As the rich travel with their dogs like never before, charters and hotels are lavishing beloved pets with treats from Beagle Burgers to Yappy Hours.
“Last Friday, we went by chopper to Montauk,” says designer Cynthia Rowley of Ziggy, the French bulldog with whom she’s become inseparable after 18 months of Covid together time. Ziggy “much prefers a charter to running for The Cannonball,” the LIRR express train the non-flying masses take out East. The pup has even ventured to L.A. a few times, Rowley says.
While a cosseted few Fifis and Fidos have always boarded private jets and helis with their owners, jet-setting pooches like Ziggy abound this summer. Thanks to the one-percent’s Covid-fueled dog adoption and buying spree, travel consultants are seeing a surge of pet-travel bookings this season. Not only do the wealthy now have more dogs than ever, they can’t bear to be separated from them, either.
Unlike in previous years, about 25% of clients now want to bring their dogs along on their summer vacations, says private-jet broker Tiffany Sessa, whose Brooklyn-based brokerage Regal Wings arranges flights on helicopters, seaplanes, and Boeing business jets to destinations including the Caribbean and the Hamptons.
Sessa has seen it all—including clients who ask for special pet menus onboard. “We’re seeing everything from pampered and privileged” golden retrievers, to small lap dogs, and even families with multiple dogs for whom the traditional crate in the cargo hold of a commercial airline has become blasphemy, she says.
It makes sense. During Covid, pets, especially dogs, “helped us stay safe and provided companionship and a routine to break up the loneliness,” explains celebrity dog trainer Bash Dibra, who counts J. Lo and Sarah Jessica Parker as clients.
During those bleak months, these four-legged friends were “the best therapy.” Once Dibra’s clients started traveling again, “their dogs began to have separation anxiety.” Now, they’re lining up for pet travel training, which starts at $500 per hour. “I’ve never been busier. I’m booked out months ahead!” he notes.
In 2020, the global pet-care market reached $207.9 billion, up a whopping 28% from the year before, according to research by Fortune Business Insights. In addition to dog whisperers like Dibra, a bevy of luxurious hotels and resorts are joining the game, introducing or amping up pet amenities, from spa services to special menus.
Marine & Lawn, a Scotland-based chain of four luxury golf resorts, opened in 2021 with a focus on offering top-tier golfers a full suite of pet-based services including dog beds, treats, and bowls. Dogs can even stroll the fairways with their owners as they play a round—including at St. Andrew’s world-famous Old Course, which just hosted the 150th Open.
And that’s just one example. At designer Kit Kemp’s swish Whitby and Crosby hotels in New York, traveling pups get luxe doggy beds and edible treats free of charge. And at Palisociety, a collection of luxury hotel in Florida and California, guests are invited to bring their cherished pets to Yappy Hour each Friday for organic treats, plush beds, and toys, for a one-time fee of $150 plus tax per stay.
Even the staid and formal Peninsula Chicago, bastion of suit-and-tie business travel, now offers in-room dog massages, Evian water, and a pet menu featuring ‘Beagle Burgers’ or ‘Chihuahua Chicken and Rice.’
“For many of our guests, pets are considered a best friend or a member of the family,” sniffs Vince Reyes, the hotel’s manager. “We want our guests to have the pleasure of traveling with their entire family, should they wish to do so.”
And hotels not offering the latest in doggie perks should be prepared to miss out on business. “I recently had a client who opted to not stay at the most luxe option in Napa just because they wouldn’t accept their dog—and there was no way the dog wasn’t going to Napa!” says luxury travel advisor Brie Shelly of Embark Beyond.
Meanwhile, the cost to bring a dog on commuter or private planes is pocket change for the owners of this summer’s most-pampered breeds. Lap dogs can fly for as little as $50 on Ziggy’s favorite service, Blade, which runs helicopters, seaplanes, and turboprop jets between NYC and the Hamptons. On sister service BladeOne, which operates private chartered flights, fees start at $300.
“We’re launching dog clothes and accessories in a couple of months,” says Rowley. “Ziggy will probably have an attitude and ONLY fly Blade once he’s a model.”