Flying with your furry friend can sound pretty daunting if you’ve never done it before. With the tips outlined in this article you will be able to reduce the stress of pet transport via airplane.
You will need to make sure you are well prepared and have taken everything into consideration when you are traveling with your pet on an airplane.
The first step is to ensure you’ve gotten a health certificate from your veterinarian within 10 days of departure; as required by all airlines. If your trip exceeds 10 days in length, you would need to acquire an additional health certificate at your destination prior to boarding again.
The second step is to check for new exclusions or restrictions. We will cover fees and restrictions at length in the next paragraph, but it is always a good idea to check if new restrictions or exclusions have been put in place since you last looked.
The third step is to consider how the stress of flying, being in a busy airport, and interacting with a variety of strangers will affect your pet. Make sure you are using the “pet relief” areas, which are required by law, prior to taking off.
Fees and Restrictions:
Each airline has unique fees and restrictions relating to their pet transport service and it is imperative that you make yourself aware of these fees and restrictions.
The most common fee is the cost of transporting your pet which is approximately $125 each way on most major airlines. Another less common fee is related to the weight and size of your pet and the cost varies by airline. For example American Airlines charges $200 each way to treat your pet as a checked bag.
The most common restrictions are on the breed of animal; especially as it relates to dogs. Dogs and cats commonly known as “snub-nosed” and medically known as brachycephalic, are usually not permitted on airplanes due to susceptibility to respiratory issues during flight. Snub-nosed dog breeds include (but are not limited to) pugs, Boston terriers, boxers, Shih Tzus, and Chihuahuas. For cats those breeds are Burmese, Himalayan, and Persian cats. It is not impossible to fly with these breeds, but it is certainly more difficult and something to consider when planning your trip.
Household Pets vs. Service Animals:
Another crucial consideration is whether the animal you are trying to fly with is categorized as a household pet (most common) or a service animal (less common).
Household pets are exactly what they sound like: a pet that you have at your home that does not serve a purpose other than being a companion and providing entertainment.
According to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) a service animal is any animal that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a person with a disability; or any animal that assists persons with disabilities by providing emotional support. By law, service animals must be allowed to be transported with their respective owners.
You may be asked to provide documentation that proves the service animal designation, therefore be prepared to provide documentation if requested. Airlines may also request that you notify them of you and your pet’s travel itinerary up to 48-hours in advance.
Note: Airlines are never required to accept snakes, reptiles, ferrets, rodents, sugar gliders, and spiders.
Cabin or Cargo:
Finally you will want to consider the pet transportation method on the airplane.
Cabin transportation will allow you the freedom and security of monitoring your pet constantly throughout the trip. In order to travel by cabin your pet must be contained in a carrier that can fit underneath the seat in front of you and weigh less than 20 pounds.
Cargo transportation is usually reserved for animals too large to fit in the cabin (20+ pounds). If your pet is flying in the cargo hold, make sure they are crate trained and are housed in a comfortable crate. Be sure to include some of their favorite toys or treats to comfort them through the stressful travel arrangements.