COLUMBIA — Pets flying out of St. Louis will soon be able to travel as passengers rather than cargo.
Pet Airways, an airline that only transports pets, announced in a news release Tuesday that it will begin flying out of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport this summer.
Instead of going under the seats or being stored in cargo, pets on Pet Airways travel in the climate-controlled main cabin, said Pet Airways co-founder Alysa Binder. The pets are in the care of an attendant throughout the flight, Binder said.
“All we do is based on the safety, care and comfort of our passengers,” Binder said.
Jeff Lea, public relations manager at Lambert-St. Louis, confirmed the airport would soon be added as a destination for Pet Airways.
“The airline was looking to add more major airports, and St. Louis is a major market in the Midwest, so it was a good fit,” Lea said.
Pet Airways currently flies to nine locations in the U.S., with five additional locations to be added this summer, including St. Louis. Its current destinations are Los Angeles; Phoenix; Denver; Chicago; Baltimore; New York City; Atlanta; Omaha, Neb.; and Fort Lauderdale. Fla., Binder said.
Exact dates are yet to be determined, but sometime this summer, Pet Airways will add St. Louis; Orlando, Fla.; Houston; and Austin, Texas, as destinations, Binder said. When those locations are added, the schedule will change, she said, but for now they have eastbound flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and westbound flights on Thursdays and Fridays.
According to the Pet Airways website, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rats and other small pets are allowed on the flights, though rabbits are not.
The cost of the flight is determined by the size of the pet and the distance of the flight, Binder said. On the Pet Airways online reservation page, a cat weighing nine pounds traveling from Chicago to Denver in June would cost $320.85 (small carrier). The same cat traveling from Fort Lauderdale to Baltimore would only cost $149. A 65-pound dog would cost $269 to fly from Fort Lauderdale to Baltimore and $504.85 to fly from Chicago to Denver.
Binder founded Pet Airways with her husband, Dan Wiesel, in 2009. She said they were inspired to start the company by their Jack Russell terrier, Zoe. Zoe was too big to fit under a seat on an airplane, so they had to to leave her with the cargo under the plane.
“When she came out, she wasn’t the same, so we said there had to be a better way,” Binder said.
Zoe died in 2010, but Binder and Wiesel have been too busy expanding Pet Airways to get another pet.
“The biggest worry for our customers right now is that we don’t take home some of these pets,” Binder said. “We just fall in love with all of them.”