Virgin Australia has unveiled a plan to become the country’s first airline to fly with pets in the cabin. The idea is subject to regulatory approval, but the airline is hoping that pet-lovers will be able to fly alongside their cats and dogs within 12 months.

The move falls in line with North America, where most major carriers offer cabin space for pets on specific domestic flights. Virgin shared that the service would be limited to small cats and dogs. Pets will be restricted to a limited number of rows and will not be allowed to roam freely or sit on laps – rather, they will be confined to approved pet carriers which will remain under the seat in front of the owner for the duration of the flight. The service will be at an additional charge.

Virgin is confident that the move will be embraced by Australian flyers, citing a survey of their Facebook followers in 2021: 85 per cent of respondents voted in favour of pets being allowed in cabins. Further research conducted by the airline concluded that nearly 70 per cent of respondents advised they would travel with their pet in the cabin and 57 per cent said they would fly more regularly if they could travel with their pets.

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“Our love of animals has always been in the Virgin Australia DNA and we are excited at the prospect of taking off with Australia’s first ever pets-in-cabin flights,” Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said at a press conference at Melbourne Airport. “This announcement is really significant for a large proportion of the country.”

In the Broadsheet office, however, reactions were split. Directory editor Dan Cunningham – father to the rambunctious Tony – feared that should his pup be allowed in a cabin he’d make a beeline to the cockpit. National editor Michael Harry said he was excited to fly with his Boston terrier, Chips, before tempting fate by asking, “What could go wrong?” Home and lifestyle editor Jo Walker was against the move, sharing horror stories of two US flights where she’d seen dogs defecate in the aisle.

Assistance animals will continue to be able to travel in the cabin of aircrafts at no cost.