Delta’s “No Pets Flying Cargo” Announcement is Misleadingly Optimistic
I rarely get up on my soap box, Dear Reader, but every now and then, I feel I must. I did when Jann Arden got in a whole bunch of trouble for sneaking her small dog on Canada’s VIA Rail. And I am about to hop on the box again — even if it is for big dog air travel, something I don’t have to worry about. Because when 15 people send you the same information within a 2–month period and cheer as if the change were a win for dog lovers everywhere — even animal rights groups cheered — but it isn’t … you realize you need to speak up and set the record straight. Delta’s “No Pets Flying Cargo” announcement is misleadingly optimistic. It’s actually just another example of large companies putting a positive spin on something that really isn’t.
The first and most misleading element was the photograph used by the blog Life With Dogs to illustrate Delta’s news. That’s where I first saw the news. See for yourself:
Okay, Delta didn’t use that photo, but yowza, a dog blog did. Were they duped.
Just to be clear: Delta has not increased the size of dog allowed in-cabin, let alone decided that dogs who are allowed in-cabin need not be in carriers. Sorry. Nope. The size of dog allowed in-cabin remains what it has always been: pets small enough to fit in a carrier that fits under the seat in front of you, with the combined weight of the pet and carrier not exceeding 20 pounds.
What Does Delta’s News Actually Mean for With-Pet Travellers?
Let us put on our analyst’s hat and figure out what this means. Delta’s news means that Delta is not offering a better service; it means they are offering one less service. See what they did there? Sneaky right?
Delta does say that you can ship pets within the United States as freight, using what they call Delta Cargo. These are not passenger planes but one hundred percent cargo planes. Your pet would thus be shipped, like a parcel — indeed, with parcels — on Delta’s cargo planes. Delta could not keep pets safe with the owners only feet away, so how is it better to put the pet on a completely separate airplane?
Pets that are transported via Delta Cargo are monitored closely by customer service teams during … travel. While at airports, pets are handled in temperature-controlled holding areas and vans. Also, Delta Cargo enlists professional kenneling services if overnight stays are required.
— Delta Airlines, November 16, 2015
This raises two serious questions for me.
First question: Was Delta not providing all those services for pets travelling cargo on passenger flights? And if not, why the heck not?
Second question: What about those people flying other than in the United States — you know, the rest of the world? Heck, what about Canada and Mexico?
Delta does say that members of the military with active transfer orders can still travel with a pet as checked baggage. Delta will also extend the same option to service and support animals that meet regulations and have proper documentation. That does not help the average traveller much though, does it? And I find their exceptions to the policy to be absurd. Does Delta not realize that people need service animals to be with them to provide the services or comfort they get from these animals? Checking a service dog in as cargo defeats the point.
Digging into Delta’s “Dog as Cargo” Policy
To use Delta Cargo to ship your dog means dropping your dog off at least three hours before the cargo flight and at a different location from where you would board a passenger plane.
I will give you a moment to let that sink in.
That’s right! Just to make things a little bit more complicated, cargo planes and passenger planes don’t use the same areas of an airport. In fact, at times, they don’t even use the same airport!
To top it all off — and as a result of the above silliness — Delta will not guarantee that your pet will get to its destination at the same time as you will, let alone arrive at the same airport. Oh, wait, and that’s assuming that you managed to get your dog onto a flight because you can’t book your pet’s flight until two weeks before the travel day.
How is this even remotely “user friendly”? Can we just take a moment to acknowledge the logistical nightmare that this represents? I mean, what if you don’t even own a car?
Don’t Tell Me It Isn’t About Money!
And let’s look at the bottom line for a moment shall we? Since the Delta Cargo option is just for U.S. flights, I want to compare like with like.
The fee for in-cabin pet travel is about $125 one way for a domestic flight. Delta Cargo? Owners will be looking at somewhere between $200 to $400 one way on domestic flights, depending on the size of the animal and the distance to be travelled. That is right! You guessed it! That is more than double. Is anyone here surprised? I will admit, the words “money grab” entered my mind.
Needless to say, when I finished reading the news article I was troubled. Why was I troubled? As a with-dog family travelling internationally, I see Delta’s policy as setting a dangerous precedent. How many other airlines will follow in this direction?
What Would Have Been a Real Win?
What would have been headline worthy would have been news of improvements on passenger airline cargo services. Something along the lines of how larger dogs travelling cargo will:
- Be traced with an app — to Delta’s credit, added recently, with an additional fee
- Spend more time with their owner, all the way up to boarding time, before going in the cargo hold
- Benefit from new and improved temperature and noise-controlled live animal cargo hold space and transport
- Be accompanied by a caretaker travelling in cargo with the animals to ensure they are well, and providing updates to the owners in cabin with text messages to their in-cabin screen
- Have pet relief areas on the boarding side of security at all airports Delta flies to, close to where owners are reunited with their pets during layovers or before going through customs
These are just a few of the ideas we thought would have made for a truly positive headline. Those would have been real wins for the airline. Instead, I find myself viewing Delta as copping out. I am sorely disappointed in Delta and frustrated — not for myself being in-cabin size — but for those who have lost yet one more airline option. Because let’s be honest, Dear Reader, how many owners, even if flying within the United States, would ship their dog on a flight separate than their own? Yeah. That’s what I thought.
So, how, pray tell, is this a win for with-pet travelers? It’s not. Call it a red herring, a distraction, a Band-Aid solution. But do not call it good news.