Two Kiwi travellers are seeking compensation after being sat, cheek by jowl, for a 13 hour flight next to a flatulent dog.
Gill Press and husband Warren, from Wellington, were flying with Singapore Airlines from Paris to Singapore’s Changi Airport in June, when they learned they would be sharing the journey with a congested bulldog.
Saying they had not been warned of the pet ahead of travel, the Presses said they first noticed the dog’s heavy, fragrant snorting.
“I thought it was my husband’s phone, but we looked down and realised it was the dog breathing,” Gill told Stuff.
Having booked a premium economy-fare they had expected additional comfort, not to spend the trip in a cocktail of dog fart, bad breath and saliva.
Gill said at one point her husband, who was wearing shorts, had his leg smeared with dog slobber.
Airline crew explained that the dog was travelling as a ‘support animal’ with its owner, who was seated in the window. It could not be moved, for risk of the animal getting into the aisle and under the catering trolley wheels.
As the flight was fully booked, the passengers could only be offered alternate seats in economy class.
After initially refusing the downgraded seats, they eventually moved midway through the 13-hour flight.
The passengers who had bought their fare via Air New Zealand said that they were offered travel vouchers, but their demands for a refund had not yet been addressed.
A spokesperson for the Singapore Airlines told the Herald that they endeavour to notify customers who may be seated next to a pet before boarding, and offer alternate seating where possible.
“In this instance, we were unable to move Mr and Mrs Press within the same cabin as the Premium Economy Class cabin was full. Our crew offered to move Mr and Mrs Press to two empty seats in Economy Class, which they accepted after take-off.”
Singapore airlines said they had apologised to the passengers and were on hand to provide “further necessary assistance”.
Singapore Airlines recently updated their terms of service for support dogs on April 1, banning emotional support animals from its cabins.
The airline said it would still honour any tickets booked from prior to this change, though it could not share how many dogs were still booked to travel, “due to confidentiality reasons”.
When can dogs and other pets fly in the cabin?
Approved assistance dogs, such as guide dogs for passengers with impaired visibility or hearing, would still be allowed to fly.
The Presses said the dog was snub nosed and sounded congested, as if it had difficulty breathing. However the dog was not on one of the restricted breeds listed by Singapore’s terms and conditions.
“Assistance dogs such as the one in this case are accepted for travel on board Singapore Airlines flights in cabin, as long as they meet our requirements to travel on board,” said an SIA spokesperson.
Some airlines, such as Air New Zealand, will not fly short-snouted or ‘brachycephalic’ dog breeds on flights longer than 5 hours, due to the difficulty of the animals to breathe in pressurised cabins.
Ticketing partner Air New Zealand, which sold the Singapore Airlines fare, said policy on assistance dogs was up to the operating airline.