t sit in if you’re not an English speaking adult. They could provide priority access to those, just like an auditorium would do with handicap seating. It’s not about expecting the world to revolve around you. It’s about a basic common courtesy and respect for other people.

    • I do sympathize with parents of kids with allergies. I know it’s not easy and there are no easy answers. It’s just that it’s really, really hard to meet everyone’s needs. When we had our one kid with a peanut allergy so the school went peanut-free, you wouldn’t believe the number of complaints we got from other parents.

      As far as making school a healthy environment for everyone, I don’t think that’s humanly possible. People are allergic to all kinds of things – can we realistically ban everything that any child is allergic to? It’s not possible. We can do what we can for most kids. It’s not perfect, but the world isn’t perfect either.

  13. Perhaps airlines should designate specific seat rows as being animal free. Perhaps if (for example) rows 2-10 were designated animal free, it would make it easier for those with pet allergies. When booking a flight, a customer could request the animal free section.
    An alternative would be having a storage area for pets that is in the main cabin, perhaps in the back, so that animals could still be in a climate controlled area, but not mixed in with the general population.
    Not the perfect cure, but should help those with allergies.

    • I think thats a perfect option having x number of rows that are pet friendly so that dander is not all over the cabin. That would truly solve the issue for most people and make it easier not he airline if they need to deep clean if a pet has an accident. They are only worrying about concentrating in one area.

  14. WOW – what an interesting and painful lesson. It’s sad that the allergic person is the one required to make accommodations. I can’t think of any other area where this is true, do you?

    I also like Ida’s suggestion to have a climate controlled area, that is just for pets, away from fellow travelers.

    I’d be mad as all get out at this lack of compassionate response. UGH.

  15. My $.02

    Seeing as some children could DIE if they came in contact with anything containing peanuts, it’s really not a big deal for me to send my kids to school with nut-free lunches and snacks. People with severe nut allergies can and do call airlines ahead and I know the Canadian carriers will create *zones* where snacks containing nuts won’t be served.

    Pets are a different animal – ha! Service dogs are one thing, but Fluffy the cat can be left at home with a petsitter, or at one of the many, fabulous, kitty hotels. If you’re moving cross-country and Fluffy is coming with you, she should be sedated and kept in her carrier at all times. Severely allergic people would be wise to inquire ahead for any and all flights, and prepared for a reaction at all times. This post is good wake-up call – I’m allergic to dogs and one sat next to me would certainly make me uncomfortable after a long flight.

    And if you compare bringing your dog along with you to my traveling with kids, my head will explode. Children are people. Pets are animals.

  16. I think its terrible that even if you go out of your way to check with the airline about pets they can’t guarantee that there won’t be any aboard. If you’ve planned for months and done your research but somebody last minute decides to bring their pet, you’re out of luck. This policy should be looked at.

    Do other airlines have similar policies?

  17. I don’t have any allergies, but having to worry about pet allergies as well while flying is an uncomfortable thought. I don’t want to say there can’t be pets (I don’t trust pets in cargo areas) but they certainly gave the runaround on answers.

  18. This is tricky: On one hand, we occasionally fly with our dog, who is a service animal but also hypoallergenic. On the other hand, I too am severely allergic to cats, so I fully sympathize with PMG. I also get puffy eyes and hives all over, so I’m not really sure what side I’m on on this issue. I guess you can say both!

    Semi-related: I was with a friend last week who is a flight attendant, and she told me about several passengers who have tried to stuff their animals in the overhead baggage compartment. WTF?!? She had to explain to them that that’s against the airline’s policy. Who are these people? They should forfeit their rights as pet owners for such acts of stupidity!

  19. So weird how things have changed in five years. Before I had my son I flew with my dog in a carrier every time I travelled, sliding him under the seat in front of my. At that time NO ONE could have a pet outside a carrier in a plane. So this is what it has turned into? I fully accept pets as therapeutic, but they should either be in one’s lap or in a carrier. I think it’s time the whole pet “companion” thing be reevaluated. Letting any animal have free reign of a plane is just rude.
    But then again, flying sucks now, as does travel in general.

  20. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the idea that you can’t even know until you’re on the flight whether or not your health will be at risk on the flight. Realistically what can you even do then? Have a fit until you’re let off the flight? Do you get fully compensated for your flight then? Or do you lose the value of your ticket? Should you just assume that all Jet Blue flights will have pets, and that they are to be avoided? Ack! It’s just mind-boggling!

  21. Wow – what a tough and sticky situation. Both sides have conflicting rights. I feel for the pet owners – when I left Australia, I had to give up my beloved cat as there was no way I would subject her to the cargo hold. That would be cruel and unusual punishment and I am sure she would have died of fright, alone and cold in the dark cargo hold. I would suggest that I, too, was a loyal customer to the airline, flying frequently between Canada and Australia. On the other hand, a severe allergic reaction for another customer on the flight is also of grave concern – especially if this results in a medical emergency. While of little help, I would suggest people who are unable to control their animals should be fined – to travel with your pet in a carrier is a treat – and that right should be treated as such, and the rules respected! If my cat had been with me, I would have been beside myself with worry if she was loose on the plane, out of her carrier. The airline hostesses would have been at wits end as I tried to find my beloved cat – not the other way around – trying to find me, as was your friend’s experience!

    Perhaps, in future, airlines can designate animal free flights, especially on popular routes where there are multiple flights a day. Not sure if animal free zones on the flight are enough – the recirculated air, for a highly sensitive person, may be enough for discomfort!

    Tough call – while I have never flown with my cat, I considered a 6 month move to Europe at one stage, and I would have wanted my cat to come. She is more than just an animal – she is my family. Putting her in cargo is completely out of the question – and with the horror stories out there – how could I ever trust the airline to safely deliver her to me at the end airport!!! My bags don’t always make it – I would die of stress if she ended up lost in the system, or dead in cargo.

    So sorry to hear of your friend’s continuing eye trouble – I can not imagine how terrible that must be.

  22. I completely understand the need to travel with service animals. However, I think that preference should be given to the individual who could suffer a severe allergic reaction that would require immediate medical attention…which could result in the pilot having to make an emergency landing. A passenger requiring a service animal isn’t in an emergent situation. As an RN, my mind is trained to “triage” and in this situation (which is similar to a person with peanut allergies traveling on a plane) the individual with the allergic reaction takes priority….

  23. Jeremy Branham | May 27, 2012 at 3:09 am | Reply

    I’ve never been in a situation where I would take my dog or cat on a flight. I don’t understand what it’s like to have allergies but this is a tough situation. For most people, I know this isn’t an issue thank goodness. For those that have allergies, this is a bad situation. Fortunately, I haven’t been on many flights with pets (or if I have, I didn’t know about it).

    I do have sympathies for those with pets. Sometimes they have to fly with them (although I prefer they be left at home). However, what if they are moving or have no one to watch their pet when they travel? Sadly, I think many passengers have the same intolerance (or even less actually) when kids fly.

    I am sorry about those with allergies and definitely understand their situation. It’s not an inconvenience to have pets on a plane but a medical issue. However, looking at this from a pet owner and those traveling with kids, I have compassion on their situation as well (what if an airline told you that couldn’t travel with your child?). If you’re an airline, I don’t really know how they should handle this.

  24. I could be wrong but I don’t think I have ever seen a pet on a Southwest flight and I swear I heard once that they don’t allow pets (obviously service animals would be the legal exception). Sort of on topic- I know that Southwest still serves peanuts on their flights as well. Airlines are private companies and ultimately I believe it is their right to make the rules.

    Allergies are so hard. I have had my eyes swell shut on multiple occasions so I know the misery (not from pets specifically). Ultimately, I think that it is mostly up to the sufferer to deal with the things as best they can but I also feel that it is common courtesy to make the sufferer’s life as easy as possible. Why couldn’t an airline just inform someone if a pet will be on board? Why couldn’t they at least inform a pet owner if there is a sufferer on board so that they took extra care to keep the pet in the carrier and reduce the amount of dander in the air? Why couldn’t they seat the two parties as far from each other as possible to reduce the dander intake? Are these solutions perfect? No. But I think they might make things a bit more bearable.

  25. I do not have any pets, nor do I have any allergies regards animals. But I still dont understand how an airline can dismiss this so easily? Can they push this one under the carpet and not do anything for the safety of all on board a flight?
    Its a bit scary how they are trying to give lip service to an important issue. I would think that having animals on board a flight would be dangerous – what about getting under someones feet and causing a person to fall? What about the animal scratching someone as it was moving about the cabin. I know that its meant to be in pet carriage but there is always that time that it could get out and there could be issues.
    Why does it take an accident to happen before something is done about it?

  26. I am really surprised they are giving pet owner preference and without advance notice about pets on board…

  27. This comes down to 2 things:

    1. This has become a HUGE money maker for the airlines. They do not care about someone’s health…….they care about the bottom line. Only if someone dies of a pet allergy induced attack on a flight with a pet in the cabin will this policy be revisited.

    2. Half the population in this country considers their pets to be “human” and part of the family. This group of people have become a very powerful lobby and market. Again…….it’s all about the $$$.

  28. Wow! I just had a very bad experience with Southwest Airlines today. Off ALL my 30+ years of flying, I’ve never seen a pet on a plane (in the main passenger cabin).

    My eyes went big when I saw the person in front of me get on a plane with a dog (in a special carrying bag). My first thought was get away as far as possible. But; of course, on a packed layover plane I was stuck three rows behind. Half way through the flight my eyes started to itch. When we landed for a layover, I immedately got up and ran to the front of the plane as only a few exited. Thinking I was safe, here comes not one one, but TWO MORE dogs on the plane. Not knowing this was allowed/legal, I was about to loose it. One passenger with her dog (not even in a bag; just holding it), looked down at me I must of have gave the look as if I wanted to kill as she apologized. I also covered my nose and leaned left as they boarded (I was in the aisle seat). Just a “dog scent” … that smell even if they are cleaned can set me off.

    On a two hour flight, my allergies kicked in within 30 minutes of takeoff. I asked the flight attendent, “When did this start happening … ” She said earlier this year. She was nice enought to look for some allergy meds, like Claritn (OTC), but no luck for me. Thus, it was head in my lap for 1.5 hours.

    Now home tonight and doing some internet searches, I see this is the most recent article, but apparently it has been allowed industry wide for the most part since 2009. Wow! I was about to write a serious complaint letter to Southwest, but guess that’s a mute point now.

    I am just surprised! I am very allergic to pets; especially medium/long hair. Not only that, it just does not seem right. Luckily, none of the dogs barked. But, what if they have to use the bathroom. We are now sharing bathrooms with DOGS!?!? Beyond the allergies, I also think it is unsantitary and even unhealthy. Your are stuck in close quarters with ~140 others in a hot cabin.

    I am just floored this has been going on for so long! I guess I’ve been lucky all those years flying.

    If it has to be that way, airlines should have a emergency supply of OTC allergy medicine such as Claritin and/or a decongestant. Despite being allowed, I NEVER KNEW! My wife did not know. I am thinking if you have a pet, that pet goes with the bags in their own special safe area under the passenger cabin. I told my wife tonight NEVER Southwest again, but see it’s everywhere so it looks like that is mute too and now I just have to remember to pack my allergy medicine.

    JSMH!

  29. “…passengers need to go on board with a positive, flexible and community-oriented attitude. Pets are family members and if my dog fit under the seat in front of me, she’d be going everywhere with us. ”

    I “need” to have a “positive, flexible, and community-oriented attitude”? I don’t “need” to do any such thing, especially when YOU are the person bringing the dog on board.

    ‘m an allergy sufferer, and if I have to sit next to pets, you’re damn well going to hear about it, loud and clear. Apparently there’s relatively little the airlines are willing to do about the problem, but rest assured that you won’t be sharing my armrest, etc., and I won’t be covering my mouth when I sneeze near you because of YOUR dog. How’s that for a”community-oriented attitude.”?

  30. Pets are not family; they are property. I’m really angry that the welfare of pets is placed above that of a human. We need to have Pet Airlined for those who wish to travel with their animals.

  31. Love your attitude HHWNBN – likewise if you sat next to me and i was allergic to your stench then i would just vomit all over you. Pathetic. Not a pet owner by the way, but given humans cause all the problems in this world, then your comments are ridiculous.

  32. What people seem to forget is that airlines are a PRIVATE INDUSTRY and they can make their own rules and regulations (for the most part). Flying is a LUXURY and by far not a RIGHT. Just as it goes with the patdowns/screens/etc in security, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to fly.

    I certainly wouldn’t be happy to see an animal I was allergic to in the seat next to me. BUT, now that I know it’s a possibility, I have to plan ahead and have my medications ready to go.

    I think airlines restricting peanuts,etc is ridiculous—- sure, they’re not handing them out, but any person can bring in their own snacks and be munching on peanuts right next to a highly allergic person. Shouldn’t they be prepared for that possibility? Same as fur-allergic folks need to be prepared in this case.

    People are allergic to all sorts of things, dairy, strong perfumes, etc etc etc—- where do we draw the line? ? ? Why make the airlines responsible for restricting this or that and start making PEOPLE responsible for their own health??? There’s plenty of ways to handle your allergies, folks, and ONE of those options are always just simply not to fly.

    This world we live in is just way too used to having others cater to our EVERY whim.

    (secondly— I don’t know if you guys fly as much as me, but I’ve sat next to some AWFUL human beings in my time and I really believe sometimes I would MUCH rather have an animal I’m allergic to sitting next to me rather than some of these unwashed, smelly people who get on planes!!!)

  33. I just had a allergic reaction flying on a plane into Los Angeles!! No clue nor did flight staff know the cat was on the plane! Why?? Cause the pet owner who loves her cat so much forgot to pay for her kitties seat. Now if she were such a loving mother to a precious kitty would she just ooops forget to pay for kitty to fly….I think not. She cared more about her pocket book than she did kitty or kitty boo boo would have been registered as a member on board. Yes I’d changed my flight cause I am severly allergic plane had to do emergency lading paramedics took me off plane to ER were they thought they would have to put me in vent but luckily with new epenhrine treatments I began to be able to breathe. No one helped my husband get our luggage no one did anything except a nurse who happen to be in board and could administer benadryl. Animals do not take prevalence over a human life. Man is to have dominion over animal. Fine let them travel but put them all on the same flight. Airlines are considering age restriction of small children that’s total discrimination.

  34. Bring Claritin or Benadryl, not a big deal. You should always carry that stuff with you if you know you are allergic.

    • That is just so ignorant. I take allergy medicine, asthma medicine, etc., and I’ll still have an emergency situation if I’m in the cabin with a cat for 2 hours. Not everyone can deal with allergies in the same way as a generally healthy person.

    • Your so ignorant there are people that can die from allergies its not like popping pills helps.

  35. Keep in mind that there can be no guarenteed Pets free flights. Service animals are legally required to be allowed on any flight and TSA dogs and other working dogs can fly in the cabin. I was on a flight where 3 search & rescue dogs were flying back home with their owners and these were big dogs. If people are that allergic, perhaps they should find a less communal way to travel. Dogs are everywhere at airports, not just pets but working sniffer dogs looking for everything from drugs or illegal produce. The AG department uses Beagles to find illegal food that cannot be transported.

  36. I have to agree with the pet free ideas. I am facing a similar problem with my land lord. My oldest daughter is highly allergic to both dogs and cats. We moved into this apartment complex because it is suppose to be pet free. We have lived here for 8 years. Up until two years ago there were no dogs or cats. Then one person gets a dog and others got away with getting their own dogs. Before you know it there are so many dogs running around we could open our own complex kennel. This type of environment has caused not only sever allergic reactions with my daughter but because s. he knows how these animals will make her feel she has been seeing a cousilor for two years and has elivated anxiety levels to the point she will physically make herself sick and throw up for hours. She was recently put on melitonin to help her sleep. She is also mildly autistic so its not likely I can just tell her to get over it. Moving would be an option if we didn’t have a lot of medical bills due to my husband having multiple strokes. My landlord also does not return my calls and many complaints about the environment. I personally feel that people with allergies are being ignored and pets and pet owners are receiving more rights than human beings in special circumstances with special needs that are not their fault. I would love to see more pet free environments. Airplane sections, housing and living communities , parks, shopping and stores, sections at events, and especially more awareness of the rights we as most people take for granted. It must be nice to be healthy but for those that feel the people are the problem not the animals you couldn’t be more wrong on this issue. We alredy have enough to deal with as allergy sufferers. But taking our rights away and puting an animals above another humans is not going to solve the issues either. It will allianate a growing number of the population and for people like us we already feel imprizoned within out own environment because of the intollerant thinking of the pet owners. Change needs to happen so all people feel they can be part of the life they should be able to enjoy. I find it sad an animal has more rights than I or my daughter has.

  37. Many years ago, I relocated from Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico. As it was a long-term move, I took my two dogs with me. On the flight from Miami to Puerto Rico, the dogs were placed in the cargo hold. The flight was delayed approximately 90 minutes. Although there were animals in the cargo hold and summer in Miami is very hot, the airline (Eastern Airlines which no longer exists) did not provide adequate air and cooling to the cargo hold. When the flight landed in Puerto Rico, one of the dogs (a bulldog) was dead, apparently overcome by heat exhaustion; the other (a mixed breed) was nearly dead but was eventually revived.

    Nothing is clear cut about this issue. Each passenger featured in the complaint to JetBlue paid for a service – safe transportation of people and goods and pets from one point to another. While I do not think animals are comparable to children, I do think people bond very strongly with their pets and I can attest that the loss of my pet to horrible conditions was very traumatic. Setting the emotional aspect aside, I did not receive the service I paid for – the safe transportation of my pet. Given my past experience with animals in the cargo hold, I no longer believe airlines can safely transport pets in the cargo hold and if I had a small pet, I would take the pet with me into the main cabin of an airplane.

    That being said, I am very sympathetic to allergy sufferers, they too paid for a service and more importantly, I do not want to be the cause of another person’s health problem or discomfort. However, access to air travel is not a human right. It is a service that is sold by private companies. One might argue that air travel is subsidized through various means by the government and therefore any taxpayer should have certain rights to using that air travel but airlines are still private business and outside of certain regulations it is up to the airline to decide the level of service that they will provide and what makes the most business sense for them.

    I travel frequently and rarely see pets on airplanes. So it strikes me that some data would greatly inform this article and perhaps the opinions posted. In creating policies, and to understand the business motives of the airlines, it would be helpful to know how often pets are transported in the main cabin of an airplane – one in every hundred flights or one in every ten? How many passengers have complained about their allergies being triggered by the presence of an animal in the main cabin? Do airplane air circulation systems have filters and how effective are they in reducing the circulation of allergens? How many pets are injured, lost or killed in the cargo hold of airplanes? Would confining passengers with pets to the last two rows of the main cabin and placing allergy-sufferers in the forward rows (in a large plane that could be quite a distance) be sufficient?

    Every year I travel cross country to visit relatives at the holidays. Since my annual visit is an extended one, I take my dog with me. Since my dog (a rescued mixed breed) is too large to travel in the main cabin of an airplane, I drive 900 miles each way rather than travel with her in the cargo hold of an airplane. An uncomfortably long road trip is the price I pay for safeguarding my pet and for not trusting airlines with my pet’s well-being. If people suffer from extremely severe allergies, and airlines can’t reasonably accommodate all their paying passengers and have made a choice to accommodate small pets in carriers in the main cabin, perhaps road trips are the price allergy sufferers must pay as well.

    Road trips aren’t so bad by the way.

  38. I do not agree with this article at all! Your aunt obviously would be the one to check at the gate for pets on her flight; because, she is the person allergic to animals. It’s very arrogant to ask a company to change there policy. If you don’t like the rules of JB, fly with another carrier. For someone that is a frequent flyer of JB, it seems odd that all of a sudden she’s having allergic attacks on her flights.

  39. I am bothered by the fact that pets are allowed in the cabin regardless of their stink or flea infestations.
    Even worse is the scam of “emotional support” animals. Please! Why can’t I smoke my medical marijuana for emotional support? 90% of the “emotional support” animals are fraudulent. I was checking in and overheard a scammer explaining to another passenger how easy it is to get a dr’s note which saved her from paying and allowing her flea bag to not be contained.
    Here’s an idea, leave your pet at home.
    And Jet Blue, stick the animals in cargo. What do you think happens when the filthy animals urinate or defecate?

  40. PetAllergySufferer | March 24, 2015 at 5:37 am | Reply

    People like to blame the victim. We should prepare. How? We should not fly. Ridiculous. I don’t agree that we have to prepare and we have to just not fly anymore. You don’t know how many cats or dogs will be on your flight and where in it until you are at the gate in the terminal. And then if you have a lousy stewardess or steward, you are forced to re-schedule, putting the dog or cat first. It’s inhumane to human beings. I am not saying to be inhumane to pets either, but people with pet allergies need to be accommodated much better. With airlines competing for selfish passengers wishing to fly with Fido or Catty, well knowing that many people suffer with allergies, airlines encouraging this atrocity, it’s evil. Sheer evil. Dogs and cats should not suffer. Please don’t think I am saying that when I state that the Bible states that humankind is supposed to have dominion over the earth. Not dogs. Dogs and cats can be super cute, but it’s just selfish to bring them on a flight. Unless you really must because you are literally very blind. With a blind person and her dog needing to take the flight instead of me, I kind of understand. With 4 passengers travelling with pets JUST BECAUSE, it’s frustrating. You can’t count on taking any particular flight, or scheduling out of town meetings, or doing any business trips or business out of town in any city you don’t want to drive to. In New York I recovered after a sick flight. The sea air seems to really help my allergies. In Chicago, I am bedridden if I am on a trip there with even one dog, let alone two. HELP.

  41. PetAllergySufferer | March 24, 2015 at 5:40 am | Reply

    Oh, and also my allergist told me that a full 50% of people with pet allergies are not helped at all by taking any medications. In fact, the medicines dry them out and make the situation worse for them. I am in the 50%. What do you do? Not live your life? Not fly? That is what it has come to. Sickening. Heartless pet owners. And, yes, I have heard many people talk about the scam of getting a pet approved as a care animal. Selfish bastards. Hope that bastards is not a swear word. It comes from old movies, so I assume it’s benign.

  42. PetAllergySufferer | March 24, 2015 at 5:46 am | Reply

    Maybe when we are struggling for breath on planes we should ask for medical assistance, i.e., a doctor. Let them emergency land and see that this is truly a problem. I’m not saying I’m doing that. I’d rather not. But, if you are really sick and worried for your life, you should. If more people did this, they might consider changing the policies and having less callousness, ignoring the problem no longer. It’s better than getting a life-threatening eye infection. I’d rather try to deal with it on the plane, not inconveniencing anyone, and that is why this problem persists. People who are allergic to pets don’t speak up for themselves nearly enough in my opinion, afraid of being labeled a jerk or a diva by fellow passengers and staffers of the airplane. There are a lot of sensible comments on here by people who are fed up like I am with this unsolvable dilemma us victims of allergies have to go through. It’s not fair.

  43. PetAllergySufferer | March 24, 2015 at 5:48 am | Reply

    There was racism, then sexism, and now it seems like discrimination and meanness towards/against those with pet allergies has become more of a norm. Discrimination against the sick, suffering with illness, not our fault.

  44. I am a cat mom and I would have no problems with paying an extra fee to have my cat with me in the cabin. I tend to drive wherever I need to go so that my cat can go with me. If I have to fly and I am going somewhere that my cat can’t go (to another country), then I have my parents watch her. They have a couple of cats and she knows them, although, it does take her a few days to acclimate. I would much rather be on a flight (of any length) with a pet than to be on a flight with a nasty little child that is misbehaving and the parent won’t correct the behavior. If I were to fly with my cat, I would want her in the cabin with me. She would stay in her carrier. I wouldn’t take her out of the carrier at all. I would be afraid that she would get loose and start running around. Obviously, I would be concerned about those with pet allergies, but I would be concerned about my cats safety. I have heard too many horror stories of pets that have been in the cargo. Back to my cat in the cabin. My cat would be to afraid to come out of her carrier anyway, while on an airplane. She doesn’t even like to get out of her carrier when I take her to the vet. It takes me 5 or 10 minutes to get her out of the carrier when we go to the vet. I would let those that were seated around me know that I have my cat with me. I would have no problems moving to another seat with my cat if I needed to, but I feel like I have the right to be there with my cat if I paid for her to be in the cabin. I would even bring some Benadryl with me just in case someone needed it.

    I do think airlines should let passengers know if there is an animal on the plane. I agree with the others that said that having a box to check to say that they have pet allergies and to let them know if an animal will be in the cabin. It would be helpful to say if it is a cat or a dog.

    If you visit someone’s house and they have a cat or a dog, what do you do? Tell them to put the animal outside. Not going to happen at my house. My cat is an indoor only cat and if this is a problem that you can’t control with meds, then maybe you shouldn’t visit my house. If I work with someone that is allergic to peanuts, I’m not going to stop eating peanut butter sandwiches. That is the only kind of sandwich that I will eat. I don’t eat ham and cheese or any of the other kinds. I’ll eat alone, but I’m not stopping with my sandwich. I can understand not having peanuts on flights, but not all pet owners are bad people.

    I love my cat and I care about her welfare. She won’t get the same kind of care in the cargo that I can give her when she is in the cabin. At least if she is with me, then I can make sure that she isn’t getting too stressed out. Being in the cabin with me, I could talk to her and do my best to reduce the stress. If flying is my only option, then I have the right to have her with me. I also think that people with severe allergies have the right to be on a plane and not have to worry about having a reaction. I am one of the people that would do my best to help reduce the risk of someone having an allergic reaction. At least my cat isn’t fussy like babies and her poop smells a lot better than a dirty diaper. I swear, my cat poops rainbows and glitter compared to the stuff in a babies diaper.

    Personally, I would rather take her on a train then to get her on an airplane. This is actually becoming more common now, but not in my area. I would have no problems with getting a sleeper room on a train and keeping her in the carrier. Why not do like some hotels do and have certain ones (sleepr rooms) that are pet friendly?

    On a side note, my grandfather has told people that I treat my cat better than most people treat their children.

  45. AllerySuffer/CatLover | July 9, 2015 at 8:15 pm | Reply

    First off all in order to travel with a pet it has to be examined by a vet and given a certificate of approval to fly – meaning no fleas and infestation there old Humberto! Second – I have a lot of allergies, including dogs, but the ones that take a bigger toll is most perfumes and cigarette smoke. I have been on many flights where there was no option of seat change and I was sat right next to a person who had very strong perfume or very strong cigarette smoke attached to clothing. Each time I was subjected to lovely sinus infections after my flight. With the logic of being able to kick off a pet owner because a fellow passenger has an allergy to their pet then by that right I should be able to complain and get the perfume wearer or the smoker off my flight as well. But that would be kind of ridiculous. Also I have a friend who often encounters panic attacks around loud noises – especially from small children. Should she also be accommodated with no children on the flight? Flying is always annoying – our bubbles are being burst at every second but that is sort of the deal when flying isn’t it. I feel horrible for the woman in this story and many others – it is never fun to have our allergies take such tolls on us due to other people around us but it does happen.

  46. Sounds like you need to charter a jet…have you forgotten you are still on PUBLIC transportation. You have purchased one seat there are at least a hundred other people on this aircraft.

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