Delta Air Lines Inc. will offer what it says is the first pet-tracking device to reassure passengers who are separated from their beloved furry companions during flights.
Starting Wednesday, Delta customers will be able to monitor their pets in real time, with data on the surrounding temperature and whether the animal is right-side up or sitting askew. The gadget was developed by Sendum Wireless Corp. and will be available for $50 per flight from 10 U.S. airports.
"When things go wrong with a pet, it often goes horribly wrong," said Neel Jones Shah, an airline adviser to British Columbia-based Sendum and a former Delta cargo executive.
Take Ty, the American Staffordshire terrier who escaped from his kennel under Delta's watch and raced out of the Los Angeles airport in October. The pooch hasn't been seen since. His family has petitioned Delta to apologize and take steps to prevent similar events from happening again.
The number of animals that die while in an airline's care has been dropping in recent years. But Delta has had the most animal deaths among U.S. carriers in the past five years, with 51, though it has had only six since 2013, Transportation Department data show.
Delta will offer the new GPS-based device to owners who bring animals to the Delta Cargo facilities at New York's LaGuardia, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Los Angeles, Memphis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Tampa. The service is not available for pets sent by checked baggage at the passenger terminal.
Placed on the animal's crate, the device notes location, ambient temperature and other factors. If the temperature rises above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, for example, it will shoot an alert to Delta's call center. The pet owners also can check on their animal's stats by visiting a website.
A caveat: the system only sends alerts before and after a flight because restrictions on cellular communications prevent it from sending notices while airborne. Still, many of the accidents that cause an animal to go missing or die occur at the airport and not in the air, Shah said.