Passengers will now be able to fly with their dogs aboard South Africa’s Lift Airlines. The new carrier took to the skies in December 2020. The dog must, however, be small enough to fit into an under-seat carrier bag.
Allowing pets into an aircraft’s cabin to travel with their owners is uncommon in South Africa. Most major local airlines, including FlySafair and South African Airways (SAA), have a strict policy against transporting pets alongside their owners.
The only pets exempt are authorised service animals – like guide dogs or assistant dogs – which can travel with their owners in the aircraft’s cabin.
LIFT, which operates daily flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town, is the first local airline to allow non-service dogs to travel with passengers on a limited schedule. Passengers hoping to travel with their dogs will need to submit a special request to LIFT at least 72 hours before the intended date of travel.
Only a limited number of dogs will be allowed on selected flights according to a dog-friendly schedule. Dog-friendly seats are situated towards the rear of the plane.
The primary limitation on dog-friendly travel is the dog’s size. The dog will need to fit into a carrier bag no bigger than 28cm x 20cm x 45cm. The dog must also be at least ten weeks old, and the carry bag must contain puppy training pads or absorbent sheets.
Additionally, passengers won’t be allowed to have their dogs seated on their laps or the adjacent seats. Instead, the dog will travel in the pet-friendly carrier bag underneath the seat in front of the paying passenger.
“After take-off‚ you are welcome to move the carrier bag forward‚ however‚ neither the dog nor the carrier bag may be placed on the seat,” notes LIFT.
This seat will be blocked-off and will not accommodate another passenger. The cost of a dog-friendly booking – for the blocked-off seat – will be equal to the fare paid by the accompanying adult.
All dogs travelling aboard LIFT flights must be up-to-date with their vaccines – with proof supplied to the airline – and no pregnant dogs will be allowed to fly. Any dog over the age of seven needs to be cleared to fly by a vet.
Dogs should not be fed within four hours before departure to avoid nausea or soiling the carrier bag, as recommended by the airline.
“Many loving ‘paw-rents’ can’t always make use of pet hotels, family or friends to look after their pets,” explains LIFT co-founder Jonathan Ayache, in detailing customer feedback which led to the decision to introduce dog-friendly flights.
“Moreover, they want these four-legged family members to be included when they travel, and this has up until now not been possible when travelling by plane.”