One of the reasons why many people choose to fly with a particular airline is because they have frequent flyer program membership, and if you accrue enough points you can enjoy the benefits that frequent flyer points can bestow.
Velocity members can now earn 300 Points each time their dog or cat flies on Virgin Australia’s expansive domestic network.
Frequent Flyer programs for pets may be new in Australia, but several other airlines have had their own pet programs for years, although it should be pointed out that it is not the pets which own the miles, but their owners, who are the true members of the various frequent flyer programs.
The US airline JetBlue has had their own version, called JetPaws Travel Program for a few years. Their program includes a Carrier Bag Tag, which correctly identifies your pet, a Travel Petiquette Pack, which is a list of the social graces required for pet travel, and TrueBlue Points, which is 300 points each time your pet flies.
I’m assuming that because the programme is called JetPaws then it doesn’t apply to either fish or birds, but then, I guess, not many people have the same emotional attachment to their guppy as they may do with their dog or cat.
Virgin Australia’s sister company Virgin Atlantic has had a similar program for years. Continental in the US did have their Continental PetPass, but now that they have merged with United the use a system called PetSafe which does not seem to generate frequent flyer miles.
Whilst I am pleased that Virgin Australia is encouraging people to travel with pets my own experience with the airline has been less satisfactory.
I have a daughter who is hearing impaired and who has an officially-recognised Lions Hearing Dog, which, at that time had guide dog accreditation. Lions is the service club which sponsors the program. Because my daughter’s health has declined her dog has now been semi-retired.
Several years ago when Virgin Australia was called Virgin Blue, the airline is morphing from a budget airline into a full service airline to try to compete with Qantas, we had a family emergency so we tried to book flights with Virgin Blue.
By law, my daughter’s dog had the right to travel in the cabin with her, which he has done several times without problem on Qantas.
In this instance, and we have not flown with the airline since, Virgin Blue refused to take the dog.
They even accused me, to a media organisation, of lying about his status, even though both my daughter and her dog carried authentic credentials. After refusing our booking I wrote to the airline outlying the circumstances which occurred. To this date, the airline has not even had to courtesy to reply, despite the fact that they did, in fact, break the law by refusing to take my daughter and her dog.
Whilst I applaud Virgin Australia’s recognition of pets, the airline’s claims to welcome animals on board ring hollow with me.
For an airline to refuse to carry the accredited assistance dog for a person with disabilities is disgraceful enough. To refuse to acknowledge a reasonable and factual account of that action is despicable.