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Canadian Lung Assn. takes aim at Air Canada's new pet-friendly policy

July 6, 2009 |  5:43 pm

Not everyone is happy about Air Canada's new pet policy Last month, we learned that Air Canada, our neighbor to the north's largest airline, was changing its pet policy to allow small dogs and cats to ride in its airplane cabins.

The new policy went into effect last week, and it means that Canada's two largest airlines (with WestJet, Canada's second most popular carrier, which already had a pet-friendly policy) now allow small pets to ride in airplane cabins rather than sequestered in cargo holds.  (Both Southwest and JetBlue airlines have similar pet policies.)

For many small pet owners, this is great news -- there are any number of horror stories out there about the perils of traveling with a pet stowed in an airplane's underbelly.  But others are decrying the move to bring pets onboard on the grounds that they can be health hazards to allergy and asthma sufferers.

"Pets are wonderful friends and companions. But inside the small, confined space of an airplane passenger cabin, they can pose a serious threat to the health of vulnerable people," the Canadian Lung Assn., which has launched an online campaign in opposition to Air Canada and WestJet's onboard pet policies, said in a statement.  The campaign is aimed at convincing Parliament to hold hearings to debate the health ramifications of allowing pets in airplane cabins.

"Profit is taking a front seat and public health is taking a back seat," Canadian Lung Assn. spokesperson Cameron Bishop told the Edmonton Sun of the airlines' move to allow pets onboard.  "From our perspective you don't have to trade one off for the other."

Air Canada and WestJet ask that allergy sufferers identify themselves when making flight reservations so they may be seated as far as possible from any pets.  Both airlines also limit the number of pets that can fly on any one airplane.  "We believe our policy is prudent," Air Canada spokesperson Angela Mah told the Vancouver Sun.

But for many travelers opposed to the idea of pets in airplane cabins -- even those without allergies -- that's just not good enough.  "Is there a website that informs you which airlines allow just PEOPLE on board? With no pets, cellphones, or young children?" reader John Bard asked in a comment on our original post about Air Canada's new pet policy. "Because they've got my business."

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Karen Tapia-Anderson / Los Angeles Times

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