Fur-tunate: Pampered Dog Enjoys Air India Business Class

If airplane cabin class could be used as a yardstick to measure love for your pet, then a recent domestic flight in India set new standards. On a recent Air India flight, a pet dog flew business class. Surely this couldn’t be the first time a furry canine flew the posh cabin? So, what’s so different about this trip? Let’s find out.

Air India A320 Getty
Air India recently carried a pet dog in its business class cabin. Photo Getty Images

Special guest

On September 15th, Air India flight AI671 departed Mumbai for Chennai at around 9am. Morning rush hour on this route connecting two major cities often sees quite a few business class travelers. On that morning, there was just one!

A furry Maltese had the entire J class cabin booked by its doting owner. A single business class seat on that relatively short flight costs around ₹18,000 (around $250), according to the Air India website. Booking an entire business class cabin on the A320neo couldn’t have been cheap. But who are we to put a price tag on pet love. With incidents of animals sneaking into Air India cabins, it’s refreshing to know that this one was on a paid ticket.

Air India has a policy in place when it comes to transporting animals. Small inoffensive pets, including dogs, cats, and birds, are allowed upon showing their health and rabies vaccination certificates.

A passenger can carry up to two pets, and depending on the animal’s size, it could be placed either in the cabin or cargo hold. When traveling in the aircraft cabin, the owner must sit in the last row of the booked cabin. Of course, the flight captain has the final say and can tweak the rules depending on the circumstances. Full details can be found on the Air India website.

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Traveling with pets in India

Currently, Air India is the only carrier in the country that lets owners fly with regular pets onboard, either in the cabin or cargo hold. According to Hindustan Times, the airline transported more than 4,000 pets between May 2020 and March 2021.

Airlines, however, are always cautious when transporting animals, as some flights have not had a happy ending for pets. In June this year, a family from Kolkata accused Air India of negligence when their 22-month-old dog died while flying in the aircraft’s cargo hold.

In another such incident, former full-service carrier Jet Airways was asked to pay $3,248 by a consumer court in Delhi after a pet owner accused the airline of negligence, leading to the death of his two dogs in 2009.

Air India Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Air India is the only Indian airline currently that allows regular pets to fly in its airplanes. Photo: Getty Images

While SpiceJet has allowed pets to travel with owners in the past, it doesn’t anymore, according to the Indian online travel portal ixigo. The report also says that IndiGo and Vistara only allow guide dogs, while AirAsia India only allows trained service animals.

Elsewhere in the world, different countries and airlines have their own rules. Australia could soon allow pets in the cabin even though Qantas is not particularly excited about the idea. Since last year, pet owners sometimes have had to go out of their way to transport pets amid COVID-related restrictions. Last year, Australian nationals shelled out AUS $100,000 (US$70,458) to charter an Air Canada flight carrying around 70 pets back home.

Have you ever traveled with a pet in an airplane? What was your experience like? Do share your comments.

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