In-Flight Safety When the Fur Flies – Pet Safety and Business Aviation
This is a post by guest author Carol Martin of Sit ‘n’ Stay Global, LLC. Carol was asked to contribute to our business aviation blog because of her expertise as a flight attendant with a specialization in animal safety and care as it relates to business aircraft operations. Any thoughts expressed below are entirely Carol’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc.
When you see on your briefing that there will be a pet on your flight, what kinds of thoughts go through your head? Do you make special preparations? Do you run through the special training and regulations for pets on board? Probably not, because even though more and more clients are choosing to fly private with their pet family members, and some choose general aviation specifically for that reason, there are no regulations specifying how we handle these family members. Make no mistake about it, the clients who bring their pets on board think of them as family members, so why do we simply “hope for the best” when it comes to their safety? Most safety training courses advise that we tuck them under a table or in the lav to limit movement in the event of turbulence or for takeoff and landing. Would you feel comfortable giving that advice to a family who boards with a baby? Pet passengers are a lot like babies. Nothing we have on board fits them and none of our safety procedures for adults really work for them. We’ve adapted for babies, why not for pets? In case that sounds crazy to you, consider this: We have procedures and regulations to stow all carry-on luggage and catering equipment for turbulence, takeoff, and landing. There are no enforceable regulations requiring the restraint of pets on board. That means we may now have an upwards of 90-pounds projectile in the cabin that could injure passengers or crew. It is time to have a serious discussion about safety protocols for pets flying in the cabin.
1. In-Flight Safety Considerations
Pet restraint system: In-seat or crate? Naturally, you follow the passenger’s preference on this. If they prefer to have their pet in a crate or carrier, which is common for cats, be sure you secure the carrier to the aircraft frame. If preparing for moderate to severe turbulence, it is a good idea to travel with bungee cords so you can secure some pillows from the aircraft to the inside of the carrier. It does no good to have the pet and the carrier secure, only to have the pet fly up against the hard side of a carrier and suffer an impact injury anyway.
If the pet will be occupying a seat, an appropriately sized seat harness should be used. The animal wears the harness during the flight, and for takeoff, landing, and turbulence situations, the animal simply takes its seat and uses the aircraft seatbelt with the harness.
Pet Flotation Device: We all have one on board, why wouldn’t they? If we end up in a ditching situation in rough seas for 20-30 hours, even a Lab who loves to swim couldn’t handle that. Add injury or panic to the mix, and you’ll be glad you have a flotation device for the pet.
Pet Oxygen Mask: Humans have a way to get supplemental oxygen on board in the event of decompression or a medical emergency. Why just let the pet lie there? Also, virtually all accidents involve fire, and you will be ready to assist with smoke inhalation. Pet oxygen masks have tubing that can be fitted with adaptors to fit the aircraft system or a portable oxygen bottle.
Bracing Positions: Think through bracing positions for the pets. You won’t have time or be able to in the event of an emergency. Think child. Communicate this information clearly and have a plan in your mind that will convey your control of the situation to your clients.
2. Pet First Aid
Consider taking a course from your local Red Cross or Pet Tech that will make you as qualified to assist with an in-flight medical emergency for pet passengers as human ones. Your clients expect you to help them when Fido starts choking on the rawhide they brought on board, just like you could help them if they were choking themselves.
There’s An App For That
Until you learn pet first aid, or if you have pets at home, get these apps for your smartphone or iPad®. They are a great resource to have!
3. International Relations
There is no shortage of red tape and unique rules regulating pet entry into different countries. These are constantly changing too, so don’t assume you have it down because you were “there last year.” The UK has some of the most intricate regulations to work through, but this year, they were changed to be more navigable. For instance, did you know that while the quarantine rules have recently changed in Scotland, the rule still stands that pets cannot enter via private aircraft, but only by approved carrier or route? A great link to keep up to date on their regulations is:
A valuable general starting point and source for accurate forms for a wide variety of countries is:
4. Can We Talk Comfort?
There’s no way around it on a long haul flight… You can’t withhold food and water for nine or 10 hours and what goes in, well… What to do? The pet needs to be comfortable, too. I have two words for you: Piddle Pads. Stock up on puppy training pads and select an out-of-the-way area for the deed. Usually the lav or baggage compartment works best. Put down a few pads and tape a few up the wall for male dogs to protect the interior to provide a safe “relief zone.”
If you have any questions about this article, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.