The term cattle class has just taken on a new meaning.
Often used to refer to the economy rows of an aircraft, in New York's JFK airport you might also now apply it to the pampered pets making their way through the world's first privately-owned animal terminal.
Opened this week, the Ark cost US$65million ($90m), takes up 178,000 square feet and expects to ensure safe passage for some 70,000 animals a year, from cats and dogs to horses and more exotic species. Early posts on its social media accounts have given a glimpse of some those first to check in.
Turbar's Curiously Inquizative...a.k.a. George! He's competing in the #wkcdogshow and we had the honor of having him stay with us at #arkjfk! We want to wish him the best of luck this week! @westminsterkennelclub
The 24-hour facility, the first of its kind in North America, will become fully operational by the summer, with further equine, aviary, veterinary and grooming elements to follow.
The Ark Pet Oasis that opened this week features pick-ups, food and drink, micro-chipping and is soon to offer, if approved by the United States Department of Agriculture, services during quarantine periods, which can take weeks. There is also a premium option for owners of individual animal reports, "including photograph and information of activity". A Paradise 4 Paws option boasts "premium bedding and nightly tuck-in service" for dogs and "window perches in select bungalows" for cats. There is also a pet spa that offers "hot oil treatments, mud paths, pawdicures and pet tattoos".
The first guests at the Pet Oasis were a group of Korean puppies springer spaniel travelling from Atlanta to Bangor, according to the New Yorker.
"Transporting live cargo by plane can be a complex and arduous process for owners and animals alike," said John J Cuticelli, the Ark's CEO. "Our goal is to create a more efficient and safe process by reducing the need for additional travel and offering trained animal care staff immediately pre- and post-flight."
Though most airlines and airports have areas designated for pets, the Ark says it is streamlining pet travel, taking care of cargo requirements, quarantine and customs. It will also provide specialist care for pets, rather than leaving them to be transported by baggage handlers who are trained to deal only with inanimate luggage.
In a bid to attract business, the Pet Oasis will be available for a basic accommodation fee of US$125 ($174), similar to, it says, the average cost of a kennel or cattery in New York, while services for horses could cost up to US$10,000. The Ark estimates it might generate US$108million in revenue over its existing 30-year lease deal with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
JFK is New York's primary airport and the fifth busiest in the US, handling some 57million passengers a year.