With the dominoes falling on emotional support animals, there’s a business opportunity for one airline to be an outlier.
A Business Opportunity For Emotional Support Animals
When it comes to masks, Delta does not require young children to wear masks if they cannot keep them on. It is alone in that respect, with every other U.S. airline requiring children two and older to wear one. This is a market differentiator that has driven many customers to Delta.
When it comes to loyalty, Alaska Airlines has resisted the urge to make elite status driven primarily by revenue. Instead, you can still earn miles on Alaska based upon miles flown, not dollars spent. It’s an important market differentiator that has driven many customers to Alaska Airlines.
Now comes the issue of emotional support animals. With Southwest’s ban of emotional support animals yesterday, all major U.S. airlines have banned them.
Part of me simply wants to applaud the news and say nothing more. I cannot count the number of trips I have seen entitled yuppies bring their oversized dogs onboard and parade them through the cabin, as if they really need the emotional support. Somehow, our Mexican, Canadian, African, Asian, Australian, South American, and European brothers sisters get by just fine without an emotional support dog. So why not us?
A Timely Market Opportunity
But the huge number of these dogs onboard points to the market opportunity for an airline willing to cater to such customers. The rationale I hear from those who claim “emotional support” needs is that they would rather drive then place their animals in the cargo hold.
I get it. I don’t have pets (beyond fish in my pond), but I used to have a dog and I can fully relate to how precious that dog was. Even if statistically unlikely there would be any issues, there’s no way I am entrusting my beloved pet to an airline cargo hold.
Certainly, many bring on their “emotional support” animals just to save the pet transport fees airline levy. But it was more than just money, since airlines strictly limited the size of optional cabin pets (versus “emotional support” animals).
Now comes an opportunity. One airline could become the pet-friendly airline and make a lot of money doing so. Will it be Alaska? Spirit perhaps? Frontier to go along with the animals on each aircraft tail?
This I know: already clients have told me they will not be traveling by air if they cannot bring their large dogs in-cabin. While they may get away with the new “psychiatric service animals” loophole, I see a business opportunity.
Charge people to take their larger pets onboard and you will build 1.) a very loyal base of customers and 2.) an attractive ancillary revenue opportunity. People don’t want to keep their animals caged. They consider their dogs and cats as family members and want them to be treated as such.
While it is possible that such a move could backfire (it might turn more people away than attract them), I think a pet-friendly airline could offer passengers a meaningful choice and charge enough to make it worthwhile.
As I watch airline after airline ban emotional support pets, I cannot help but to think there is room for an enterprising airline to cash in on the new market conditions. I will be watching to see if a U.S. airline, most likely a budget carrier, would be willing to try catering to animal-loving clientele.
Would you be far less likely to fly on a pet-friendly airline? How much would you pay so that your dog or other animal did not have to be caged onboard?