Pet Travel: Keeping your pet calm during airline in-cabin travel

Cat in carrier in airline cabinYou are flying, your pet is traveling with you in the cabin of the airline, and, unless you have done this before, you have no way of knowing how your pet will travel. The last thing you want to deal with is a howling cat or a wimpering dog for hours until you land. So what can you do to keep your pet quiet during the flight?

The first thing to consider is that, under no circumstances, can you remove your pet from its carrier during the flight. However, the key here is to keep your pet calm, to isolate them from all of the crazy activity of people loading their gear in the overhead compartments and finding their seats. This is the perfect opportunity to keep your pet in its carrier on your lap, turn it towards the window, and hug it tightly (if your pet allows for hugs) and stroke it through the carrier (assuming you are using a soft sided carrier which we highly recommend). Keep your voice low and close to your pet while assuring it that everything will be ok. Lots of “good girls” and “good boys” are certainly a welcome sound for a nervous pet.

The attendents will tell you that your pet must be stowed under the seat in front of you during take off and landing and we must all comply with that. Hopefully, your pet is laying down at this point because you need to get the carrier under the seat in front of you. Leave the carrier between your feet for a minute and then slowly slide the carrier under the seat all the while offering plenty of vocal assurances.

Once the plane is in the air, you should be allowed to keep the carrier between your feet. If your pet is fussing, offer them a pet calmer by unzipping the carrier an inch or two and extending the treat to your pet. This should calm them down. The drone of the engines should encourage them to rest unless there is too much activity in the cabin. You should be able to extend a finger or two into the carrier for a head scratch so that your pet will know that you are still there. Also, a finger tip that has been dunked in a glass of water is a good way to keep your pet occupied.

Because you are traveling, you have not given your pet a full meal, so offering one piece of chow at a time can keep you connected with your pet as long as they will accept it. Don’t feed them too much; the object here is to keep them occupied, not to fill their belly. Remember not to open the carrier so that your pet can escape. This will never turn out to be a good thing.

Other tips for traveling pet owners: put a worn t-shirt or piece of your clothing with your scent on it in the carrier with your pet. Your scent is very calming to your pet. Pack light so you don’t have to fumble with other luggage and can move quickly to turn your attention to your pet. Groom your pet prior to travel. A clean, well groomed pet is a happier traveler. Also, try to prepare in advance for your trip. Get your pet accustomed to being in the carrier. It will pay off on travel day.

Pet travel on an airline can be challenging, but use a few tricks and a lot of love, and your pet will do just fine.


Pet Travel: Keeping your pet calm during airline in-cabin travel — 254 Comments

  1. Oxana – in order to fly in the cabin, your dog must fit in an airline-compliant pet carrier that is no larger than the airline specifies because your pet must be stowed under the seat in front of you or the seat next to you. If your dog is too large to fit in a carrier, it must fly in the hold. Susan

  2. Can I buy an extra sit for the crate with my dog in it .? My west highland terrier is too big to go under sit . I don’t want to fly it in Cargo . Flying by Turkish Airlines from USA to Moscow

  3. Katie – when selecting an airline to fly your pet, the route matters. Direct routes are preferred and changing airline companies along the way will cause issues. You can try Turkish Airlines out of JFK or LAX as they fly the route entirely; however, they no longer accept ESAs. (most airlines don’t anymore). Your dog will need to fit in an airline-compliant pet carrier and will be subject to pet fees. Susan

  4. I am moving to Thailand from the USA with my ESA shih poo dog and I was wondering if you could recommend which airlines are best to accommodate us on such a long journey and if any will allow for me to have her in business class.

  5. Dawn – the airlines do impose restrictions on dogs flying in the cargo hold during both cold and hot weather. The temperatures must be between 45 degrees F (7 degrees C) and 85 degrees F (30 degrees C) at all airports involved in the transport (this is the temperature range for non-snub-nosed pets). If the temperature falls below 45 degrees F, many airlines will accept acclimation certificates from the veteriarian attesting that the dog is accustomed to lower temperatures. Obviously, this is not recommended for short-haired dogs.

    As far as accompanying the dog, it is always better (and easier) for the owner or owner’s representative to travel with the dog. The regulations to import a dog to Germany can be found here and note the differences in step #5 for commercial and non-commercial transport:

  6. My daughter will be going to Germany. She just adopted a lab mix about 59lb We were planning to fly her there in January . I believe because of her size she will have to be cargo. Are there restrictions due to cold weather? Any precautions ? Would it be better for her to take her with her in November ?

  7. Danny – the answer to your question really depends on your airline’s pet policies. You can find more information here for ESAs for most major airlines: We will say that most airlines will allow smaller ESAs to fly in their owner’s lab as long as they don’t interfere with cabin operations or the passenger next to you.

    We would also note that ESAs are subject to the same regulations to enter Mexico as other dogs. You can review those requirements here:

  8. Hello Admin,
    I am flying with my 2.5 year-old dachshund, Chico to Mexico and this would be his first time on an air plane. He is an emotional support boy and I am wondering if he’s going to be allowed on my lap or if he has to be inside a travel bag? Thank you!

  9. Rajiv – one option would be to fly Air India to Mumbai, then Turkish Airlines will get you and your Lhasa Apso to San Francisco. You can clear customs and take a flight to SFO. United flies the route. We do not see an obvious in-cabin option from Hyderabad.

  10. Hi. I am planning to take my 7 kg Lhasa Apso from Hyderabad (India) to Seattle in cabin. Can you suggest which airlines to take and the process for taking her with me. Thanks in advance.

  11. Bhaskar – you can find requirements to import your Lhasa Poo to India here and there are links to further instructions and forms if you need them: Your pup will need a Notice of No Objection that must be secured by someone in India. Your export health certificate for India must be endorsed by your State USDA office.

  12. I have a 6 month old Lhasa poo, and we are planning on taking her in cabin from LA to Bangalore. What airline options do I have? Also I am not sure how will she take such a long journey? Any suggestions will help? Also we only have about 30 days to plan this, is that enough?

  13. Swati – you can find step-by-step requirements to import your Pug to Bangladesh here and there are links to further instructions and forms if you need them: Air India allows pets in the cabin. They do have 2 stops along the route. It is important to keep Pugs out of the cargo hold due to their snub-nosed condition.

  14. I am travelling from India to Dhaka, Bangladesh can I take my pug who is 6 years old with me . Does Bangladesh government allow it and also can I take him as a cabin baggage.

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