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Virgin Australia to launch pet-friendly flights

Virgin Australia is set to be the first Australian airline to allow pets to fly in cabins.

Virgin Australia Group CEO, Jayne Hrdlicka, has unveiled plans for Virgin to offer pets onboard domestic flights, making the carrier officially Australia’s most pet-friendly airline.

“Our love for animals has always been in the Virgin Australia DNA,” Ms Hrdlicka says. “Overwhelmingly, our guests tell us they want to travel with their pets, and we are now on a journey to make that a reality.”

A social media survey of Virgin Australia’s followers showed that 85% of fliers wanted their beloved pets to have the option to fly with them in cabins. With nearly 70% of Australian households having at least one pet, the introduction of pet-friendly flights is sure to prove popular with travellers.

It’s a first for Aussie airlines, even though almost all major carriers in North America and parts of Europe have offered a pets onboard flight service since 2021.

Pets onboard flights is subject to regulatory approval, with Virgin Australia expecting to launch the service within the next 12 months.

A woman holding two small dogs in pilot and flight attendant costumes at Melbourne Airport
Pets onboard domestic Virgin Australia flights is a dream come true for many animal-loving travellers. Credit: Alex Coppel

Accessibility on Virgin Australia flights with pets

Naturally, some fliers have concerns about what these changes will mean for them in terms of accessibility and inclusion when flying. Virgin Australia has confirmed the following details along with their announcement:

  • The proposed changes to allow pets in cabins will not affect existing policies regarding approved assistance animals. Assistance animals can fly in the cabin of Virgin Australia aircraft at no additional cost on domestic and international flights, with a number of training organisations pre-approved for assistance animals to fly.
  • The Virgin Australia pet-friendly services will be limited to small cats and dogs (who can fit in a carrier) and specific domestic routes only. Pets will remain in their airline-approved pet carrier under the seat in front of their owner for the duration of the flight, and will not be allowed to roam the cabin or sit on laps.
  • Guests travelling with pets on Virgin Australia flights will be seated in a limited number of designated rows.
  • Cabin airflow systems (including air circulating from top to bottom, the renewal of cabin air 20-30 times per hour, and the use of hospital grade HEPA filtration in aircraft) minimise the risk of allergy-triggering particles being circulated onboard. Virgin Australia has robust systems in place for travellers with severe allergies, and can arrange mitigation measures prior to travel.

For more information about accessibility on all Virgin Australia flights, visit the Specific Needs Assistance page on their website.

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