Let me start off by saying, I am a pet owner. I love my dog, Bailey. My dog loves car trips. My dog has stayed in a hotel. My dog has pranced across the prairies. My dog has frolicked in the ocean. My dog has never been on a plane…and maybe you shouldn’t bring yours either.
Lets be clear, there are exceptions. Lots of them, actually. Moving across the country and a five day car trip would stress Felix out. Sure. Service dog for the blind. Without a doubt. Do a search for pet travel on TripAdvisor and there are literally thousands of people weighing in on the issue of plane travel for pets.
Here are a few considerations to help you decide if your pet should travel by plane.
Is It Safe For My Pet To Fly?
Generally dogs or cats that are considered to be snub or pug nosed will not be allowed to travel, due to potential breathing difficulties. Delta airlines lists 25 different dog types that are not allowed, including English bull dogs, pugs and Shih Tzus. Sorry Bailey, you aren’t even allowed to fly. Himalayan and Persian cats are out too.
Is It Safe For My Fellow Passengers?
Technically, if an animal is secured in a properly sized and inspected kennel, the answer is yes. But what about allergies? An estimated ten percent of the population is allergic to household pets, with cat allergies being the most common. Most airlines will attempt to move allergic passengers, but on a crowded busy flight there is no guarantee. If you are the one that is allergic, call the airline ahead of time. Some airlines will provide a buffer zone that guarantees that pets will not be within a certain distance of you.
Think Twice About Cargo
Most airlines only allow small dogs or cats in the cabin. All other animals, including large dogs, must be sent cargo. Both PETA and the Humane Society strongly advise against shipping your pet in cargo. At best, it’s stressful for your pet. At worst, it’s dangerous, even fatal. Last year alone, on US airlines, there were 35 pet deaths, 25 injuries and 3 lost pets. Generally, the cargo hold does not have the same air conditioning or heating that the main cabin does. This can put Fluffy at a greater risk of being harmed by temperature extremes. Most airlines don’t accept pets in the cargo hold if the temperature outside, at either the departure or arrival airport, is above 29°C / 84°F.
Always do your research. Prices vary considerably, and are usually based on weight. This includes the weight of the kennel itself. Prices are usually cheaper in the cabin compared to cargo. Expect to pay about $125 each way in cabin. A Labrador Retriever in cargo can cost about $400. Always try to book direct. Some airlines recharge the fee if there is a stopover of more than four hours.
Book In Advance
You can’t just show up with your pet. Check your airline’s rules carefully. You will have to pre book and prepay. The earlier you do this the better. Airlines often have limits on the number of pets allowed in the cabin and in cargo. That means if you don’t book early enough there might not be a spot for your pet.
Do the Paperwork
Most airlines require a health certificate certifying that your animal is healthy and is up to date with vaccinations. Usually this documentation needs to be completed within ten days of your flight. Stay for too long at your destination and it needs to be redone before boarding your return flight.
There’s No Guarantee
Even if you have done everything by the book, there is still no guarantee that your pet will be getting on the plane. All airlines reserve the right to not transport your pet. If an unexpected snow storm or heat wave hit, your pet can be bumped. Occasionally an airline has to substitute the plane type due to mechanical problems. Not every type of plane can safely carry animals. For example, Delta doesn’t carry pets on their 757 aircraft. Always have a back up plan.
It’s up to you to decide what’s best for your pet. Whatever you choose, I hope you and your special furry friend have a great trip.