Animals and Airlines




The phrase “emotional support peacock” made headlines this week when a woman tried to board a United Airlines flight with her exotic bird in tow. Though the peacock’s owner claimed to have purchased an additional seat for her feathered friend, they were still denied boarding since United has a rule that an animal “should sit in the floor space in front of the customer's assigned seat but cannot protrude into the aisles.” The incident sparked intense conversations that focused on the role of emotional support animals as well as changing airline regulations that govern how animals travel on planes.


Part of the reason why this story gained such quick traction is that it occurred shortly after Delta Airlines made the controversial decision to enforce stricter travel policies for service and emotional support animals. The airline now requires travelers to present documentation 48 hours prior to their journey that certifies their need for an animal. They must also provide proof of the animal’s training and vaccination. Delta hopes that these measures will reduce the number of animal-related incidents that occur on flights. Since 2016, the airline saw an 84 percent increase in cases of animals biting, urinating, defecating or acting aggressively on planes. Many airlines applauded this decision and may soon follow suit with instituting tougher measures.


These news stories may make pet parents concerned about traveling by plane with their animals. Retailers should be aware of airline regulations in order to help customers select the best travel products possible for their pets, such as carriers, collapsible bowls, and calming aids. They should also be able to direct customers to resources with information about animal air travel.


Companies like Sleepypod, Coastal Pet Products, Gen7 and Worldwise have made it easy for retailers and customers to know about appropriate travel products by designating their carriers as airline-compliant. Worldwise even has a Guaranteed On-Board program, which provides customers with information such as specific airline guidelines and plane seat configurations.


By being knowledgeable about travel products and tips, retailers can serve as a valuable resource to customers as well as boost sales of products like carriers. Through reassuring customers, retailers can ease the stress of travel and make owners feel like their pet’s place on board a plane is not up in the air. 


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