Australia Is Close To Allowing Pets In The Aircraft Cabin

Australia’s aviation regulator is to change the rules concerning the carriage of pets in aircraft cabins. Aside from bona fide service dogs, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has banned animals flying in aircraft cabins without CASA’s express written approval. Come December, that rule is changing.

CASA is changing the rules about animals in aircraft cabins in Australia. Photo: Getty Images

CASA is changing the rules concerning animals in aircraft cabins

First reported in The Australian newspaper, CASA is eyeing changes to basic operating rules for all pilots commencing on December 2, 2021. These rules are in Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR) Part 91. Among the main changes are allowing pilots flexibility for the carriage of animals.

Under the new rules, it will no longer be required that an airline operator holds written permission from CASA to carry assistance animals on a flight. To date, airlines have welcomed bona fide service dogs onto flights. Now, the definition is being expanded to include an “assistance” dog or other animal.

The dog or animal must be accredited by an animal training organization and State or Territory law as an assistance animal. It will be up to the pilot as to whether the assistance animal can fly in the cabin. Pilots must ensure the safety of the flight is not compromised, and the animal will behave itself.

Dog on a plane getty
Will Australian airlines allow this to happen on their flights from December?  Photo: Getty Images

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Qantas says no, other airlines reserve their decision

With horror stories of peacocks, pigs and miniature ponies riding in aircraft cabins in the United States until a recent crackdown, Australian airlines are not falling over themselves to embrace the new rule.

Qantas and its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar said it was unlikely to change its existing policy – service dogs only.  In a statement, Virgin Australia said the airline would “consider the regulatory changes as part of a wider pet travel review we’re currently undertaking.

“Regardless of the outcome, designated service dogs will still be able to travel in the cabin of our aircraft.”

Regional Express (Rex) told The Australian a decision was yet to be made. “That’s not a no or a yes,” Rex’s John Sharp said. “But I expect that if people are prepared to pay, then it will become a reality.”

Virgin Australia says it is considering the new rules about animals in cabins. Photo: Getty Images

CASA says pilots must consider whether the animal has been trained to a standard of behavior and hygiene that is appropriate for travel in the passenger cabin of the aircraft. That includes the delicate matter of “excreta containment.” The pilot also needs to consider whether that handler can control the animal in flight.

CASA says the changes are about eliminating discrimination against persons with a disability. But the regulator stresses the pilot in command of a flight has final authority over the aircraft.

The changes have caught many by surprise. Many industry insiders ask why CASA is making the change and question the regulator’s priorities. Regular flyers, many of whom are already Qantas loyalists, applaud that airline coming out early and saying it would not be making changes to their rules.

While many believe that the new CASA rule might be popular in some quarters, the bulk of flyers would prefer not to fly with assistance animals onboard, citing allergies, odors, and other disturbances. Everyone rolls out the welcome mat for guide dogs, but lesser trained animals may still find themselves flying in an animal crate in the cargo hold.

Do you support this rule change? Should assistance animals be allowed to fly in the aircraft cabin? Post a comment and let us know.