In the words of Lilo and Stitch, “Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten”.

Virgin Australia has announced plans to become the first airline in Australia to welcome pets onboard, allowing small cats and dogs to travel alongside their owners on specific domestic flights. The airline’s CEO, Jayne Hrdlicka, expressed excitement about this new initiative, emphasizing that accommodating pets aligns with Virgin Australia’s values and customer preferences. Pending regulatory approval, the pet-friendly service is expected to launch within the next 12 months.

Image: Virgin Australia

While this concept is novel for Australian airlines, it’s common practice among major carriers in North America. Virgin Australia intends to designate limited rows for passengers with pets, requiring animals to remain in airline-approved carriers under the seat in front of their owners throughout the flight. Although there will be a fee for bringing pets onboard, assistance dogs will continue to fly for free.

The decision to introduce this service stems from positive feedback from Virgin Australia’s Facebook followers and research indicating strong interest from Australian pet owners. Melbourne Airport CEO, Lorie Argus, expressed readiness to accommodate these furry travelers, anticipating that the pets-in-cabin concept will be well-received by passengers. Ms. Hrdlicka highlighted the broader economic benefits, noting increased connectivity for pet-friendly accommodation providers and the emergence of a new market segment for pet travel in Australia. Further details, including pricing and routes, will be disclosed in the future.