LOS ANGELES — For $349, your dog can learn to fly.
Security checks and bumpy air are all in a day’s training at a Hollywood film studio to prepare your dog for a safe and calm flight.
The Air Hollywood class is billed as the first in a real fuselage on a sound stage with a simulator that mimics takeoff, turbulence and landing. Hollywood extras create crowds and chaos that come with terminals, luggage carts and the blare announcing arrivals, delays and departures.
The idea was the brainchild of Talaat Captan, president and CEO of Air Hollywood, the world’s largest aviation-themed film studio, who noticed a dog owner having a rough go getting a pooch through airport security.
“The owner was stressed out and the dog was freaking out,” Captan said. “I figured, ‘Why don’t I train those people?’”
He hired his friend and former actress, Megan Blake, to write a program and teach the class with three other instructors and her dog Super Smiley. An animal trainer and lifestyle coach, Blake also has a psychology degree from Georgia Tech.
With more dogs racking up air miles these days, it makes sense to take obedience school to a new level, said Heidi Heubner, who directs volunteers, including airport therapy dogs, at Los Angeles World Airport.
There are no numbers on how many pets are taking to the skies, but they have become essential parts of a growing number of families and traveling with them for work and play is becoming more common, said Kim Cunningham, a spokesman for the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association in Texas.
It will vary by airline, but there’s always a fee for cabin pets – those under 20 pounds that have to stay in carriers under the seat during a flight. Workings dogs or trained service animals (most airlines also allow psychiatric and emotional support animals, too) fly free, but owners must give the airline documentation and advance notice. The animals sit at their owner’s feet during flights. The class doesn’t address cargo pets.