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In an about-face, Air Canada will allow cats and dogs as carry-on

In hopes of wooing back pet owners, cash-strapped Air Canada will again allow some cats and dogs aboard commercial flights, reversing a three-year-old decision that had banished the animals to the luggage compartment.

Beginning next month, cats and small dogs weighing up to 10 kilograms (22 pounds) will be allowed to be stowed under their owner's seat as a carry-on item on Air Canada and Jazz flights. The animals must be registered and in leak-proof containers. The airline will charge a handling fee of $50 each way for flights within Canada and the United States, and $100 each way for international connections. It's an about-face for the airline, which in 2006 announced that all pets would have to fly in the luggage hold.

"This is the latest of our customer-friendly initiatives that underscores our renewed commitment to listening to our customers and offering a competitive product that meets their needs," Ben Smith, executive vice-president and chief commercial officer at Air Canada, said in a written statement.

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The 2006 decision came after pressure from a handful of agencies, including the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, that said severe cat or dog allergies can be aggravated by the presence of the animals in a closed airplane cabin.

"I think the original [2006]decision was a good decision for people suffering from pet allergies," said Richard Warrington, a Winnipeg-based allergist and president of the CSACI. "I suppose [yesterday's announcement]means people who have allergies to cats and dogs are not going to have such a comfortable flight."

Air Canada will allow a maximum of two to four pets in the cabin on any one flight, depending on the size of the plane, in an attempt to limit allergens. Additional pets may still be stowed.

Pets must be registered within 24 hours of a booking being made, and guests must check in their pets half an hour before a typical recommended check-in time. Pets can't travel alone.

The move brings Air Canada's policy to par with its major competitor, WestJet Airlines Ltd., which had billed itself as the pet friendly option since Air Canada's 2006 move. Both airlines now charge the same price for carry-on pets and use the same weight restrictions for in-cabin pets. WestJet, however, allows more types of animals on board - such as rabbits or birds - and has fewer black-out dates for pet travel during the summer and winter holiday seasons than Air Canada. Service or guide dogs are always allowed in the cabin at no charge on both airlines.

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The conditions for travelling with a furry friend

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AIR CANADA

Carry on (Beginning July 1)

Cat or small dog and carrier case, under 10 kilograms

$50 each way for flights in Canada or U.S., $100 each way for international

Carrier must be leak-proof and stowed under passenger's seat

Stowed

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Any cat or dog and carrying case, under 32 kilograms

$105 each way for flights in Canada or U.S., $270 each way for international

Certain countries don't allow pets from inbound flights

WEST JET

Carry on

Cat, dog, rabbit or bird, with carrying case, under 10 kilograms

$50 each way per kennel, maximum one animal

Leak-proof and soft-sided kennels stowed under seat

Stowed

Cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, chinchillas, guinea pigs and hedgehogs, with carrying case weighing up to 45 kilograms

$50 each way per kennel

maximum six animals in three hard-sided kennels

Josh Wingrove

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Josh is a parliamentary reporter in Ottawa. Before moving to the nation's capital in 2013, he covered provincial affairs in Edmonton and throughout Alberta. He joined the Globe in 2008 in Toronto before returning to his home province in 2010. More

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