Virgin Australia apologises after passenger accuses airline of 'disgraceful' act

Virgin says it will carry out a review of its cargo processes following the customer's complaint.

Virgin Australia has been accused of "blatant negligence" after allegedly wrapping pet crates in plastic and leaving them in the direct sun on the tarmac, "endangering" the lives of the animals inside.

A horrified pet owner has shared her ordeal after flying with Virgin from Perth on January 8 with her dog, who was travelling in a crate in the cargo area of the plane.

The woman claims she looked out onto the tarmac to see her dog's crate along with three others, wrapped in plastic so that the air holes were covered, and forced to wait in the direct sun "on a 37-degree day" while on the metal trailer for "over half an hour".

Images of the four pet crates, wrapped in plastic on the sides, sitting on a trailer in the sun on the tarmac waiting for the Virgin flight.
The dog owner claims she watched her pet sit in the direct sun for over half an hour on the tarmac. Source: TikTok/Kelfytheelfy

"They hadn't even finished offloading the luggage from the flight prior when they decided it would be a good idea to park four living animals in direct sunlight," she said online. "While my dog was sitting there cooking I asked the staff at the gate if she could contact the ground staff to move the dogs out of the sun." She said they ignored her request.

Following another 15 minutes, the woman says she refused to board her flight until she had seen her dog moved out of the sun and "alive" so the gate staff ended up "running down to the ground to demand they be moved."

Virgin to review cargo processes

When contacted by Yahoo News, Virgin Australia advised the cargo and ramp team have "undergone an internal review of processes"."Both teams have undergone further coaching and training," a spokesperson said.

"We are very pleased these pets are safe and well, but acknowledge our team could have done better to ensure they were more comfortable when travelling with us."

It is understood no animals were injured after the flight, and the temperature was recorded to be 32 degrees at the time of the incident.

A copy of the response email received from Virgin Australia guest relations saying they are 'sorry to learn' about the experience but as the booking was made through a pet transport company she must go 'directly' to them.
Aussies online say the 'denial of responsibility' by Virgin in their response makes the situation 'worse'. Source: TikTok/kelfytheelfy

Emma Hurst MP of the Animal Justice Party and Chair of the NSW Parliament Animal Welfare Committee said it is "shocking" that anyone would think it is suitable to leave animals in this state. "A dog can die within 6 minutes in a hot car, there is no question that the lives of these animals were put at risk, and certainly their welfare suffered," she said.

"This is just another shocking incident that proves we need an overhaul of animals on transport so that animals can safely travel with their family."

Customer accuses Virgin of 'diverting blame'

Immediately following the incident, the woman had emailed Virgin "detailing the event" but was unimpressed with their response which stated the woman must contact her pet transport company instead, who can reach out to Virgin directly.

"It was not the pet courier company's staff putting my dog's life in danger it was Virgin's ground staff," she said.

Aussies slam Virgin Australia over handling of pets

The woman shared her experience on TikTok and hundreds quickly responded in shock, tagging Virgin and asking them to explain.

"It doesn’t take an animal lover to realise the cruelty of this. The heat would’ve been crazy, the fact none of the animals are dead is so lucky," one said. "Their denial of responsibility makes it worse."

"This is absolutely foul," another exclaimed, while hundreds more labelled the incident as "disgraceful" and "disgusting".

Others who had their pets booked in to fly with Virgin have since shared they will be opting for a different method of travel. "If Virgin employees are going to treat my cat with disrespect I'd rather find another way to get her over," one said.

Pets 'very susceptible' to heatstroke

While many different types of pets travel on a plane, two common ones are cats and dogs — who do not respond to heat in the same way humans do according to RSPCA.

We have sweat glands all over our body to help us regulate temperature but they only have a small amount so rely on panting or "external cooling" to cool down.

"Because [of this] we have to be extra careful to provide them with a cool, well-ventilated and shaded environment with access to clean, fresh drinking water," RSPCA states online. "Pets are very susceptible to heat stroke – and it can happen a lot faster than you may think."

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