Flying the 'Furry Skies'

POSTED: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 - 8:16am

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:59pm

American Airlines has a new way for your pets to travel in style. They've unveiled a new pet carrier that's guaranteed to fly, or you get the price of your plane ticket back. Jet-setting miniature dachshund Rico who flies everywhere his owner Nasha Weller goes. "He's like our child," said Weller. "We don't like to leave him with people." That's a familiar tune to the folks at American Airlines.

"People are very attached to their pets," said Hans Hauck, the airline's baggage manager at its Dallas-Fort Worth hub. That's why American teamed up with the popular pet carrier maker Sherpa, designing this new bag with a plush bed and mesh sides, giving Fido a view of the action on board the plane. The airline spent months making sure the bag would fit under every seat on every kind of plane American flies. They guarantee it will.

"That means that if the pet carrier gets refused for any reason the customer gets the refund for the ticket and the pet fee," said Hauck. The bag will be sold at Petco stores across the country. For the airline this is about more than comfort and convenience. It may also be a smart business move.

It turns out those four-legged customers are good customers. American transports about 100,000 pets a year, charging passengers a $100 to $150 fee, making pet travel a multimillion dollar business. The American Travel Association claims more than 29 million Americans travel with their pets. "It's a very important business to us," said Hauck. If the carriers catch on, there are plans to expand sales to several other major national stores.

"And if it guarantees it would fit under the seat I would definitely give it a try," said Weller. If discerning travelers like Rico like them, the red and blue bags could turn to gold.