By Alexandra Anastasio
As a member of Air Unlimited’s “flight crew,” Bria has racked up more frequent-flier miles than the average traveler. The six-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever has been flying the friendly skies since she was just 14 weeks old.
Her owners, Charles “Chick” Gregg — one of the airline’s co-owners and pilots — along with his wife Lisa who is a co-founder of the airline, welcomed Bria into their family in 2013. And wouldn’t you know, she took an airplane to get to her new home?
“We flew her back [from Missouri] commercial, through Chicago and on to Orlando,” says Gregg. “It was a pretty long trip for her, but she’s been flying ever since.”
From day one, Bria’s been accompanying Gregg to Air Unlimited’s office. “She loves coming out here and gets disappointed when I don’t bring her,” he says.
Air Unlimited is a boutique airline providing daily flights from Orlando to the Outer Islands of the Bahamas and back, as well as private charter services. It was born just two months after Bria joined the Gregg family.
On the days Bria goes into work, you can find her in one of two places. She’ll either be in the airline hanger (where, Gregg says, if a plane door is open, she’s ready to jump right in and go) or inside the office, greeting everyone who walks through the door.
“As soon as she hears someone come in, she goes out to greet them,” says Gregg. “I hear them saying what a sweet dog she is. They’re petting her, and Bria’s tail is just wagging.”
Bria’s soft touch and sweet disposition have a calming effect, and her relaxed nature helps to reduce anxiety in any nervous flyer. Her presence at the office has helped foster a relaxed atmosphere for the employees and the guests who fly with them.
Quite the jet setter, Bria has flown to such places as the Bahamas, Colorado, Georgia, and the Florida Keys. When she travels to the Bahamas, Gregg says that Bria enjoys walks around the islands where everyone gets to know her.
While many dogs are affected by loud noises and experience anxiety when traveling, Bria isn’t bothered by either. She’s even flown on Air Unlimited’s turboprop planes, which, according to Gregg, make a lot more noise than their jet. But the laid-back pup doesn’t get anxious when flying either of the aircraft. “Bria’s accepted that flying is a part of her life,” Gregg says.
Because safety is critical, Gregg invested in a pair of Mutt Muffs — headphones that protect a dog’s ears from loud noises. Bria also has a simple preflight routine that preps her for departure. Gregg feeds her a light breakfast and makes sure she doesn’t drink too much water, especially before long-haul flights. “We don’t want her to have to go to the bathroom when we’re flying,” he says.
He also carves out time to exercise Bria before the flight — a game of fetch with the tennis ball usually tires her out. While they’re in flight, Bria is usually asleep in her bed at the rear of the plane. When it’s time to land, she heads upfront to check things out.
Familiar Dogs Only
Bria isn’t the only dog who gets to fly with Air Unlimited. Thanks in part to Lisa, who felt strongly that pet owners be allowed to bring their dogs along when traveling, the airline’s pet-friendly policy allows the whole family to fly together.
But there are a few rules. Two pets are permitted onboard per flight, but no two unfamiliar dogs can fly simultaneously — and that includes Bria. “If they are from the same family, they usually get along because they know one another” Gregg explains. “Otherwise we don’t know how they’ll react.”
When you travel with your dog, depending on your destination, there are different regulations you must meet. Flying with your dog within the United States isn’t as restrictive, but you may still be required to have certain documents with you. It’s best to contact the airline before you book your tickets to find out what you need.
These days, Bria has become a bit of a star in her own right. She has a social media presence and was featured in local and national news. After being covered by Good Morning America, Gregg received messages from friends all over the country asking to meet Bria.
It seems like stardom might have gone to her head, just a tiny bit. Gregg says that Bria now wants a raise because “she thinks she’s a star.”