Flying commercial with Fido has gotten so ruff, well-heeled New Yorkers are now booking private planes that welcome pawed passengers.
On March 1, Southwest Airlines became the latest airline to ban emotional support animals. They follow several major carriers, including Delta, United and American Airlines, that have also cracked down on the oft-abused pre-pandemic policy allowing any animal with a certification (which can be obtained online for under $ 100) to fly in the cabin. It was getting wild: turtles, a turkey and even a miniature horse named Fred have been spotted on flights in recent years.
The US Department of Transportation ruled in December that most “emotional support animals” do not qualify as service animals, which are defined as trained dogs that accompany those with a disability and are still allowed in-flight.
So New Yorkers of means are now opting to pay for their pooches to get the VIP treatment. Blade, which runs private charters to the Hamptons, Miami, Nantucket, Massachusetts, and Aspen, Colorado, has seen a “surge” of dogs in the wake of commercial airlines phasing out four-legged flying companions. NetJets has even started the hashtag #NetPets to show off some of the 24,000 pampered pooches that have flown with the private jet charter in the past year.
“I’m not a snob — I have no problem flying first class,” said Libbie Mugrabi.
The Upper East Sider lives part time in Miami and must frequently travel with her dogs: Bear, a toy poodle, and Tiny, a toy Maltese.
“It’s not like I’m taking my dogs on vacation, I’m taking them to my other home,” she said.
She said she stopped flying commercial due to the “confusing” and ever-changing pet parameters. “There are a million different rules now,” she said.
Despite being tiny enough to remain in carriers and having paperwork declaring them emotional support animals, Mugrabi said a commercial airline told her they could only ride in the plane’s underbelly.
“I’m not going to traumatize my dogs in the cargo section — it’s animal cruelty,” said Mugrabi. “It’s like putting your dog in your trunk going to the Hamptons for hours.”
She now uses private aviation company XOJet to shuttle her and the brood for $ 7,000 to $ 15,000 per one-way flight.
Likewise, the high price of flying private was worth it for Steven Klein.
When Klein first acquired his Bernedoodle named Wylee during the pandemic, he had no idea that dog ownership would affect his jet-setting lifestyle.
“I thought I could claim it as a support dog or pay an additional fee,” Klein, who lives in Chelsea and works in real estate, told The Post.
But he was in for a rude awakening after he decided to bring his 30-pound Bernese mountain dog-poodle mix with him to Miami for 10 days in December.
He quickly realized that the new COVID-era rules made flying commercial impossible. So he’s flown Wylee to Florida on a Blade 16-passenger plane — which cost nearly $ 3,000 each way — twice since.
“I didn’t want to get to the airport and have the commercial airline tell me he bumps up against the weight limit because he had a heavy breakfast that morning and they force him to fly under the plane,” said Klein, adding that he heard horror stories about dogs flying in cargo with insufficient pressurization.
Ultimately, it’s that sense of uncertainty that’s leading to the uptick in requests to book private flights with pets, say luxury travel brokers.
“People are freaking out,” said Chaim Sasonkin, who runs Travel CBS, a ticket broker for private jets. “It’s a concern you’re going to be turned away.”
In February, Sasonkin booked a private flight on Partouche Air Group for two passengers, a dog and eight cats going from Canada to Mexico for $ 25,000.
“Nobody’s flying on JetBlue with eight cats,” he said.