Don't be surprised to see a pet perched at the sharp end of the plane, writes Pamela Wade.

At first I thought she was cooing over her baby - and, in a way, she was. Leaning over the unoccupied seat next to hers in business class on my Air Tahiti Nui flight from Paris to Los Angeles, a young woman was smiling and crooning away at something hidden behind a pillow.

Then the object of her doting attention stirred and, instead of an infant's round head, I saw fur, pricked ears and a lolling tongue.

This, it turned out, was Zorro, a long-haired, black and white chihuahua, and its owner's constant companion.

Nothing was too good for it, so for her to fill out some forms and pay good money for its fare was no problem at all.


Its presence on the flight was no problem to anyone else, either: the cabin crew were delighted with the novelty and Zorro was so well-behaved that few of the other passengers even noticed it was there, despite it spending the entire time on the spare seat instead of in its zipped carrier on the floor.

So how likely is it that you might find yourself sharing your cabin space with an animal?

Not at all, on a flight in or out of New Zealand or Australia.

If you can't carry an apple, there's not much chance of a lapdog - although I do know someone who smuggled a kangaroo joey in her bag on a domestic flight to Adelaide - but in other parts of the world it's entirely possible.

Air Canada, Air France, KLM, Finnair, SAS, El Al, Swissair, Lufthansa and Alitalia are just some that are happy to welcome dogs and cats on board.

Vietnam Airlines delicately states "Only pets in healthy states without offensive smell is accepted", Lufthansa requires a "bite-proof" carrier and Virgin America is specific about "retaining solids and liquids".

I think we can all vote for that.

Zorro's owner had a pad that she took with it to the toilet "but he didn't use it. He doesn't like being watched".

We can probably all sympathise with that, too.

Service animals, incidentally, are exceptions to the airlines' rules, though they're usually sent to the back of the cabin, muzzled and leashed, which seems a bit harsh given the occasional lapses by some human passengers (attention Gerard Depardieu, I'm thinking of you).

All airlines will carry animals as checked-in baggage in their pressurised holds.

It's not just dogs and cats: Alaska Airlines and United are relaxed about rabbits, and many airlines accept household birds in the cabin, presumably in cages with covers to prevent an unwelcome dawn chorus.

Middle Eastern airlines routinely transport falcons in the cabin, hooded and tied by the leg - "but only one per passenger" Qatar Airways insists.

The prize for Most Accommodating Airline has to go, however, to Uzbekistan Airways. They welcome not just dogs, cats and birds, but - wait for it - monkeys, too.

Banana with that cocktail, madam?