5 Special Ways to Fly
By Scott Allen
No self-respecting canine travels to a luxurious spa in the cargo bay of a 757, so it was only a matter of time before an airline that caters exclusively to pets arrived. Here's the story of recently launched Pet Airways and four other companies that provide specialty air travel.
1. Pet Airways
Pet Airways began service to five U.S. cities last week, offering first class pet travel for as low as $149 on Beech 1900 planes that have been stripped of their human furnishings. Dogs and cats travel in carriers in the main cabin; humans, save for the pilot and pet attendants, must travel separately. Alysa Binder and her husband, Dan Wiesel, began planning the launch of Pet Airways in 2005 after they had an unpleasant experience traveling with their Jack Russell Terrier on a cross-country flight. Pet Airways passengers—pawsengers and catengers is the company lingo—must check in at least two hours prior to departure and are generally not fed during flights. The company provides service to and from the New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles areas and appears poised to prosper with flights already booked solid for the next two months.
2. MedJet Assist
MedJet Assist is a program that provides medical evacuation assistance to members who are injured or become ill while traveling. An annual individual MedJet Assist membership costs $250, while a family membership costs $385. Short-term packages from 1 to 4 weeks are also available. Members who are hospitalized more than 150 miles away from home can fly to a hospital of their choice on one of MedJet's specially equipped planes, regardless of the reason for their hospitalization. Though membership isn't cheap, it beats the alternative should you need medical evacuation assistance while abroad. A single transatlantic evacuation may cost more than $100,000.
It's all business, all the time on OpenSkies Airlines, which was founded in 2008 as a subsidiary of British Airways. The OpenSkies fleet consists of four Boeing 757s, each with two business class options: Business Bed or Business Seat. OpenSkies currently offers daily flights between New York and Paris and Amsterdam. News broke last week that British Airways is seeking a buyer for the subsidiary, which has struggled financially since its launch. If OpenSkies goes under, it would join EOS, MAXJet, and Silverjet among the list of business-class airlines that have failed since 2007. Silverjet claimed to be the world's first carbon neutral airline, with mandatory carbon offset contributions included in the price of every ticket.
4. Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand makes this list because it specializes in innovation, one of the keys to keeping loyal customers and luring new ones during tough economic times. The airline recently filmed an in-flight safety demonstration video featuring employees wearing nothing but body paint that was carefully applied to resemble their regular uniforms. Beginning in October, Air New Zealand will offer a Matchmaking Flight from Los Angeles to Auckland to facilitate the love connection between Americans and Kiwis. Former Bachelor star Jason Mesnick and his girlfriend, Molly Malaney, will be guests on the inaugural flight. Matchmaking Flight packages, which include tickets to a matchmaking ball to be held in Auckland's SkyTower, start at $780 round trip.
Based in England, FlyMeNow arranges private travel on charter flights for the person who needs to get somewhere fast and/or in style. The company, which was founded in 2007 and earns a mention here for its punchy name and impressive network of aircraft, has access to thousands of helicopters, turboprops, and private jets. It offers charters to virtually anywhere, including otherwise inaccessible locations for extreme sports enthusiasts and remote islands in the Caribbean. Among the company's many happy customers are the Red Hot Chilli Pipers—and no, that's not a typo. The bagpipe-playing rock band won the BBC One show When Will I Be Famous in 2008 and turned to FlyMeNow after booking multiple gigs on the same day during its ensuing tour. FlyMeNow also arranged travel for Bon Jovi during the band's recent South America tour.