Pet Travel: Tips on Booking an Airline Ticket for You and Your Pet

Airline pet travel tips for booking tickets for you and your petMany of our pet owners fly with their pets when going on vacation or traveling to see family or loved ones. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2012, 623 million people flew safely in the United States alone.

Whether it be the holiday season or any other time during the year, if you are interested in booking a trip with your pet in the near future, here are some tips for saving money when booking airline tickets during the holidays or any time of the year.

Book online, but always contact the airlines prior to booking your flight to verify there is room for your pet in the cabin or cargo hold of that flight. Online ticket prices will most likely always beat booking on the telephone with a reservations agent. Call back after booking to make a reservation for your pet.

Fly direct. Layover only when there is not a direct flight between your origination and destination cities. Keep layovers to 2 about 2 hours and avoid laying over in the UK and Japan if at all possible when traveling internationally to keep costs down. Do not change airlines if you are traveling with a pet. You will have to claim and re-check your pet. Changing planes is OK; changing airlines is not. It is fine to book a one way ticket to transport you and your pet to your destination and a different airline for the return trip. This can be a great way to save money on your airline tickets.

Consider alternate airports. Oftentimes, it can be easier and cheaper to fly into a nearby large airport, rent a car, and drive to a smaller city. If your pet likes riding in the car, this will certainly be more fun for your pet than landing and transferring to a smaller plane to take off again.

Book your flight about 6 weeks prior to the departure date if possible. Tickets tend to be below the average price at this time.

For impending weekend travel, book on a Tuesday around 3:00 PM EST. This is when the airlines have re-priced their seats on flights for the following weekend. Always verify on the telephone that there is room for your pet in the cabin or cargo hold prior to booking online and notify them after you make your reservations.

Fly on a Wednesday if you are traveling domestically. Business traffic is heaviest on Mondays and Fridays so fares tend to be more expensive on those days.

Take either the first flight out in the morning or the red eye at night. Ticket prices on early morning, dinner time, and red-eye flights tend to be cheaper than flights during normal daytime hours. Just be sure that, if you are flying internationally, your flight’s arrival time is during normal business hours during the week so you will not have to pay extra for a veterinarian to clear your pet.

Check Facebook and Twitter for special promotions. The airlines occasionally advertise special fares on social media. If you find one, move fast, as these bargains go quickly.

Check both large and small airline booking websites. Orbitz and Expedia are good to check, but don’t forget the smaller sites like Kayak which could have differing prices and deals on airline tickets. Also, be sure and check the airline’s website! Many airlines hold certain blocks of seats for their online booking and this can mean lower prices for you!

Fly off season. Transporting during the summer to or from hot weather cities can be challenging due to heat embargo rules. If possible, fly with your pet in the spring or autumn and avoid major holidays if possible. Baggage handlers are especially busy during holidays and time for attention to our pets and their needs may be limited. Tickets also tend to be more expensive during the holiday week due to higher demand.

Become a frequent flyer. These programs have become very popular with airline travelers and can afford significant savings. Some airlines even offer frequent flyer miles for traveling pets!

Be flexible. If you are willing and able to keep to a flexible schedule, your chances of finding inexpensive airline travel with your pet will be greater.

Airline travel can be expensive, especially if you are traveling with larger pets. These tips may help you save money next time you are booking your airline reservations.


Pet Travel: Tips on Booking an Airline Ticket for You and Your Pet — 198 Comments

  1. Hello. Im traveling from Milan, Italy, to Colombo, Sri Lanka with my pet cat. I have made some calls to the Colombo airport but their english is so bad they dont even understand what i’m asking them….. 🙁
    so I dont know which flight to book to travel with my cat safetly. I want him to be comfotrable as possible. Do you know where i find this informations about which airline would allow me to travel together with my cat on the same plane?

  2. I am planning to go to the Philippines by air from the US and bring my dog with me its a golden retriever puppy less than 13 lbs any recommendation or requirements since its my first time

  3. Mieke – as to the differences between checked baggage and air cargo, live animals are flown in the cargo hold in both cases, however, in the case of checked baggage, the animal must be accompanied by an adult passenger and is generally checked in at the ticket counter at the originating airport. With air cargo, animals can be transported unaccompanied and must be checked in and picked up at the airline’s cargo facility. Air cargo is more expensive because the airline must care for the animal during the layover and the transport is totally tracked. If you are concerned with flying on the same flight as your cat, the chances will be better if your pet flies as checked baggage.
    As for your airline, you may want to consider Emirates into Houston and renting a car or taking a short flight to Austin. There is one very short layover in Dubai where your cat will be transited.

  4. In June, I’m traveling from South Africa to the USA for 6 months with my 7 year old cat. I’d like for him to be on the same flights as me rather than traveling separately.

    I have a few questions. Firstly, is one option safer than the other when it comes to having a pet transported as excess luggage in the hold or as manifest cargo? Is there even a difference?

    Secondly, I’d like some guidance on which flights to book. One option is a 23.5 hour journey with one layover. The other is a 32 hour journey with two layovers. The first option sounds like the obvious choice but it’s with SAA & JetBlue, whereas the second option is with Qatar & American Airlines and I’m more inclined to trust the latter airlines with my animal’s wellbeing. If I go with SAA, we will travel for 16 hours, have a 3.5 hour layover at JFK, and then a 4 hour flight to Austin with JetBlue. If I go with Qatar, we will travel for 9 hours, have a 3.5 hour layover in Doha, then travel for 16 hours to DFW, have a 3 hour layover, and then finally a 1 hour flight to Austin with American Airlines.

    I just want to do what’s best for my ginger feline friend! I just want him to be safe, treated well, and as comfortable as possible. Any guidance you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.

  5. Kim – we always advise, the less handling, the better. Pick the non-stop route and get your pet to its final destination as soon as you can. You need to avoid the UK if at all possible if you do decide to stop. Clearing customs there is very expensive and time consuming. It will also mean that your dog will need a rabies titer test no sooner than 3 months before traveling as the EU considers Qatar a high-rabies country. Your dog will also need to fly as air cargo which is a more expensive class of service.

  6. Hi there,

    I’m flying home to Philadelphia from Doha in June. My dog is a rescue from Qatar, so he has never traveled and hates his crate. I am working on getting him adjusted to his crate before we fly. My question is, do you think that flying 14 hours direct is better, or making a long layover in the UK? This would mean a 7 hour flight, 8 hour layover (or shorter if I want), and then another 8 hour flight. I’m just not sure which one would be easier for him. Thanks!

  7. Fenida – the trip is long, but would say that the UAE requires pets arrive and leave the country as air cargo. That said, we would suggest that, if you fly Emirates to Chicago, it is a non-stop flight of 14h 55m. Clear customs in Chicago and proceed on to Indianapolis on American with your pet traveling as checked baggage. This will be a far less stressful option for both you and your pet.

  8. We need to fly from Dubai (United Arab Emirates) to Indianapolis (Indiana, USA) and no matter what airline we take, there will be 2 layovers and thus total flight duration can be over 24 hours. We were advised that our only option is to ship our puppy as manifest cargo. We can not bring her as checked baggage because there will be 2 stops and the flight duration will be over 24 hours. Is this correct?

  9. Sondra – you can find requirements to import your GSD to France here: Your dog can fly with you as checked baggage on American, Lufthansa, Air France, but not Delta or United. You will pick it up at the baggage claim area and clear customs together. If you are flying Air France be sure the flight is non-stop.

  10. Flying from the US to SE France in June with a large German Shepherd. What would we need to watch out for? I’ve never flown international before, I will also be traveling with two young teens.

  11. Cara – the airlines that fly out of Cambodia are not jumbo jets, so your pet’s size would matter. There are more direct routes out of BKK as it is a larger airport. We have heard that Eva Air does a good job with pets and the transit through Taipei.

  12. Flying from Cambodia to Canada (either Vancouver or Calgary) looking for airline suggestions and routes. Dog would be going as excess baggage/cargo. Or would it be better to leave from Bangkok to Canada?

  13. Hey looking at flying my pet dog (yorkie/kingcharles) from ireland to New Zealand. Any idea for best airline. She is 10kg so will have to be in the cargo hold. Any help much appreciated. Thank you.

  14. Hello Lina – there are 2 classes of service for pets flying in the cargo hold: checked baggage and air (manifest) cargo. Checked baggage is when pets are accompanied by an adult passenger. They are checked in at the check-in counter. Generally, their weight should be under 70-75 pounds to travel as checked baggage. Some airlines will allow pets a bit larger.

    Air cargo is for larger pets or those not permitted to travel as checked baggage or for pets flying unaccompanied. They are checked in and claimed at the airline’s cargo facility located on airport grounds, but not the terminal. Because the airlines track there transport and also because they are (more) responsible for caring for them during layovers, the cost is more expensive than checked baggage. Also, if there are demands on the cargo hold, pets flying as checked baggage are given priority over pets traveling as air cargo.

    For a larger dog and depending on the route, the costs for air cargo can be anywhere from double to 10 times the cost of checked baggage. As for Boxers, many airlines will not fly them as checked baggage (or at all), so be sure and mention your dog’s breed when contacting your airline.

  15. Thank you Susan. Now I want to know the difference between flying a pet cargo with someone flying and sending the animal alone?
    Is there any monetary difference? I’m still deciding whether to fly with my boxer on a non stop flight or find a cheaper flight for myself? Many thanks!!

  16. Lina – as your pet is flying unaccompanied, it will need proof of rabies vaccination (if over 3 months) and a health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian. You or whomever will be checking your pet in at the cargo facility will complete an airway bill and list your husband as the consignee. He will need ID to pick up your pet. In the abundance of caution, you can give your husband Power of Attorney to claim your pet.

  17. What papers do I have to fill out as to send my pet to land in COS airport and have my husband pick her up? How could someone that’s not me, her person, pick her up?

  18. hi, i am looking at flying my dog from manchester to paphos cyprus as excess baggage. do you know of any airline
    companies that could do this

  19. Hi! I want to fly with my dog from Gran Canaria to Milan next month. What are the best options to do it? He is 10kg and he has All the documents! Thank you!

  20. Want to fly back to Miami end of September with dog. If forecast is for 85 at time of landing but when I check in it is forecast to 86 or 87, what happens? Lose my money, reroute?

  21. Uschi – Air Canada flies non-stop between the 2 cities, so that is probably your best bet. Lufthansa as well but it appears that Air Canada owns the route.

  22. Want to fly into Toronto from Milan-Malpensa in October. My dog is a white German Shepard – dog passport and health book upto date. What’s the best air transport to use. Would like to fly on same plane direct. Thx.

  23. With Delta, after you’ve booked your flight & reserved for your pet, will they send you a reservation confirmation since a limited number of pets can travel on one flight?

  24. Hello Kim – due to commercial airline regulations, all live animals entering South Africa must do so as air cargo. We are not aware of an airline that will provide service in the cabin or as checked baggage. KLM would be the obvious choice, but their flight takes off mid-afternoon and temperatures will likely be a concern in August. United may be the only airline to get your Beagle out of LAX, but you should probably spend the night in NY as there is a change of airports there. Best to start with United and ask them about their summer heat program and whether they will fly animals in the hold out of LAX and into and out of NY.

  25. I have a 60# beagle mix female spayed dog. I want to fly from Los Angeles to Johannesburg South Africa. I would like to know what would be the best airline to use and most favorable way for her to fly? I would like to leave around the end of August.

  26. Hi I’m going on a trip from SFO to LAX with my dog he is going to be 4 years old and he is about 6.2 kg/12.6lb also we are flying with United airlines and we are going on a round trip so do I have to book it both of the times?

  27. Natalie – you need to book a reservation with your dog both ways, especially if it is traveling on the cabin. Only a limited number of pets per flight. Contact United to do this.

  28. Hi I’m going on a trip from SFO to LAX with my dog he is going to be 4 years old and he is about 6.2 kg/12.6lb also we are flying with united and we are going on a round trip so do I have to book it both of the times

  29. Loryme – contact your airline and tell them you are traveling with a pet. You need to make a reservation for it.

  30. We will go for a vacation on June 26 2017 I already book a ticket on that can I book the ticket for my dog?I have 6months shitzu flight is 3:40 am on that day to zamboanga..can you give me the instructions on how to book my dog and also the requirements..thank u..

  31. Panchanan – you will need to contact your airline to make a reservation for your pet. There are a limited number of pets allowed per flight.

  32. Can you confirm how can book pet flight ticket. I have 5months puppy.

  33. Eric – either a commercial airline, cargo airline or private vessel would be options to get your Australian Shepherd to St. Croix. We are not aware of a commercial vessel that accepts pets other than service dogs to St. Croix.

  34. Any tips on getting myself and a 14-year old Australian Shepherd from North Caroina to St. Croix USVI? I am willing to pay for charter plane, or ride share.

  35. Angela – you may want to start with Flybe as they have non-stop routes between Birmingham and Glasgow. You can contact their cargo department at Ask them whether you can book the transport of your cat directly or whether an agent is required.

    As far as your cat’s stress level, it will likely not like traveling (most cats don’t), but try to get it acclimated to its crate beforehand. That is one of the best things you can do.

  36. I want to fly a cat approx 3.5k plus carried from Birmingham to Glassgow has anyone any idea of prices or how stressed the cat will become?

  37. Pingback: 5 Tips For Flying With Fido - with four paws

  38. On international flights, this may make a difference as your pet and its carrier is normally weighed. Depends on the official at the gate. No way to predict enforcement.

  39. Good job guys!! Do you know what is gonna happen if the dog is a more that 8 kilos? for example 8.3kg or 8.4kg with the kennel?

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