Air Canada bans pets from traveling in cargo hold until mid-September

Air Canada has stopped accepting new requests for pets to travel in the baggage compartment of its flights until Sept. 12, the airline said Wednesday, as major airports around the country face travel delays, flight cancellations and logistical challenges.

Small animals will still be allowed in the cabins of most flights, provided they can lie down in a carrier under the seat in front of the passenger.

Bringing a pet in the cabin will cost $50 for flights within Canada and the US (excluding Hawaii), the airline said, and $100 for international flights.

“Due to current airport delays, for the safety and comfort of pets, we will not be accepting new requests for pets traveling in the baggage compartment until Sept. 12, 2022,” Air Canada said via email in response to questions from CBC News.

“All current pet bookings will be honored.

“This does not affect trained service animals, nor smaller pets traveling in the cabin,” a spokesperson said, adding that the airline often has an embargo on pets in the cargo hold on select routes during certain times of the year, “particularly for destinations where there is extreme heat.”

“For customers booking flights who wish to travel with a pet that cannot be in the cabin with them, there are still several safe solutions available via Air Canada Cargo,” the airline said.

The company did not respond to questions about what conditions would have to be in place in order for the ban to be rescinded. It also did not provide data on whether any pets have been lost or sickened during recent airport chaos.

Air Canada currently leads the world in flight delays

The change comes as Air Canada ranked No. 1 on a list of major world airlines with the most flight delays on Tuesday for at least a fourth day in a row, according to the FlightAware tracking service.

The tracking company said Jazz Aviation, which provides regional service for Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge, took second and third place.

WATCH | Canadian airlines among the worst for delays:

Canadian airlines among worst performers for delays, recent data shows

Canada’s two major airlines have had the poorest on-time performance of the 10 biggest North American airlines so far this summer, recent data shows. However, some experts say US airlines experienced delays and disruptions last year due to a surge in demand for travel, and now, it’s Canada’s turn.

Sixty-five per cent of Air Canada’s flights arrived late on Tuesday, according to FlightAware.

Toronto’s Pearson airport took the top spot for flight delays by location on Tuesday; it was the only airport on the planet to see more than half of all departures delayed.

Given the chaos at Canadian airports, Gabor Lukacs, president of the advocacy group Air Passenger Rights, said the move to ban pets from the cargo hold is “certainly bad for passengers, but in the current situation it kind of makes sense.”

Globally, the airline industry has struggled to keep up with rising travel demand, as airlines and airports look to rebuild staffing levels after thousands of workers left during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hawaii resident Ella Sidlow pets her dog as they wait to return home on a United Airlines flight at San Francisco International Airport in October 2020. (Jeff Chiu/The Associated Press)

The problem, Lukacs said, is that airlines should have known they were understaffed, and that Canadian airports lacked the capacity to handle the number of passengers who had purchased tickets, yet they did nothing to address the situation.

A “high school student with an Excel spreadsheet,” should have been able to anticipate the problems, based on the number of tickets sold compared to staffing levels at airports to handle the traffic, he said.

“Why are they [airlines] selling tickets for flights they can’t operate?” Lukacs said in a phone interview. “You cannot sell a service you know for a fact that you won’t be able to deliver. That is an act of deceiving the public.”