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Flights for ‘pawsengers’ set for liftoff

Airline for pets to offer bookings for Bowser, Mittens

Up to 50 pets will travel in carriers in the main cabin and be taken care of by a pet attendant. No snacks or drinks will be served. Up to 50 pets will travel in carriers in the main cabin and be taken care of by a pet attendant. No snacks or drinks will be served. (Pet Airways)
By Katie Johnston Chase
Globe Staff / July 11, 2009
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Can’t bear to put Fifi in cargo when you fly? Try booking her a ticket on Pet Airways instead.

The pet-only airline is launching service Tuesday out of New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles. It plans to expand into Boston by fall and into 25 cities within two years.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of requests from pet owners in Boston,’’ said director Alyse Tognotti.

The airline, based in Delray Beach, Fla., has partnered with Suburban Air Freight to transport cats and dogs in 19-passenger Beech 1900 aircraft. Up to 50 “pawsengers’’ will travel in carriers in the main cabin - the seats and overhead bins have been removed - and be taken care of by a pet attendant. No snacks or drinks will be served, but potty breaks are mandatory. Inter-species fights will be kept to a minimum by separating the dogs and cats; other household pets such as birds and gerbils will be allowed onboard in the near future.

The airline will start with one round-trip flight a week, beginning in New York and ending in Los Angeles. One-way ticket prices range from $149 to $299, depending on the pet’s size and destination, and demand has been high so far: The first two months are sold out.

Husband and wife owners Dan Wiezel and Alysa Binder dreamed up Pet Airways when they moved from the Silicon Valley to Florida five years ago and had to put their Jack Russell terrier in cargo. The idea of their dog being stuck in the belly of the plane made the former high-tech recruiters anxious. Tognotti said: “She’s not baggage.’’

Pet Airways has pet lounges set up in each of its airports. Its staff members, including round-the-clock veterinarians, all have backgrounds in animal handling.

Johnston Chase can be reached at johnstonchase@globe.com.