The brewing fight for pet-free flights

Allergic to Fluffy? You can re-book—at your expense.


The brewing fight for pet-free flightsWhen Air Canada banned pets from aircraft cabins in 2006, pet owners were furious. But many say the airline’s recent decision to reverse that ban was a bigger mistake, as it puts pets ahead of people—and may even put lives at risk.

As of Canada Day, dogs and cats can travel with their owners on executive or economy Air Canada flights, as long as they’re in pet carriers that fit under the airplane seats. The plan, which was recently announced as part of Air Canada’s “renewed commitment to the customer” initiative, allows pet owners to register their pets 24 hours before the flight, as long as they pay a $50 or $100 fee.

But the Lung Association says the decision will not only make flying dangerous for passengers with asthma or allergies, it’s not even popular with the customers Air Canada is trying to serve. According to a survey released by the association last month, 80 per cent of Canadians want airlines to offer pet-free flights, and 75 per cent expect action from the federal government to change the policy allowing pets.

“We don’t want anyone to be in a situation where they get a severe reaction on the plane,” says Cameron Bishop, a spokesperson for the Lung Association. “There are asthmatics, there are people who have COPD [emphysema and chronic bronchitis], who can have life-threatening reactions if their trigger points are pet hair, urine and dander.” He adds that the Lung Association was not consulted by Air Canada before the ban was reversed, and he now hopes to bring the issue before the federal health committee.

Previously, allergy sufferers had the choice between pet-free Air Canada, and WestJet, which has always allowed pets. But now Air Canada says if allergic customers end up on a flight with pets, they have to re-book 24 hours in advance. There’s no guarantee the next flight will be pet-free either, and the regular fees for re-booking apply.

Bill Swan, co-chair of the National Asthma Patient Alliance, says that isn’t right. “You have to put the rights of human passengers above the animal passengers.”


The brewing fight for pet-free flights

  1. This decision from Air Canada stunned me although I have to say I was even more surprised by the nasty comments from pet owners on sites such as after the news was reported. I understand that people love their pets and want to take them everywhere with them but really should that desire trump the safety and well being of other passengers? I just can't believe how many people just don't seem to care that HUMANS may suffer for their convenience.____On behalf of allergy/asthma sufferers out there – we don't choose to be allergic. Anti-histamines only help to a degree. Immunotherapy (allergy shots) is extremely time consuming and uncomfortable, and is rarely effective for those with allergies to animals. The only real therapy is to stay away from animals.____Perhaps Air Canada should consider having limited pet-friendly service. Let all those animal lovers sit together on one flight and see how much they enjoy the noise and smells of other people's pets.

  2. What about people who are allergic to scented personal care and laundry products, etc… Take an allergy tablet before boarding and stop whining.

  3. The allergy complaint doesn't 'fly' with me. I've had cats in the past, and I could have so much cat hair on me…and sitting next to someone who is allergic – for them, it would be like sitting next to a cat.
    Plus, I eat peanut butter, might have peanut oil on my fingers – which touch surfaces on places. Allergic reaction by some.
    People with allergies need to 'deal' with them – bring epi pens, avoid travel, avoid life outside their house/bubble – or get on with life.

    • You can't take an epipen like you take an aspirin. And peanut oil isn't an allergen itself. Get your facts straight before making idiot remarks.

      How would you like it if I walked around you wearing a HAZMAT suit and sprinkled anthrax around myself? I could say "get used to it and deal with it".

    • That is an ignorant and uneducated response. As someone who suffers from SEVERE ALLERGIES I can tell you with all certainty that if you are so crass as to actually leave the house and board a plan knowing full well that you have cat hair on your clothing you are a complete dingbat. You should be careful what you say ….. "People with allergies need to 'deal' with them – bring epi pens, avoid travel, avoid life outside their house/bubble – or get on with life." What an asinine response. Go back to your cave and bang some rocks together.

  4. Maybe those with such severe allergies should wear masks & take a shot of benedryl or something before they leave their homes.
    Sorry, but if they can hike through an airport with all of the dust motes, smells, fragrances, residual pet dander from those with pets at home, they can put up with a pet at the opposite end of the plane. I don't believe that if they are that allergic they should be out in public period.
    Maybe some of their allergy symptoms are in their mind?
    I would rather sit next to someone with a small dog or cat in a carrrier than some of these people who seem to have no sense of smell & douse themselves with cologne or perfume any day.

  5. What was really shocking was the asinine and uninformed responses on both CBC and this site from non-pet owners. These are the same people who smell of perfume-marinade, body odour, cigarettes and alcohol before boarding, then think Fluffy is going to disturb their flight. First, dogs DO NOT use the facilities in their carry-on bags. They don't. Second, most pet owners will get a sedative for their pet, so it doesn't bark on the flight. What do people do about their bloody bratty kids? Nothing.
    My favourite are all the Air Canada "customers" who in protest are going to WestJet – who have allowed pets for forever. You can tell who actually flies and is worth calling a customer.
    Get over it, there will always be pets, booze, cigarette smell, body odour, poorly behaved kids, and people from Toronto on these flights. They are all annoying to some degree, but watch a movie and chill out.

  6. I find it so difficult to believe that some people are really as insensitive as this. There is a small group of allergy sufferers out there for whom this policy could literally be life and death. My father is one. If he was to fly in the same cabin as a German Shepherd from Toronto to Beijing, it could literally kill him. This is not a melodramatic exaggeration. It is fact. There is no epi-pen or anti-histamine that he could take that could completely eliminate the risk.

    The desires of pet owners to make little Mittens a little more comfortable is not worth any person's life, whether my father's or someone else. The government should act as soon as possible.

    • A German Shepherd would never be in the cabin as pets that large are not allowed to travel in the cabin but rather are transported as cargo. Check facts before you comment.

      • You are splitting hairs. A miniature poodle would be exactly the same.

        • poodles generally do not cause allergies in people. even my asthmatic step-dad plays with my poodle all the time.

          also, most people wouldn't subject their pet to a flight over 12 hours to go somewhere like beijing :oP.

          the cabin air circulates with the cargo area where pets are stowed so the risk is the same wherever the pets are. if you dad is so allergic he should make special requests of the airline or fly on specifically pet free airlines.

    • Thank you. On behalf of all severe allergy sufferers (including your father) I thank you for your post. Nice to see that there is someone out there that is educated and informed.

  7. Knowing the airline industry through proximity to those working in it, the hard data shows that many animals die each year who are transported in cargo, but humans, despite their hysteria, have not yet proven to be fatalities of travel with small animals in the cabins.

    Hello: when was the last time you heard the news story about the plane that was grounded because of the asthma attack due to a pet? Leaving the airlines open to heavy charges for the diversion and possibility of a lawsuit. And what happens, God forbid, if you want to leave Canada and end up on an international carrier that permits pets?

    Humans come first, but the hard facts don't support the hysteria. Airlines who routinely transport pets have many mechanisms in place to permit both humans and pets to travel as safely as possible.

    What comes next: banning people who own pets from air travel since pet hair/dander might come off their clothes body and cause an attack??? Or legislating soaps, perfumes, or making passengers take de-contaminating showers before they get on planes?

    Come on Canadians, you're better than your hysterical, unsubstantiated comments suggest! Do a little bit or research, and take your inhaler with you when you travel!

    • An inhaler can only do so much. It's not rocket science. We are not dumb as Allergic Asthmatics! My inhaler is with me at all times but if there is an animal on the flight I have to reschedule…..every time. It is not something I am willing to risk my life with and should not have to! Human life should come before an animal, sorry but it's the truth….if Fluffy has to go into Cargo in order for Allergy sufferers to take a flight then so be it.

  8. I am A severe Allergy sufurer of both Dogs and CATS that requires asthma medications to combat respiratory distress when exposed to the above mentioned allergens. I and my immdeiate family would have a problem flying with any one airline that allows pets on board an aircraft, Aloowing pets on board is putting an allergic person's life at risk . Can we have a people friendly enviroment instead of a
    pet friendly one? I would deifinitedly like to continue to travel with airlines in a SAFE way!!! Thank-You! Kindly take the necessary measure to ban Pets on board any aircraft!