There are no infight movies, no martinis and no music. But the passengers on board this airline don't mind. They get all the Milkbone biscuits they can chew.
"I guess it's an unusual business," said Maryann Waltz, owner of the "Doglift" - a Virginia air charter service catering exclusively to canines.
The company, whose planes are based at the Warrenton airport 60 miles west of Washington, is one of several charter firms in the country that specialize in transporting valuable prize-winning pooches to dog shows across America.
"Only the rich can afford it," Waltz said. The dogs fly in single-engine Cessnas or twin-engine Aero Commanders for 50 cents an air mile - one way.
The idea, said Waltz, was to treat dogs as passengers - not cargo.
"Fly Your Dogs to the Shows With the Pros," says the advertisement for "Doglift," whose professional pilots double as trainers for Waltz's kennel in Locust Grove, Va., near Fredericksburg.
At present "doglift" is only a sideline of the kennel, but its owners are trying to get the business off the ground.
"Well, I flew a German shepherd to Georgia and a Doberman to West Virginia this year for dog shows," said Sherman Joyce, kennel trainer, pilot and copartner of "Doglift."
For canine comfort, Joyce said, the passengers were provided with blankets, seats for stretching out weary paws, a bowl of fresh water and Milkbone biscuits.
"No cocktails," said Joyce. "No coffee, tea or me."
The company does not provide air sickness bags. "They don't need them," said Joyce. "Dogs like to fly."
The dogs are allowed to walk in the aisle, under a flight attendant's supervision, and Joyce said a boxer once sat in the copilot's seat.
Waltz and Joyce said the idea grew out of some owners' fear of flying animals in the cargo holds of commercial airliners.
"When you own a $20,000 show dog, you just don't want to take a chance," Waltz said.
But even Lassie might have trouble paying "Doglift's" air fares.
"Let's see, that's 350 air miles to Atlanta round-trip, so the cost would be $350," said Waltz. "Of course, with groups the price would go down.
A spokesman for Delta Airlines said airfare to Atlanta for one dog would be $18 - if the canine were checked as baggage. If the canine flew cargo, the charge would vary with the weight and size of the container. The spokesman said the average price would be $25 to $60.
According to the spokesman, commercial airlines carry an average of one live animal for each domestic flight. Several years ago, the FAA adopted International Air Transport Association guidelines for the transporting of pets on commercial airliners.
Cages must have proper ventilation, be properly marked, and be roomy enough for the pet to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably. A health certificate is required, as well as a current rabies certificate. Some airlines refuse to carry "pug" type dogs in hot weather because they have respiratory problems.
Delta said the animals are transported in the forward baggage compartment on DC-9 airplanes, and the rear baggage compartment of 727s. The baggage compartments are pressurized, the spokesman said.
"That may be true," said Doglift's" Waltz. "But our passengers fly in the cabin - not the hold."
Another selling point is that "Doglift" will pick up and deliver anywhere in the country.
"We have worked for a few celebrities," Waltz said, declining to name the customers. "But of course, all the famous dogs have their own planes." CAPTION: Illustration, no caption, By Robert Barkin - The Washington Post