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Dog is my co-pilot: Pet Airways arriving soon in Colorado

I had a lot of time to think about my dog yesterday afternoon while waiting at Denver Police headquarters to clear an active warrant for my arrest. My crime: missing a court appearance on an off-leash dog ticket. My accomplice: a six-year-old beagle named Jacques.

Seeing as how we were both wanted criminals, I began considering ways we could skip town if things got hot. By bus? No, they'd be expecting that. By train? No, Jacques would sneak into the dining car and blow our cover. Air was a possibility, except a beagle head sticking out of my carry-on might be a little conspicuous.

Oh, if only there were an airline that catered specifically to dogs! And if only said airline were called Pet Airways and chose Denver as one of its inaugural flight cities!

Luckily, my beagle and I won't have to barricade the front door just yet -- put down the gun, Jacques; leave it! -- because there actually is a Pet Airways that will soon be offering first-class plane travel for dogs and cats.

No, really. Dan and Alysa Wiesel of Delray Beach, Florida came up with the idea while flying across the country with their Jack Russell Terrier, which is over 15 pounds and thus relegated to the cargo hold in the plane's underbelly.

"We were very uncomfortable with the whole situation. We felt a lot of trepidation," Alysa says.

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She says Pet Airways will transports dogs and cats in 19-seat turbo-prop planes operated by Suburban Air Freight. All of the seats are removed and the "private pet carriers" (i.e. crates) are secured along the walls. No owners are allowed. Instead, pets are booked online and checked in at an airport Pet Lounge where they will always be with an attendant and given a "potty break" before takeoff. Owners can follow their buddy's progress via an online Pet Tracker. Oh yeah, pet owners are "pet parents" and traveling pets are "pawssengers." Very fancy names. My dog just knows me as "food delivery device."

"We wanted to offer a completely different service than cargo," Alysa says. "We wanted to give them an easier experience where they're in the main cabin, it's climate controlled, it's well lit, there's a pet attendant on board. They're not relegated to be luggage."

The first flight is scheduled for July 14, and will serve regional airports in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles and Denver, where they will be flying from Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Jefferson County. The introductory rate is $149 one-way. Apparently, on the first day they allowed reservations the demand was so huge it temporarily crashed their server. They hope to expand service to other airports and eventually start accepting exotic pets like snakes and birds.

And if I don't make my next court date, they might even start flying some beagles on the lam.

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