The Lung Association

The Lung Association

June 25, 2009 15:12 ET

80% of Canadians Want Airlines to Offer Pet-free Flights: Lung Association Poll

Survey also finds that Canadians expect action from federal government on this issue

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 25, 2009) - Eighty percent of Canadians believe Canada's airlines should offer some pet-free flights to protect the health and safety of passengers and crew members, according to a new survey released today by The Canadian Lung Association. The findings come as Air Canada prepares to join WestJet in allowing pets to travel in the passenger cabin of airplanes - pet allergens can trigger serious or even life-threatening reactions in people with lung diseases like asthma and COPD.

"If someone brings a dog or cat onto an airplane and there's someone with asthma on board, it can trigger a potentially fatal asthma attack," said Dr. Peter MacLeod, medical spokesperson for The Canadian Lung Association,, "While such attacks would be rare if your asthma or COPD are properly managed, it would take just one fatal case to have these policies reversed, and it's a shame if it comes to that. From our perspective it is better to be safe now with the health of Canadian travelers and air crew, then sorry later."

Air inside airplane cabins re-circulates - it gets recycled through the vents. Because airplane cabins are small spaces, it means that even a small amount of allergen, like the hair, saliva or dander of a pet, can spread quickly throughout the airplane cabin. The allergen in the air can reach every passenger on the plane, even people sitting far away from the pet. For people with allergies who have asthma or COPD, pet allergens can trigger wheezing, coughing, and swelling in the airways - otherwise known as an asthma flare-up (asthma attack) or a COPD flare-up. These reactions can be serious and even life-threatening.

The poll also found that 75% of Canadians believe that the federal government has a responsibility to take action on this issue in order to protect the health and safety of passengers and crew. The Lung Association is calling on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health to examine this issue when the Committee resumes sitting in the fall.

"Canadians are saying quite clearly that the issue of protecting the health of airline passengers and crew must take precedence over a desire to enhance customer service," said Brian Graham, Chair of Chronic Disease Policy for The Canadian Lung Association, "We believe that the airlines should do the right thing and offer pet-free flights as an option. For someone with asthma who has an allergy to cats or dogs, having a pet anywhere in the same airline cabin can trigger an episode of wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath."

"What people do not realize is that it can take a couple of weeks for someone with asthma to completely recover from just one allergen exposure and during that time they may require increasing medications which can be costly," added Mr. Graham, "It can also take weeks for the allergens from a dog or cat to be completely cleared from the airplane following the trip".

The Lung Association has written to Health Committee Chair Joy Smith calling for hearings on the issue of pets in the passenger cabins of airlines and has offered to appear before the Committee on this topic of importance to the millions of Canadians who suffer from asthma, COPD, allergies and other respiratory diseases.

"By large margins Canadians are saying that the federal government has a broader responsibility to protect the respiratory health of passengers and crew," said Cameron Bishop, Director of Government Affairs for The Lung Association, "We hope that the results of this poll will influence the Chair of the Standing Committee on Health, and indeed all members of the Committee, to review this policy decision at federal hearings in the fall."

"We all love pets. This is not about trying to deny people the privilege of travelling with their furry companions. We think we can arrive at an important middle ground that balances the love of our pets with the health and safety of airline passengers and crews" added Mr. Bishop.

In the interim, The Lung Association continues to urge all Canadians with asthma or other respiratory diseases that may be exacerbated by allergic reaction to animals, to ensure their disease is properly managed every day - including when they are planning to travel, and to bring their quick-relief medicine (usually in a blue puffer) in their carry-on luggage.

For more information on lung disease, please visit www.lung.ca.

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About the Survey

From June 23 to June 24, 2009, Angus Reid Strategies conducted an online survey among a randomly selected, representative sample of 1,002 adult Canadians aged 18 and over. The margin of error for the entire sample is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to Statistics Canada's most current education, age and region Census data to ensure a representative sample of the entire adult population of Canada.

About The Lung Association

Established in 1900, The Lung Association is one of Canada's oldest and most respected health charities, and the leading national organization for science-based information, research, education, support programs and advocacy on lung heath issues.

Contact Information

  • The Lung Association
    Cameron Bishop
    Director of Government Affairs and Media Relations
    613-569-6411, ext, 223