Pet travel startup wants to improve flying experience for furry friends

CarePod's founder Jenny Pan and her dog Fudge

With airlines tightening their pet travel policy in cabin in light of recent incidents, a Singapore-founded startup supported by Amadeus could be the help that carriers need to provide assurance to passengers flying their furry friends in cargo.

While the growth in pet travel has brought its share of trouble for airlines, it is also translating to big opportunities for carriers that can keep pets, their owners and other passengers happy.

CarePod’s founder Jenny Pan and her dog Fudge

“During the last US recession, the (over US$50 billion) pet industry was one of the rare few that was recession proof and continued to grow organically,” shared Jenny Pan, founder and CEO of CarePod.

“WTTC reports travel and tourism as an US$$8.8 trillion dollar industry. The report does not provide figures contributed from pet travel or related services, but the opportunities in pet travel naturally correspond to those in travel. It’s not like pets take holidays on their own.”

Such potentials have not been lost on one of the world’s leading air travel distributors and technology providers. In October 2017, Amadeus started supporting CarePod through its startup incubator, Amadeus Next.

This drastically changed the course of the startup’s journey. Matt James, senior manager, corporate strategy & business development at Amadeus, said: “Feedback from our in-house experts and airline customers during the incubation period has been crucial in refining CarePod’s business model.

“Initially the startup was focused on a B2C model. However, through iterations with different stakeholders in the industry, CarePod pivoted to a B2B2C approach instead.”

Input from Amadeus Next and the community were also key in developing the technology and features for the pods, which are now available globally, James said.

Today, CarePod provides German-engineered, IATA-compliant smart pods that help protect “pet shipment”, while allowing pet owners to monitor and track their in-transit animals in real time.

Amadeus Web Services has helped improve tracking capabilities by integrating flight and Passenger Name Record information into CarePod’s product.

For Pan, one of the biggest takeaways from the incubation period was access to industry connections through Amadeus’ network of partner airlines.

“Airlines are extremely large organisations with complex structures and it is difficult to find the right department even for people within the industry, let alone a startup from the pet travel industry,” Pan said.

“You will need to knock on a lot of doors before connecting with the right contacts. You have to make sure you are passionate about what you do, because 99.9 per cent of the time it might not lead anywhere. And on the flip side, when you are finally introduced to the right people, make sure you are ready to go!”

Go it did. Last year, CarePod landed its first airline partner, Delta Airlines, which recently tweaked its pet travel policy. The startup is now scaling to meet the demands of other customers around the world.

While pet travel trends are most stark in North America, Pan said these are already rippling out to Asia-Pacific, Europe and Latin America.

Pan believes CarePod will help airlines “carve out a differentiated growth strategy that will see them through the tough times ahead”, attributing this to how recession proof the pet industry has proven to be.

“For airlines, a higher level of pet service and care will elevate the industry’s safety and standard of pet travel, allowing for increased passenger booking, stronger profitability and yield and true loyalty for years to come.”

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