Kudos to SWA for making this change! You have opened up my entire home airport to me - and those that may be flying here for an event I host (cat show).
I must confess, I am amazed at the ignorance of many of the posters on this blog. If you have EVER flown another airline - a pet was probably on the plane. Cat and/or dog dander really isn't that pervasisve. It is amazing how many times someone near me has commented to me -as we left the plane - about cat allergies. They didn't die, heck they didn't even sneeze.
With regard to animal "smells" and such - most folks I know that travel with pets plan ahead. My pets are well-bathed (probably cleaner than me when I travel with them) and I withhold food/water in advance to ensure empty bladder/bowels. I have no cats that require sedation. I have a couple that talk some, but generally go right to sleep once in the air. Just like small infants - takeoff/landing hurts their ears and is something they don't understand. And actually, small dogs tend to be more sensitive than cats. I have had a couple of cats able to push open the zippers on their carriers - but I certainly didn't let them out and was quickly chastised by flight attendants when they let themselves out.
SWA isn't just looking at pet fee income,but a whole segment of the travelling population they have excluded. I show cats - like at least 2 other posters I recognize on this blog. Many of you would be amazed how many of us fly A LOT with our cats - to shows. I flew 14 times roundtrip from May 1, 2008 to April 30, 2009 (the show season). SWA is probably the largest provider in my airport - I couldn't fly them for this purpose. There are cat shows going on all over the country and I can assure you - this is the hottest topic at those events - even ahead of who is winning. SWA has already gained thousands of frequent travelers with this policy.
I did see one comment about the unaccompanied minor policy. I have no idea what those rules are for other airlines - but I can say that I have flow SWA for a total of 3 flights prior to this post - and the first one for 4 hours, with three unaccompanied minors in the row behind me. The flight attendants put them all toghether - BAD IDEA! They were horrible. Parents, if you think your little Johnny cannot misbehave - you are wrong. Well, one was fine, the other 2 were intolerable. Finally, 3 hours into the flight, I came up over my seat and threatened them. Should there be a fee - yes! All I kept thinking is that I was supposed to pay to shove my cat under the seat on other airlines.
I have been on more than one flight with children flying FREE in laps. And more than one where they had a seat and where incorrigible. No one withheld food so they didn't release bowels - or bothered to tell them to sit down & be quiet. People think we should sedate our pets - what about the children screaming for 4 hours straight (different flight/airline than the above) - or the 13 mos. old that crawled into my lap uninvited while mom had a beer - and wet herself!
I do have a concern for people with allergies, but again, the hair/dander on my clothes (that may be there whether or not I brougt a cat) is going to be a more immediate risk than the super clean cat under the seat on the way to compete for major awards. And there are many instances where the presence of an animal on the plane was announced and the only way to accommodate the allergic passengers is to move the pet/owner to first class - so I guess SWA better develop that class next.
Again, thank you SWA - you will see more benefit from this than you realize!
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