Doctors call for airline pet ban

A report in an influential medical journal has called for airlines to ban passengers flying with pets in the cabin.

In the February issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, an editorial entitled "Pets in airplane cabins: an unnecessary allergic hazard" criticized the decision of Air Canada to allow small pets such as cats, dogs and birds to travel in aircraft cabins.

Citing research that suggests one in ten people suffer an allergy to animals, the doctors behind the article believe that new legislation to protect passengers with severe peanut allergies should be extended by the Canadian Transport Agency to passengers with allergies to pets. Many global airlines no longer serve peanuts as inflight snacks due to the risk of allergic passengers suffering from severe reactions prompted by peanut dust in re-circulated air.

"The preferences of pet owners should not supersede the well-being of their fellow passengers. Pets can be accommodated comfortably and safely in airplane cargo holds, which is where they belong," said the authors. "Airlines must choose to put the needs of their human passengers first, or be forced to do so."

In 1998, a study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal identified cat allergen on 100 percent of sampled airplane seats on domestic flights and 16 percent of seats on international flights. Despite this, according to airline review site several major airlines - including Air France, Continental, KLM, JetBlue, JAL, Lufthansa, Swiss and United Airlines - allow caged pets to travel in passenger cabins on certain routes.

Pet owners are often reluctant to allow pets to travel in the holds of aircraft which, although pressurized, may suffer temperature fluctuations and can be traumatic for pets. Aiming to allay the fears of owners, "Pet Airways" launched pet-only flights between five US cities in April 2009.