It doesn't seem like that long ago that private jets were considered completely out of reach for anyone who wasn't obscenely rich or famous -- both in some cases.
But private aviation has become far more accessible over the years, and there's been a particularly large shift since 2019.
Not only has usage skyrocketed as a result of the travel chaos brought about by the pandemic, with numerous companies reporting a surge in bookings from travelers new to the private jet world, more and more are taking their pets on board with them.
So what's brought about this sudden increase in animals receiving the private jet treatment? The number of foster pets in US homes jumped by 8% between March and September 2020 according to PetPoint, a software program with more than 1,200 shelters in its database, may have played a part.
We believe that this trend is largely due to the overall lifestyle shift many have experienced due to the impact of Covid-19.
Let's say you have an aircraft with eight seats, you might have seen two or three people traveling [before], now we're seeing an average of five or six people. So it's kind of a shifting dynamic in who's traveling and why, which is leading to the increase in pets. Janice Laxton from MA has found herself taking more private flights with her Australian Labradoodle Moose during the pandemic, and says the comfort and convenience provided is incomparable. "Flying privately allows your pet to be right next to you and people that you are familiar with and comfortable with, whereas on a commercial flight you can't always sit next to people you know. They [the animals] have freedom to stretch their legs and roam around a little instead of being crated on a commercial flight."
At present, many commercial airlines will allow travellers to transport a cat or a small dog weighing less than 25 pounds in the passenger cabin provided the animal is placed in a carrier that fits under the seat in front.
However, bigger dogs are required to fly in a crate in the cargo hold, which ultimately involves some level of risk. In January, a new Department of Transportation regulation went into effect that led to a number of different airlines, including JetBlue, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, prohibiting owners from bringing pets on board as emotional support animals, a practice that allowed bigger pets to travel in the cabin.
It's likely that this significant rule change will have prompted some of those who rely on their pets as emotional support animals and can afford private aviation to take the plunge.
"There are certainly some people that are flying private to avoid having to put their pet in the cargo hold, or just board their pet somewhere else and not bring them," adds Hirschhorn. "So we're also seeing an uptrend in that as well."
The majority of private jet fliers who bring their pets along just want to be sure that the animals are settled while traveling, and are less concerned about the luxuriousness of the experience or the prospect of saving a few thousand dollars.
"It's not just that you get to take a really cute picture of your dog for Instagram. It's more the convenience of being with your animals the whole time and not having to worry about who's handling them and what they're doing. Or if your animal is upset or not.
Once you really break it down, and you take away the dollars and cents, then it's basically asking 'is my family member going to be okay?'"
That's what I think a lot of pet owners are thinking. And I have dogs myself, so I understand.