As more and more hotels welcome pets through their doors, airlines are now tapping into demand from the growing number of pet owners in Australia, with Virgin Australia set to become the first airline in the country to allow pets in the cabin during flights.

Virgin Australia announced its plans on Thursday, saying it is subject to regulatory approval and expected to launch within 12 months.

Virgin Australia’s pet policy will be restricted to small cats and dogs, and only on specific domestic routes.

A limited number of designated rows will be available, where pets can be positioned in a Virgin Australia-approved pet carrier under the seat in front of the owner for the duration of the flight.

“Our love for animals has always been in the Virgin Australia DNA and we are excited at the prospect of taking off with Australia’s first-ever pets in cabin flights,” said Virgin Australia CEO, Jayne Hrdlicka.

“Overwhelmingly, our guests tell us they want to travel with their pets, and we are now on a journey to make that a reality. It’s something that commonly happens overseas and is proven to work well.”

Melbourne Airport CEO Lorie Argus said the airport has put a big effort into providing relief areas for assistance animals and that there are ample facilities to cater to this new cohort of travellers.

“Animals being carried on board Virgin Australia flights will be required to remain in their approved pet carriers at all other times within the terminal,” said Argus.

“We expect the pets in cabin concept will prove a popular offering and we look forward to working with Virgin Australia to make it a reality.”

Virgin Australia that there will not be any change to procedures for approved assistance animals travelling in aircraft cabins at no additional cost.