LOCAL dog owners have criticised a move by airline Loganair to increase the cost of taking a pet on flights from £10 to £50 seemingly without warning.
Dog owner Kaylee Robertson said she was “disgusted and angered” at the price hike, which came into force from 1 April, and has decided to launch a petition.
Loganair managing director Jonathan Hinkles said the charge has been increased to reflect how the airline has shifted away from a “standby” animal policy to give people “guaranteed” travel for their pets.
Robertson, who owns seven dogs, has started a campaign with the online hashtag #islanddogsmatter in protest of the fee increase.
She first learned of the change on Wednesday after her mum was told it would cost £100 instead of £20 to take her dog Fjana with her on a round trip to Inverness – something which she said she couldn’t justify.
Robertson – who doesn’t fly with dogs often herself because she finds putting them in the hold distressing – has contacted Shetland MSP Tavish Scott about the matter.
“I have alerted fellow dog owners on social media to the problem and the reaction has been the same as mine – the locals are barking mad about it,” she said.
“It’s one thing for the airline to constantly take advantage of people when it comes to price hikes on human fares, but I think the airline will learn that when it comes to people’s four legged best friends, the public will bite back.”
Loganair can carry cats and dogs as “accompanied baggage”, with owners responsible for putting the pet in an approved container which is then placed in the hold.
The cost of taking excess luggage on a flight, or large sports equipment, is priced at £10.
Hinkles said Loganair’s new policy on taking dogs and cats on board still provides a “very favourable deal” compared to other operators.
“We have recently changed our policy to move from a £10 charge to take an animal in an approved travel container on standby on a Loganair flight to a £50 charge for guaranteed travel,” he said.
“The previous ‘standby’ policy had proven ineffective as it was impossible to reasonably deny carriage at the airport to an animal whose owner was booked on the same flight.
“We also saw several instances where other customers’ bags were offloaded to make space in aircraft holds for the animal to travel, incurring significant costs to reunite customers with delayed bags and compensate them for expenses incurred.
“We believe that the revised charge still represents a very favourable deal for animal travel when viewed against other airlines’ fees, and now provides customers with a far greater level of confidence than the previous standby policy.
“Carriage of accredited guide dogs in the aircraft cabin remains unchanged and free of charge.”
Robertson, however, said the issue of guaranteed travel has “never been a problem as we have learned to first check with the airline that there is space available, book the flight then immediately phone back and book the dog on board”.
She is well aware of the high prices of other airlines, as the dog lover was once given a price of £270 by British Airways take a dog on board a flight from Birmingham to Edinburgh before she travelled by car instead.
But Robertson argued that it can’t be used as a comparison when in some cases “we have no other option but to fly and they are our only airline”.