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Want to Fly With Your Dog? Bring Money.

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A young woman wearing sunglasses stands, clutching a small dog, next to a small plane.
You can now fly with your dog, pet carrier–free ... for $6,000 each way. (Jupiterimages/Getty Images)

Are you a wealthy person from San Jose who loves their dog, flying to Illinois and New York and staying for several weeks on end? Congratulations! A very specific form of air travel now exists that you (and probably only you) are going to love.

Bark Air is a chartered flight service whose tag line reassures pet lovers that “Finally, dogs can fly.” Since launching in May, the company offers flights for dogs and humans in and out of San Jose (SJC), Van Nuys (VNY), Phoenix (PHX), Chicago (MDW), Fort Lauderdale (FXE) and Westchester (HPN). International travel is also available to London (BQH) and Paris (LBG) from select cities.

Currently, flights out of San Jose only go to Chicago or Westchester. And those flights cost $6,000 and $6,500 respectively — each way.

What do you get with that? Other than seats for you and your pup? According to Bark Air, each journey includes a cabin full of calming aids (“pheromone, music, warm lavender scented refreshment towels, and other comforts to help each dog feel settled”). Additionally, each dog owner is provided a bag with “calming treats, leashes, poop bags, and more.” Dogs are also served “their beverage of choice (water, bone broth, you name it)” on take off and landing.

Currently, there are only a couple one-way flights on any route per month, which means you could throw down thousands of dollars for an outbound flight without much reassurance you’ll be able to get home in a timely manner. For example, in the month of October, the only Bark Air flight from San Jose to Chicago lands on the 18th. But the company’s only flight from Chicago to San Jose that month is on the 17th. The next flight after that isn’t until Nov. 25. So, if you want to go to Chicago with your dog via Bark Air, you’d better be willing and able to stay for five weeks. Day jobs be damned!


Bark Air says “We’re here to revolutionize flying for dogs,” but it’s apparent that dogs they’re flying have owners who might already have access to private jets (granted, that’s even more expensive) or services that drive your pet across the country for you. Or, at the very least, can certainly afford to board their pet while they’re out of town. While Bark Air is, as it says, “A 100% totally real airline for dogs,” the number of owners it’s able to serve is narrow, to put it mildly.

Air travel has long been an issue for dog lovers who want to take their sweetie with them. While there are age, health and breed restrictions, as well as a fee to fly (usually around $100-$125), small dogs can now fly on most domestic airlines in a carrier that can fit under a seat. We have a TWA flight attendant (and Lhasa Apso fan) named Gayle Martz to thank for that. In 1989, she invented the original, soft-sided Sherpa Bag (it was named after her dog at the time) and she petitioned airlines across the country to allow small pets on board. Over the next five years, one by one, the major airlines agreed.

By then, dogs were already permitted on some cruise liners. British company Cunard has allowed dogs on its trans-Atlantic cruises since 1925. Today, the number of pets on board is limited to 24 per journey, and they are confined to an on-board kennel with visiting hours for the owners. That service costs around $1,000 per animal, depending on the destination.

As for large dogs? Air travel remains challenging. Dogs must be crated and transported as checked baggage — not appealing for a lot of owners. And though death is a rarity for dogs traveling this way, it’s definitely not unheard of. (In 2017, when over half a million dogs flew with U.S. airlines, 24 died en route — 18 of whom were traveling with United.)

So, what’s a traveling dog-lover with a normal-person-income to do? Continue to grapple with the limitations of the industry, unfortunately. Bark Air’s assertion that “Finally, dogs can fly” is exciting, sure — but it rings a bit hollow when the owner needs a trust fund to make it happen.

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