Profiles, The Pet Industry, Transport & Logistics

Furrst class: Meet the Aussie startup partnering with Delta Airlines to revolutionise pet travel

Dominic Powell /

pet travel

CarePod founder Jenny Pan and her dog Fudge. Source: Supplied.

After moving to Singapore with her dog in 2014, Australian startup founder Jenny Pan came to a sudden realisation: what airlines use to transport pets hadn’t been changed in 45 years.

“They look a bit like laundry baskets — they’ve got those metal mesh doors. It’s a very typical crate design,” she tells StartupSmart.

“Those crates were designed in the 1970s, and they haven’t changed since.”

A former corporate marketing manager, Pan quit her job and put all her time into redesigning the pet travel experience, launching CarePod, a startup which provides comfortable, “first class” travel for our furry friends.

But re-designing a nearly 50-year-old piece of hardware is harder than it sounds, so with the help of local startup support network Muru-D, Pan took her idea to the US first in hopes of attracting ex-NASA engineers to work on the product.

“But I couldn’t get any on board, so we ended up in Germany working with an engineering consultant who’d worked with companies like Mercedes-Benz,” she says.

“While we were working with them, they kept being so surprised when they realised the crate design hadn’t changed in 45 years.”

With these engineers, Pan designed the company’s physical product: the CarePod itself. The new-age crate has multiple layers of protective walls, dimmed lighting to reduce the pet’s stress levels, and a built-in water supply.

The pod also self-regulates its temperature, something Pan explains was an essential factor in making the animal’s experience more pleasant.

“As humans, we go and wait inside in the airport lobby, but that’s not what happens to pets. Depending on the booking process, they might move through the baggage system, or through a controlled animal system,” she says.

“But this means they might be moved from an airconditioned warehouse to an extremely hot or cold tarmac, where they might wait for 15-20 minutes. The pod is designed to buffer away those extremes so it’s better for pets.”

The company also has a software side to the business, which connects to a number of IoT devices inside the pods, allowing the airline to manage and monitor the animals.

Delta partnership spells success

CarePod is a B2B startup, which means the everyday pet owner can’t buy the company’s pods (yet), however, the company is working on locking down partnerships with major airlines across the world.

One such airline the business has cemented a partnership with is $40 billion US aviation behemoth Delta, who Pan says will be the company’s launch partner.

Landing a client like Delta required an indirect approach from Pan, who notes how hard it is for startup founders to find the right person to speak to at a company the size of Delta.

“We were connecting with different parts of Delta, always trying to find the right person to speak to. It was impossible for us to drill down and find the person we needed to find,” she says.

Instead, Pan let them find her, attending numerous pitch events and startup and aviation conferences. Eventually, an internal team from Delta reached out to the startup, and the two joined forces to get the ball rolling on changing pet travel on a global scale.

“It was a huge win for us. We’re still in shock a year on,” she says.

“This partnership will make it easier for all pets and hopefully move the industry forward. Once there’s one airline taking it up, all of them should follow suit.”

“Our goal is to expand to help pet owners in all parts of the world, and make this tech the industry norm.”

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the former features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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