Most people would consider their pet as a part of the family. Lovable cats and dogs often get stockings on the fireplace mantel at Christmas, bejeweled collars, and are given gourmet food. Adoring pet owners love spoiling their four-legged companions and only want the best care possible for them. It should come as no surprise, then, when owners wish for their pets to accompany them on their travels. Flying with pets can be complicated; every airline has its own criteria for getting your pet to their destination and it isn’t always the most enjoyable experience for your pet. An owner can help their pet to become comfortable with the procedure by taking the necessary preparations for the flight. With the proper research, you can ensure that your pet’s travel experience will be as simple as possible.
Every airline has its nuances, but generally the pet policies are the same. The airline specifies how much the pet may weigh, where the pet’s carrier will be stored, how old the pet must be, and so forth. Before you book a flight, you should contact the airline you wish to travel with to make sure that your pet can be accommodated. Not all airlines cater to larger pets and most will only accept cats and dogs. The airline is not liable for your pet’s health while traveling, so if you have any concerns that your pet will be exceptionally stressed out during the flight, you should discuss it with your vet.
We have a list of common airlines and their requirements for pet carriers traveling with you aboard the plane. We try to keep them up to date but recommend that you always check with your airline to be sure you have up to the minute information, including hard case and soft sided carrier dimensions. Then you can choose a pet carrier that not only matches your personality but is functional and efficient as well!
Believe it or not, there is an airline designed exclusively for animal travel. Pet Airways considers the animals aboard as “Pawsengers,” and makes sure they travel in complete comfort in the main cabin rather than in cargo space. The owner needs simply to check them in at the kiosk and then the pets are boarded onto the plane in their carriers and flown to the destination of your choice. They are checked on every 15 minutes to ensure their safety. Based in Delray Beach, Florida, Pet Airways was founded by Dan Wiesel and Alysa Binder, two animal lovers who started the company when they found traveling with their own dog to be a hassle. While aboard Pet Airways, owners can check on their pet’s flight status online and retrieve them from a specified airport lounge at their destination.
Unfortunately, Pet Airways comes with its drawbacks. It only services nine cities — Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New York, Omaha, Phoenix, and Washington DC. They have released plans to open up ports in Houston, Dallas, Austin, St. Louis, and Orlando, but the expansion has been in the woodworks for over two years. Likewise, Pet Airways might be a comfortable alternative for your pet over standard flights, but the cost might outweigh the benefits. While it can cost as little as $99 per individual flight on a domestic flight, it can run up to $1,200 per leg on Pet Airways, according to STL Today.
Traveling can be stressful for pets. When you check your pet like luggage, pet carriers wind up in the cargo area, which means the ride could be somewhat tumultuous for your furry companion. The cargo area of the plane isn’t as smooth a ride as the cabin. It could be likened to the back of the bus, where every bump is felt. Stressed out cats have been known to lose fur in clumps, and both cats and dogs make vomit in the crate from the turbulence. In order to reduce some of the discomfort to your pet, you may think that you can give your pet a mild sedative to keep them calm. However, the American Veterinary Medical Association discourages use of sedatives aboard an aircraft because the pet’s natural ability to maintain equilibrium is affected. Respiratory and cardiovascular problems may ensue for a pet that travels at increased altitude while under sedation.
Try to make the trip easier on your pet by booking flights without any layovers or connections. Fly to and from destinations that do not suffer temperature extremes, as your pet will be exposed to the temperatures when being transported to the cargo area on the plane from the airport. Ensure that your pet is in good health to begin with and that traveling won’t make them unnecessarily stressed. While the USDA requires that your pet be given access to food and water within four hours of check-in, you don’t want your pet to travel on a full stomach. Some veterinarians will even suggest that your pet fast for a brief period while traveling, although airlines will need a note from your vet in order to comply. Prior to your flight, give your pet a chance to relieve themselves in the designated area at the airport to minimize the chance that they will have an accident in their crate.