Delta Cargo (Pet First) Live Animal Transfer, Delta

Delta Air Lines wants pet owners to feel more at ease flying with their furry friends and has introduced new GPS pet-tracking technology.  The GPS device is manufactured by British Columbia-based Sendum, and is used to track a range of sensitive shipments for which knowing the exact location and environmental conditions in real-time is critical.

Traveling with pets is stressful, both for the pet owner and the pet. Losing a cherished companion during a trip can be traumatic. It’s also vital to airlines’ businesses to know the status of pets in transit and to avoid situations where their passengers have to suffer such a loss. While US Department of Transportation statistics show an overall reduction in the number of pets who have died or been lost when traveling by air, these statistics depended largely on voluntary complaints filed by owners until last summer. On July 2014, the US DOT announced a revision to its regulations which requires more comprehensive data gathering. The revision also helps protect breeders whose animal cargo was not previously included in these statistics.

Delta’s spokesperson, Morgan Durrant, tells us the change in US DOT regulations was not a factor in the airline’s decision to use GPS trackers in the carriage of animal cargo.

“This was an upgrade of an existing GPS tracking product offering available since 2012 for shipments made via Delta Cargo,” Durrant tells us. “The device is available for many other shipments as well – it’s not just for live animal shipments.”

Airline rules on the carriage of pets vary. Whether to circumvent these limitations, concerned over the risks, or wanting to save on animal carriage charges, more passengers carrying suspect “pets” claimed as legitimate Emotional Support Animals concerns both the industry and groups representing those individuals with legitimate needs for specially trained pets.

Canada’s WestJet addressed this dilemma on April Fools’ Day by briefly introducing its “Furry Friends service” (just for the day).

As an April Fools’ joke, WestJet also proposed that children could be shipped as cargo to ensure a quieter cabin, which would make GPS tracking even more critical.

Comedy aside, to pet owners and passengers who rely on pets as guides or for their well-being, any reassurance airlines give that their pets are safe and sound goes a long way to building an airline’s warm and fuzzy brand. For pet-lovers, this Delta announcement is welcome news.

While Delta’s GPS tracker is used for pets checked as cargo, pets traveling with the airline as baggage are also secure. “Any checked bag can be monitored via the Fly Delta app, including pets traveling as checked bags,” says Durrant.

For a robotic twist on the topic of traveling with pets, read our story, “Pet Robots Tame Anxious Flyers.”