Every year before Spring Festival, the most important holiday for family reunions among Chinese, Sun Qingqing has to decide whether to leave her poodle with a pet store in Haikou, Hainan province, or drive with the dog to her hometown in Jiangxi province.
This year, she can be spared from the annual ordeal and travel conveniently by air with her pooch.
Hainan Airlines has said it will allow some pets to travel with their human companions in the cabin, making it the first domestic commercial airline to do so. This means Sun and other animal lovers can fly with their pets and avoid the heart-wrenching goodbyes come holiday time.
Travelers hoping to take to the skies with their dogs or cats must obey certain rules and regulations. First, the pet must be in a carrier small enough to fit under an airplane seat, with a maximum weight of 5 kilograms. The carrier must be within 35 centimeters in length, 28 cm in width and 24 cm in height.
Passengers should make in-cabin pet reservations 24 hours in advance as the airline allows only two pets for each flight, and only pets older than 6 months are permitted to fly. Pet owners need to show certificates of animal vaccinations while applying for the service. The fee for each flight for a pet is 800 yuan (5).
In its first phase, people departing from nine cities, including Guangzhou, Qingdao, Changsha, Haikou and Xiamen, can reserve this kind of service. Travelers should not serve their pets water or food during the flight, and pets must wear snout muzzles with absorbent pads in the carrier during the flight.
These who don't want to fly with another passenger's pets can ask to rearrange their flight free of charge.
"It is still on a trial basis, and all feedback will be collected and considered to help improve our cabin service," a Hainan Airlines employee said. Sun called the move big news. "The cost is not expensive as the pet is also our family member," she said. "Each time I left my dog behind at the pet store, I felt awfully sorry and kept worrying whether he was being treated well."
She added that she hopes more international flights will offer such a service.