Lockdowns opened up in parts of India a week ago and people have now started flying back home. But though strict air travel guidelines allow humans to catch a flight, the same courtesy hasn’t been extended to their pets. Considering even migrant workers, who didn’t have the privilege to take flights and were thus forced to walk long distances, carried their pets along, it’s clearly quite difficult for people to survive social distancing without their furry friends.
So when a woman from Mumbai, who was arranging a flight for a relative, saw that people weren’t willing to travel with their pets, she decided to take the initiative and arrange a private jet just for them. According to The Print, Deepika Singh, a 25-year-old cybersecurity researcher from Mumbai, arranged an ‘all-pet’ private jet to transport pets who were stranded in Delhi back home to Mumbai.
“A few of my friends recently took a jet to Goa and that made me think if the same could be done for vulnerable groups like senior citizens, for whom taking commercial flights could be too risky and pets, who are otherwise transported through cargo shipments,” said Singh to Mumbai Mirror. She then got in touch with an aviation company. “We worked out an all-pet private jet that could transport canines and also birds and other pets that have gotten left behind in the lockdown.”
The plane—to be rented from a service that provides choppers, private jets and luxury yachts on rent—costs a startling ₹ 9 lakh ($12,000), and has six seats, each costing ₹ 1.60 lakh ($ 2,200). She has secured four passengers for the plane till now. When she secures two more, the plane will be ready to take flight—the earliest being in about two weeks.
Among the passengers she has secured is a 58-year-old woman transporting her two 14-month-old Shih Tzus—who were living with her relatives after she had to leave the capital due to a family emergency. “I did not care about money.” said the woman to The Print. “They are like my children. I miss them terribly.” The other passengers are a Golden Retriever and a Lady Pheasant Bird.
The animals would be travelling with one attendant. While there have been instances of animals getting infected by the virus, no consensus has been reached on whether animal-to-human transmission exists. As a precautionary measure, the animals would have to go through COVID-19 checks before boarding, along with the attendant—they will be screened and will have their temperatures taken. Moreover, pets will be transported in this ‘all-pet’ jet just the same way they are transported when traveling with humans—inside cages.
While at the moment, the plane will only transport the animals to Mumbai, Singh might consider expanding the operation to other states as well, if there is demand for it. It’s nice to see such an initiative for pets at a time when many owners are abandoning them. Now if only someone could charter an all-expenses paid private jet for the migrant workers still forced to walk or remain stranded at train stations.
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