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Pet Airways could make pet travel easier, if it takes off

Air travel for pets on the usual commercial carriers can be expensive, inconvenient, dangerous and, on some airlines, downright impossible. That looks like opportunity to Pet Airways, a startup flier that’s got a ways to go right now.

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Air travel for pets on the usual commercial carriers can be expensive, inconvenient, dangerous and, on some airlines, downright impossible. That looks like opportunity to Pet Airways, a startup flier that’s got a ways to go right now.

Flying with a pet is hard on everyone.

The companion ticket could easily cost more than yours. Unless Fido's small enough to fit under your seat, he's riding in the cargo hold — with all the stress and danger that can involve. A few airlines, including Southwest, won't let pets on board.

Now along comes Pet Airways, a startup that calls itself the first all-pet airline. Dogs, cats and other critters will ride in the passenger cabin with attendants checking every 15 minutes to make sure "pawsengers" are comfortable in their carriers, says the Pet Airways Web site at petairways.com.

A recorded voice on the toll-free number says Pet Airways will sell tickets by this summer. Flights starting at $150 one way will go to metro New York, Washington/Baltimore, Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles. Owners need separate travel arrangements.

But Pet Airways isn't exactly on the verge of taking off.

The company doesn't have a Federal Aviation Administration operating certificate to fly as a cargo airline and hasn't filed to obtain one, says the FAA.

Its South Florida founders lack commercial aviation credentials. Unless you count Daniel Wiesel's title as CEO of Panther Air Cargo. Panther also has no FAA certificate and its Web address now takes you to PetAirways.com. Panther and Pet Airways share a mailing address: a drop box at a UPS store in Delray Beach.

So, what's up? Wiesel told the FAA on Tuesday that his company plans to contract with a certificated airline "to be determined" to do the flying, said Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the agency. That's not unusual for small startups. But the FAA must approve reconfiguring passenger planes for flying pets.

In a brief interview Tuesday, Wiesel said Pet Airways is ''absolutely for real." Details would come in a press release next week, he said.

I'll bet Fido isn't flying in the passenger cabin with his pet buddies for summer vacation.

News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Pet Airways could make pet travel easier, if it takes off 03/31/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 8:45pm]
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