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Sun Country: Pet fee price hike (and an ugly twist on the walk-up)

I learned this morning that Sun Country has changed its in-cabin pet policy in two ways. Previously, they’d said their in-cabin space for pets was “limited” — now there’s a maximum of 4 pets per flight. At the same time, they hiked their pet fee from $100 each way to $125 (for an “advance conditional reservation”) and $199 (for passengers who don’t have an advance reservation).

I was initially worried about the word “conditional,” but it appears to refer back to Sun Country’s existing policy of accepting small dogs and cats “conditionally,” presumably reserving the right to cancel the reservation if the pet doesn’t meet the airline’s list of requirements.

Presumably Sun Country figures that it can charge $125 because American, Delta, United and U.S. Air do too. But why not follow Frontier’s lead, which in turn followed Southwest’s lead, charging only $75 a flight? (Why not, in fact, follow Frontier’s lead in allowing a range of small pets on board?)

My disgust over the new $199 fee option is not personal, since I’ll never pay it. I’d never show up without an advance reservation — and I have to praise Sun Country for being one of the U.S. airlines that really does reserve a spot for your in-cabin pet when you arrange it. It vexes me because it throws a spotlight on the fact that airlines charge these high fees simply because they can. You are not purchasing extra space for your pet, because your pet takes the place of your carry-on. You are not buying passenger-quality care for your pet, because she’s required to stay in her carrier under the seat, it’s up to you to keep her hydrated, and most airlines warn that oxygen will not be administered to your pet if she has a health emergency. You are not paying for clean-up after her, since she’s required to stay completely enclosed in her moisture-proof carrier — and in fact, there is no special cleaning done around a pet traveler’s seat. Perhaps Sun Country would say that it’s trying to motivate passengers to make advance reservations for their pet — but what real difference does it make to the airline if the 4-pet quota is filled in advance, or on the day of the flight? No, this is a cynical, ugly move, designed to take advantage of a pet owner’s ignorance (or lack of forethought) and desperation.

2 comments

  • Kari

    I totally agree! I cant believe how much they charge for a pet that stays under the seat. I wish there was something we could do about it!

  • Hi, Kari — It occurred to me, after I finished writing a guest post for another site about the colliding worlds of pet travelers and airplane passengers with pet allergies, that the cost of an in-cabin pet is maybe best viewed as the price for keeping an in-cabin pet option open for pet travelers. As long as the airlines are getting a noticeable amount of money and positive feedback from allowing pets to travel in-cabin, they’ll keep offering the option — and there is a vocal group opposed to pets in cabin….

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