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Dog-Friendly Flights on Bark Air Put Pets First

Dog-Friendly Flights on Bark Air Put Pets First

Dogs can now embark on a first-class flight, fully tailored to their needs, with Bark Air, a new private jet company that focuses on dog-first, human-second travel.

Flights run between Los Angeles and New York, as well as NYC and London. Once someone books a flight, a concierge reaches out to learn everything about their pup, from their energy levels to their allergies.

Josh Groban and his dog George, a Westie, were two of the first passengers to fly Bark Air, and, according to the company, other celebrities and their dogs have flown, too, though they declined to share names.

On the flights, dogs are treated to a tasting menu, doggie champagne (aka organic bone broth, which is said to help their ears adjust to altitude changes), blankets with calming pheromones, earmuffs and more. Prices are in line with the steep cost of private jet travel: $6,000 one way from New York to L.A. and $8,000 from New York to London.

“Every little thing is thought of for the dog, both from a comfort standpoint and a safety standpoint,” says Dave Stangle, vp brand marketing. He adds, “All our flight attendants are trained in dog and canine CPR and de-escalation.”

Stangle and BarkBox CEO Matt Meeker have been discussing the possibility of flights for dogs for more than 10 years, as Meeker searched for a way to travel with his massive Great Dane without having to crate him and put him in a plane’s cargo hold.

Entertainment figures aren’t the only ones who have expressed interest in flying. Brands and high-end travel agencies have also reached out about the first-class flights, as well as “every influencer in the world,” the marketing exec jokes. But the company is in no rush to get everyone on board as soon as possible.

“Really, what we’re trying to do is, let’s just get this experience down better and better every single time,” he explains. “And then when we’re ready to engage with big brands or celebrities or anything like that, then we’ve got a rock-solid product, and we’ve done this a bunch of times.”

Once the dogs and their humans arrive at the airport prior to their flight, the owner is treated to a chef-prepared meal while their four-legged friend gets to know their fellow passengers. How the dogs get along with each other helps the airline organize the best seating chart, putting more playful pups together toward the front of the plane and calmer ones toward the back.

Bark Air jet

Courtesy of Subject

“The dogs are free to sit right next to you on the plane,” says Stangle. “They can wander about and mingle with other dogs if they want. They can take a nap with you. We think dogs should have the amount of freedom that people have on planes because, ultimately, dogs are happier when they’re right next to their person.”

In addition to the flights, Bark Air will send a free car service to pick up the dogs and people, as long as they are within a 30-mile radius of the airport. There are also cars waiting once the flights land at the final destination, complete with signs that have the dog’s name instead of the human’s.

Bark Air launched with only two routes in an effort to connect a few of the longest distances that aren’t practical — or even possible — to drive to with your dog, like NYC and L.A. and NYC and London. However, it won’t be long before the airline begins flying to other parts of the world. Come October, Bark Air will have flights from NYC to Paris for $8,500, and as of May 29, the company had 22,000 other suggestions for routes people want to see them expand to.

As the fall months grow closer, Stangle shares they’re likely going to add a route between New York and Florida because of the snowbirds who go south for the colder months. They’re also interested in expanding to Chicago and Dallas, with the hope of eventually being able to fly between all of those cities, instead of mostly taking off from New York.

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The Bark Air team is aware of how expensive their flights are and aims to one day bring prices down to be more on par with — or even cheaper than — a regular first-class ticket. “We don’t want to stop until it’s as easy to fly with your dog as it is with your child and in a lot of cases probably easier,” he notes, adding that they have a business plan for it but didn’t want to expand on what it was at this time.

As for their ultimate goal with Bark Air, Stangle says they want to redefine what “dog-friendly” truly means when it comes to travel.

“We care about your dog,” says Stangle. “Our thought was, ‘Why don’t we go way over the top with how dog-friendly this is? Like, let’s not even think about the human because if you make a dog happy, you will make that dog’s parent happy.’ The person was an afterthought, and we knew they would be happy.”

Bark Air jet

Courtesy of Subject

A version of this story first appeared in the June 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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