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Bark Air, a new airline for dogs, set to take its first flight

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Bark Air, a new airline that puts dogs before their human companions, will take its first flight Thursday. Its sold-out maiden voyage will depart New York for Los Angeles at 4:00 p.m. EST. 

Bark, a pet company founded in 2011 that sells dog food and other products, announced the new aviation experience for canines in April. It's the second air travel service to market itself as catering to pets before human passengers, recognizing how stressful and uncomfortable commercial air travel can be for animals. United Kingdom-based public charter operator K9 jets also lets passengers' pets travel next to them in the aircraft cabin, versus in crates in commercial aircraft cargo holds.

"We are excited to take the insights we've learned over the years to create an experience that is truly dog-first, which is drastically different from just accepting dogs – from the ground to the skies," Bark co-founder and CEO Matt Meeker said in April. "We believe this initiative will elevate awareness of our brand's mission and values, introduce more dog lovers to the Bark family, and help enrich the lives of dogs and their people around the world." 

The first flight from New York to Los Angeles Thursday is sold out, according to Bark's booking website. The company said it launched the air travel experience to make long-distance travel more comfortable for dogs that don't fit under the seats in front of passengers on commercial aircraft. 

"Too often, dogs are denied travel, confined to a duffle bag, or endure the stress of flying in cargo," the company said in announcing the flights in April.

A golden retriever boards a test flight ahead of Bark Air's first scheduled commercial flight on Thursday, March 23, 2024. Joe GALL

Bark Air says it will offer "white paw service" to its canine customers — who'll even get to socialize with other dogs in what the company calls a "dog-centric" cabin configuration. Like first-class human passengers, dogs on board will be offered treats, noise-canceling ear muffs, a beverage of their choice and other surprises, the company said. 

Initially, the service will fly between the New York City metro area and Los Angeles, as well as from New York to London. More routes will be added soon, the company said. 

Bark Air will operate as a public charter service, flying on spacious Gulfstream G5 jets. It does not own or operate any aircraft. Each dog ticket comes with a pass for one human. Families may also purchase additional passes. Children under the age of 18 are not permitted aboard. There are no size or breed restrictions for dogs. 

The Gulfstream G5 aircraft Bark Air uses accommodate 15 passengers, but the carrier only sells 10 tickets per flight. Joe GALL

The service doesn't come cheap. A one-way flight from New York to Los Angeles in June costs $6,000 for one dog and one human. A New York to London ticket costs $8,000. 

Meeker acknowledged the service's high cost in a May letter, but said he expects prices to come down as demand climbs.

"This is cost-prohibitive for most families, but less expensive than most options today. And this is also how most innovative products and services began," he said. "Televisions, telephones, VCRs and DVD players, to automobiles, train and boat travel, and, yes, even human air travel — all of these started with very high prices until demand was proven and the costs could be brought lower by serving the masses."

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