A New Airline for Dogs Takes Flight

Bark Air made its inaugural flight from New York and Los Angeles this week. But seats are pricey, costing up to $8,000

Golden retriever boarding a small plane on a runway with a woman in front of him
All dog breeds are welcome on Bark Air, though humans must be at least 18 to fly. Bark Air

Ask any pet parent, and they’ll tell you the same thing: Traveling with dogs is complicated.

Taking a road trip is one option, but driving can add hours or even days to the journey. And flying, while faster, presents its own set of challenges.

When it comes to pets who aren’t service animals, most commercial airlines only allow small dogs—typically, those weighing up to 20 pounds—to accompany their human owners in the aircraft’s cabin. And, even then, these companies require owners to keep their pup in a pet carrier that must be stowed under the seat in front of them for the entire flight. Larger dogs are relegated to the cargo hold beneath the plane—a terrifying and potentially dangerous experience.

Now, a new “dog-first” airline aims to relieve all that stress. Bark Air, an airline created by the pet company Bark, took its inaugural flight on Thursday, transporting a sold-out plane full of pups and their human companions from New York to Los Angeles.

“Right now, at an altitude of 30,000 feet, there is a flight filled with dogs,” the company wrote on Instagram. “Unlike any flight before it, these dogs are not merely an afterthought, nor are they treated as cargo or a burden to the crew and fellow travelers. Here, dogs are the foremost priority.”

To deliver its “white paw” service, the company is partnering with Talon Air, a private jet charter company that flies Gulfstream G500 jets.

Before takeoff, dogs can snack on treats and wear noise-canceling earmuffs and calming jackets to ensure they have a stress-free flight. Once in the air, flight attendants serve dogs their beverage of choice to help with any ear discomfort as the plane ascends and descends. Pups can choose whether to socialize with other dogs or stick close to their human.

“We think dogs should be right next to you on the seat, getting the same or—in our case—even better treatment and experiences than people do,” Dave Stangle, Bark’s vice president of brand marketing, tells the Points Guy’s Harriet Baskas.

The flights aren’t cheap: It costs $6,000 for a dog and its human to book a one-way flight from New York to Los Angeles, or $8,000 for a ticket from New York to London.

The company’s executives acknowledged that the prices are “cost-prohibitive for most families,” but said they expect the flights to get cheaper as demand increases, CBS News’ Megan Cerullo reports.

“Televisions, telephones, VCRs and DVD players, to automobiles, train and boat travel, and, yes, even human air travel—all of these started with very high prices until demand was proven and the costs could be brought lower by serving the masses,” wrote Matt Meeker, Bark’s chief executive officer and co-founder, in a May letter quoted by CBS News.

United States airlines transported 188,223 animals in 2022, the most recent year with available data from the Department of Transportation. Of those, seven animals died, one was injured and one was lost, resulting in an incident rate of 0.48 per 10,000. That’s similar to the prepandemic rate of 0.47 incidents per 10,000 animals in 2019, when U.S. airlines transported 404,556 animals.

Though the overall rate is low, airline incidents involving pets often make headlines. Even when flights go smoothly, many dogs experience discomfort and anxiety while flying in the cargo hold. To illustrate this point, Meeker volunteered to ride inside a crate in the cargo hold of a plane on a nearly four-hour flight from south Florida to New York City.

“I don’t know why any person would ever choose to do this to their dog,” Meeker said in a video posted on Instagram. “It’s an absolute horror show back here. There has to be a better way.”

Bark is not the first company to offer dog-friendly flights. K9 Jets, which launched in 2022, offers pay-per-seat private jet service for dogs and their owners. The company flies to Dubai, Dublin, Florida, Frankfurt, Hawaii, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Milan, New Jersey and Paris. It can also accommodate cats, though it requires them to stay inside a carrier for the entire flight.

Some private jet companies, including NetJets and VistaJet, also cater to pets on flights. VistaJet, for example, serves “prime cuts of fresh meat and fish” upon request.

“I just don’t understand why the airlines don’t recognize the business opportunity,” Rusty Rueff, who has a French bulldog named Theo, told the New York Times’ Christine Chung last year. “We’ll do anything for our pets, just like we’ll do anything for our children.”

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