Dogs Aboard Air Canada Flights to Be Banished to Cargo Hold

Sparky and Fluffy can kiss goodbye the creature comforts of flying in style inside Air Canada's cabins.

Starting Sept. 18, pets will be banished to the cargo belly of the country's largest airline, in a move that has elicited howls of outrage from animal lovers and sighs of relief from allergy sufferers.

''Flying in general is already stressful for the pet,'' Calgary Humane Society spokeswoman Cheryl Wallach told the Globe and Mail on Thursday.

''When the animal is in cargo, it can be more stressful, when you think about air-pressure changes. Ears popping can be uncomfortable, so the pet owner feels more confident if animals are with them, so they can give comfort.''

Rival WestJet Airlines Ltd. said its cabins will remain a pet-friendly zone.

''WestJet does allow pets in the cabin. We will accept cats, dogs, birds and rabbits in the cabin,'' said WestJet spokeswoman Gillian Bentley. She noted that the carrier has a marketing campaign to stress its willingness to embrace pets on its domestic flights, as long as they are carried aboard in leak-proof kennels that fit under the seat.

Air Canada said its new rule reflects the need to balance the interests of its customers and that guide dogs will be allowed in the aircraft cabins.

''The health and safety, as well as the comfort and general well-being of our passengers, is always our top priority,'' said Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick. ''We strive to offer our customers an allergy-free environment. It's a question of fairness to all customers.''

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