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Pets in the Cabin? Japan Airlines Debates Rule Change

Calls mount for airlines to allow pets in the cabin after a January collision at Haneda Airport. But deep-rooted opposition means airlines remain hesitant.



Star Flyer originally only allowed pets to accompany passengers on certain flights. However, the airline has expanded the rule to allow pets on all flights as of January 15. (Photo courtesy of Star Flyer)

Japan Airlines (JAL) announced on January 16 that it was considering allowing pets to accompany passengers on board flights. During the January 2 accident at Haneda Airport, when two aircraft collided, two pets in the cargo hold perished. In the wake of the incident, there have been calls to allow passengers to board flights with their pets. 

However, other companies have taken a more cautious stance following strong opposition to similar calls. Currently, only one airline in Japan allows pets in the passenger cabin.

Online Petitions

After the January 2 collision, celebrities and animal lovers took to social media to discuss flying with pets. Many people even signed online petitions to have airlines change their rules concerning pets in the cabin. In response to these petitions, JAL announced it had begun actively considering the issue.

It is not uncommon for major overseas airlines to allow passengers to bring their pets on board. However, JAL, All Nippon Airlines (ANA), and even low-cost carriers (LCC), such as Peach Aviation, do not. Both JAL and ANA check pets into a temperature-controlled cargo compartment.

Star Flyer's new pet policy is in effect from January 15. (Provided by the company)

How Airlines are Reacting

Star Flyer is the only company in Japan that allows pets to fly in the passenger cabin. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Star Flyer saw fewer passengers flying for business. To attract more holiday goers, the airline began permitting animals in the passenger cabin on select flights in 2022. 

The airline charges ¥50,000 JPY ($333 USD) per pet. Because Star Flyer classifies pets as carry-on luggage, passengers cannot retrieve them in the case of an emergency evacuation. Nevertheless, Star Flyer says, "The service has been well received, with over 300 passengers using it so far." On January 15, 2024, the airline extended the service to all flights and routes.

On the other hand, many on social media also opposed the campaign to allow passengers to board with pets. Against increased calls to change the rules on pets following the incident, many users insisted that "human lives come first."

Aviation and travel analyst Kotaro Toriumi commented on why Japanese airlines have hesitated to implement such changes. "They would have to take into account how this would affect passengers with allergies," he noted. Estimates show that one in every two Japanese people has some form of allergy. This makes it difficult to devise measures for potential in-flight seizures stemming from allergies.

ANA and JAL have operated charter flights that allowed passengers to board with their pets. However, Toriumi says, "There was a lot of negative feedback. Many people even refuse to fly with airlines that offer the service." As he points out, "This general Japanese aversion to bringing pets on board is a considerable obstacle."


For this reason, ANA said it has "no plans to change the rules concerning pets" on its regular flights. JAL announced it is considering the issue objectively and will take time to decide.


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun

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