How To Fly With Your Pets


If you are planning for a family vacation and worrying whether to leave your pooches behind or bring them with you, then this article is for you; after all, they are family members. Though there are plenty of options to fly with your pets, the process could be costly and complicated, if you don’t sort out things at the planning phase.

There are two ways of carrying your pets on a plane. First in the Cargo hold and second in the cabin.

Pets in the cargo hold

Airlines such as American, Alaska, United, and Delta allows pets over 20 pounds, to travel in the cargo hold of the plane. Since the cargo hold has to be pressurized to allow pet travel, not all airlines offer this service. So, when you plan a trip with larger pets, ensure that the airlines provide a cargo option for your pets. Though transporting pets in the cargo hold is a safe option, you should be aware that there were incidents when pets got killed, injured, or lost on commercial flights due to excessively hot or cold conditions, poor ventilation, and rough handling.

The benefit of going with this option is that there is no weight limit–you can even fly with your Mastiff as long as he’s in a crate where he can sit, stand, and turn around freely. Special containers would be required for larger animals, which should be large enough for them to move and stand freely. For cargo travel, you may have to buy a crate different than the one you already have, as most pet carrier’s material and design are not suitable for cargo travel.

To transport your pet through cargo, you must also complete all the documentation well in advance. This includes filling out forms for the airlines to submitting a health certificate from the vet. All this documentation work should be completed ten days before the actual travel. It should also be kept in mind while going on a long trip, that you would require a new health certificate for the return trip.

Even after completing all these processes, there are chances that you are still not allowed to travel with your pet. The reason is every airline that allows pets in cargo have certain breed restrictions. Some breeds, specially Brachycephalic dogs and cats may be prohibited from flying, as they may face breathing problems in a low-pressure situation. Some breeds are also not allowed to fly in certain weather conditions. These restrictions are only for the safety of your pet, but it may undoubtedly ruin your vacations. So please contact the airlines well in advance.

Travel fees for transporting pets through cargo hold may start from $200 one-way, depending upon distance, airlines, the weight of the animal. You must book a pet via cargo at least two weeks in advance, to avoid later inconvenience.

You have to drop off your pets at a special cargo location 2 to 3 hours before your flight and also to pick them up at the specified cargo location of your destination. It’s not like you will collect your pet at the luggage counter. So always leave extra time in your travel schedule when you are traveling with a pet.

Pets in the cabin

The other option is to take your pet on the plane with you. Most of the airlines allow pets below 20 pounds to be brought to the cabin in a carrier, which can be placed under the seat in front of you. In some cases, the combined weight of pet and carrier is restricted to 20 pounds. Some airlines also have restrictions for first and business class seats, so check with your airline first before booking your ticket.

The benefit of choosing this option is your pet will be in front of your eyes throughout the journey. But the obvious downside is that your pet must be small to fit in the carrier.

If you have chosen the cabin option to carry your pet with you, you may have to call your airlines and book your tickets ten days in advance. Though you won’t need to book a ticket for your pets, you have to pay the specified charges for carrying your pet, which can vary from $75 to $150 depending upon the distance, airlines, etc.

You have to check-in at the airport with your pet at the specified time. It would be best if you had extra time in your hand as you have to check your pet in at the counter. Your pets need not go through the x-ray machine meant for checking baggage. You, along with your pet, can walk through security together. But your pet’s carrier will pass through the x-ray machine.

On the plane, your pet will remain in the carrier throughout the journey. You cannot take your pet out from the carrier while on the plane or keep your pet or the carrier on your lap. The carrier can also not be stored in the bin. It should be kept in mind that some Airlines have stringent behavior rules for onboard pets, and they can deny you and your pet’s boarding or remove you from the plane if your pet acts aggressively or in a problematic way to other passengers.

Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

Another option to carry your pets with you in the cabin and perhaps the most favored choice is getting your pet registered as ESAs or Service Animal. To do this, passengers need a letter from a mental health professional saying the pet performs a necessary function for its owner.

Service Dogs

Service dogs travel free of charge, without any carrier. They sit on the laps of their owners or stand in the space in front of their seats. But to travel with a service dog, you have to produce your medical certificate and training certificates of service dogs to the airlines well in advance. Service dogs are dogs trained to help persons with a disability such as blindness or hearing disability. So obviously this may not be an option for you at all.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

If you can prepare the correct paperwork for your pet as Emotional Support Animal(ESA) and you have a small dog or cat as a pet, then you may travel with your pet, free of charge. ESAs don’t need to be put in a carrier, and they can sit on the lap of their owner. Please be clear about all the required paperwork about the ESA from the airlines well before the actual date of travel and inform them that you are traveling with an Emotional Support Animal.