Flying With a Pet
Posted on March 8, 2013 by
For many families, a beloved pet is viewed as a bona fide family member. Many take that inclusiveness to the extent that they wish to bring their furry friend along when traveling. Perhaps it's because they will miss the companionship, or maybe it's to eliminate the worry of what could happen if they leave them behind. If you're considering bringing your pooch or kitty along on a trip, this article will give you the basics on what you need to know about taking your pet on a flight.
The first consideration should be to ask yourself if you really need to take the pet with you. The process of flying can be stressful enough for humans, and can be even more stressful for an animal. Though uncommon, pets sometimes die during flights. If checked into the cargo area, they can be exposed to temperature and pressure fluctuations and loud noises. These conditions can exacerbate an existing, unknown medical condition, as is often the case with pet fatalities during flight. If your pet is capable of being aggressive or destructive the airline could possibly refuse to accept the pet for flight, which could disrupt your trip. Rather than taking these risks, perhaps you could find a reliable family member, friend, or neighbor to take care of your pet while you're away. If these options are not possible, there are likely plenty of paid pet boarding services available through many pet stores, veterinarians, and animal hospitals. Make sure to check independent website reviews to see if there's a history of negative experiences with the particular facility to put yourself at ease that your pet will be properly cared for.
If leaving the pet at home is not an option, you should have it checked over by a veterinarian before deciding for sure. Inform the vet of your intention for the pet to fly. Some airlines or destinations require a pet health certificate; in any case it's best to obtain a certificate even if the airline does not specifically require one. Often, it is a requirement that the certificate be issued within 10 days of the flight (5 days if traveling to Mexico), so factor that into your planning. Also, request documentation to prove the pet is up-to-date with all required vaccinations, which may vary depending on the destination. Do not give your pet any sedatives or tranquilizers unless prescribed by a vet for the explicit purposes of flying. These can intensify the respiratory and cardiovascular stresses the animal is already being subjected to, potentially leading to a medical emergency.
Airlines have variations in their requirements for allowing pets to travel in the cabin with you. Typically, the pet must be of a certain age and be small enough to fit under a seat in a kennel. On most airlines, the animal must be at least six or eight weeks old and already weaned. Typically, only dogs and cats are permitted in the cabin; exotic pets such as reptiles and fish must usually be checked into cargo, if allowed at all. Cabin transport is not available for flights to or from a good number of countries.
Animals checked into cargo must be provided with a sturdy, non-collapsible kennel large enough for the pet to stand, turn around, and sit without its head touching the top. The kennel should be marked with "LIVE ANIMAL" labels on the top and sides. Separate food and water dispensers that attach to the kennel are usually required. Certain breeds may not be accepted as cargo. For example, Delta Airlines no longer accepts Pugs or other snub-nosed dogs or cats. Others may not accept exotic animals such as snakes and spiders. Some airlines will not accept pets as cargo at all, such as: Air Tran, Spirit Airlines, US Airways, and Virgin Atlantic. Many airlines will not allow any pets in cargo in cases of extreme weather temperatures on the day of the flight.
Service animals are a special case, and may sometimes be allowed in the cabin. Again, airlines and origination/destination airports may have variations in their requirements.
As with almost anything these days, airlines will likely charge a fee for transporting pets. This could range from $75-150 per pet carrier, per flight. There are usually a limit to the number of pets allowed per flight, and acceptance is on a first-come, first-served basis. So make sure you inform the airline that you are bringing a pet when purchasing your own tickets. To minimize the stresses on your pet, it is best to purchase non-stop tickets. Taking off and landing can be the most stressful aspects of flying, so reducing the number of these would be better for your flying furry companion.
You can easily find the Pet Policy for all airlines by doing a Google search. We have provided links to some airline pet policies below. It's safe to say that dealing with a derailed travel plan because your pet is not accepted on the flight would not be a pleasant experience. Knowing the restrictions for your specific flight and destination will prevent most of the potential hassles, although some may still be out of your control. In addition to researching the airline and destination requirements and restrictions, don't forget to make sure your rental car company and hotel allows pets as well.
As you can see, there are great number of variations in restrictions and requirements for bringing your pet on a plane depending on the type of pet, the airline, and the destination. Of course, the safest option would be to leave the pet at home under the care of someone you trust. But if you decide to take your pet, make sure you do your homework and let your veterinarian and airline know your intentions as soon as possible.
Some sources for more information on pet travel:
Airline Pet Policies