Leveraging a Charter Operation’s Untapped Clients: Pets – Part I
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.
Marketing gurus and ad execs sit in boardrooms and brainstorm for hours looking for a new way to differentiate their product so clients will choose theirs over another in this highly competitive market. It is rare that you get the true perfect storm of an unmet need in the marketplace that you can fulfill with your current assets and a slight adjustment in procedures. That is a gift. That is what we have in pets. We are already completely safety oriented for our human passengers and attentive to their comfort and needs. Tweak this system just a bit and you have the keys to an untapped market. Let’s look at a few ways to make the transition to "dogs on a plane" easy and comfortable for all. A few preparations before you even take off will set you up for success:
1. Protect your investment
The most common concern I hear from private jet owners and operators about pets on a plane is damage to property. That is an understandable first reaction, so how can we address that? The key is to protect your investment in an intelligent manner that will be pleasing for you and your client. For example, have attractive blankets and throws placed around on the seats where the pet will most likely settle. Also have a portable dog bed* which will become a magnet for the pet and usually becomes his or her "home" for the flight. Stow "piddle pads" discreetly around the cabin. Make the client aware of them. That way, if they notice their pet about to have an issue, they can simply slide one under the animal.
Another big concern I hear is "pet hair." Well-placed blankets can be removed, washed and replaced, and you can vacuum after a flight. Pet hair is a lot easier to clean than ink on the leather chair or red wine on the divan. Also, pets will go to great lengths to make sure they don’t have accidents "indoors." If they become ill, or some other issue arises, you can easily put piddle pads around them. You can’t really do that with a group on a junket to Vegas, can you? If you think about it, you can actually protect your investment from pets more easily than from humans. After all, most humans would not like you to have them sit on a blanket.
Finally, remember that clients think of their pets as family members and treat them as such at home and when they travel. These are not wild animals that have just been unchained from the back yard to run wild through the aircraft.
2. Have a safety plan
Traveling with pets is a lot like traveling with small children. None of the equipment we have on the plane fits them properly, and we will not be able to clearly explain to them what they should do in an emergency. We carry pet oxygen masks, pet life jackets and pet seat harnesses on our flights with pets to provide the minimum safety equipment we find necessary for their human companions. We also begin each flight with a thorough pet safety briefing on how our client can best help their pets in emergency situations. Just as with children, pets need assistants who understand how to help in the event of an emergency. These are some of the minimum standards you should consider for pets on your aircraft. If you are going to actively seek passengers with pets, it is your duty to make sure you provide for pets’ safety. It is not hard to do; you just need a plan. You can develop one internally, get training from an outside consultant, or hire specially trained crew members for your pet flights.
3. Pre-flight your cabin
A few minor adjustments in how you prepare a cabin for flight will make a big difference in the success of the flight and the comfort of all involved:
- Place blankets and throws out in an attractive manner throughout the cabin to cover the furniture wherever the pet chooses to settle. Have a nice travel pet bed* ready, as well. Explain to your client that you want their pet to feel comfortable and secure, like they are at home. You will be protecting the cabin.
- Don’t place pre-board snacks or candy out at "grazing" level. A dog boarding an aircraft can sweep through and clean these out before you know it. They usually go for the chocolate first, since it is new and smells great. That will ruin or cancel your flight. Forego that lovely flower arrangement for the same reason. Consider artificial plants instead, or placing the arrangement out of the pet’s reach.
- Always greet your pet guests out on the tarmac. Many dogs get very excited when meeting new people, especially those in uniform. It is better to get that euphoria (and any other emissions) out on the ramp before boarding.
4. Simple pleasures
The beautiful thing is how grateful pets are for the simplest things. That makes their human companions very happy, which solidifies your relationship. Have a nice toy ready for your guest, and maybe a wholesome treat. If it will be a long flight, find out the pet’s catering preferences, just as you would your client’s desires. Provide either a very elegant set of pet dishes for use in-flight or allow them to use the china. (I usually serve the pets on the china. Our guests love it, and there is really less chance of damage since it is usually sitting on the floor.) Provide a pet placemat, which looks nice and protects the dining area.
You’ve set yourself up for a successful flight with pets now. Next week, we’ll take a look at a few things to do to make the flight itself a true pleasure.
5. Additional information
For more information on pet safety, please see my previous article titled: "In-Flight Safety When the Fur Flies – Pet Safety and Business Aviation."
Travel Pet Bed Resources:
Note: We use the Good Dog Beds Cubby the most. The small one is great comfort for small dogs and cats too! It rolls up easily and looks elegant in the cabin.
If you have any questions about this article, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for Part II, which covers more tips for pets onboard a business aviation aircraft.