Clear and proactive communication: A purr-fect response to emotional support pet requests
There have been lots of headlines about people bringing ‘emotional support pets’ - such as ducks and pigs - on aeroplanes recently. As this is a very visual story, it’s little wonder that these images of animals on flights have been going viral, with a huge amount of shares on social media sites.
This chain of events has inspired scores of people to bring their own animals on planes, with United Airlines experiencing a 75% increase in people requesting this kind of special travel arrangement. Unfortunately these requests cannot always be accommodated by airlines, so it’s only natural that stories have emerged about people turning up at airports with animals, only to be turned away at the gate. In addition to potential negative headlines that could be generated if customers are turned away, airlines risk damaging customer relationships in the longer term.
As such, the onus is on airlines at this time to remove all element of doubt, communicating cold, hard facts with customers. After all, they have already seen a rise in this kind of request recently, so they’re aware it’s something that customers want information about; by making the answer as clear as possible, they will make customers’ lives easier, and also cut the amount of inbound requests they have to deal with. Tactics they can use to do this could be as simple as sending a clarifying email message, or thinking about how they can make the information even more obvious/easy to find on their website. Laying out the key facts in this way will ensure passengers do not face heartbreak at the check-in desk.
Looking to the future, if the idea of emotional support pets on aeroplanes proves to be a longer-term trend, rather than a short-lived craze, airlines can explore the possibility of delivering value-added services in this area. For example, they could help people decide what to do with their pets if they are not allowed to travel, such as recommending local kennel services, and maybe even find ways to ensure emotional support can still be given, such as providing a video link to the pet during the flight. Of course all this lies way further down the line, but for now, the most important thing for airlines is being as clear as possible, so that any potential doubt/confusion is removed, giving customers the facts they require about taking animals onto a flight.