Airline pet travel, although it may seem traumatic to a caring pet owner, whether in-cabin or cargo, is oftentimes the best way (or the only way) to travel. Dogs, cats and all pets get to their destination quicker and as safely as possible. It should be noted that millions of animals travel safely aboard aircraft every year. Airline personnel make every effort to handle these animals with the care they deserve.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets and enforces regulations for the transportation of live animals. These regulations apply to the pet owner, the shipper, as well as to the airlines. If you decide to transport your dog or cat by air, there are some things to check for in order to be in compliance with applicable laws, and to assure the safest and most comfortable trip for your pet.
If you are traveling with a smaller dog or cat, generally under 13 pounds and 12″ from floor to front shoulder, you should be able to bring the pet into the cabin with you. Always check with the airlines to find out the dimensions under the seat in front of you. An airline compliant carrier is a must. It should have a waterproof bottom, secure fasteners, (zippers) and ventilation on all sides. (These carriers are available at PetTravelStore.com.)
If you cannot accompany your pet, or they are too large to fly in the cabin, dogs and cats typically are transported as cargo or as checked baggage. Sometimes these terms create confusion, but both describe humane means of shipping animals. What is important to know is that you may only transport your pet as checked baggage if you are a passenger traveling on the same flight as your pet and the combined weight of your pet and its crate is under about 70 pounds. (This weight varies by airline.) If flying cargo, your pet may travel unaccompanied, either through the regular cargo channels or through an especially expedited delivery service that several airlines have developed. Many airline cargo departments have specialists in the movement of animals who can assist you with answers to your questions. They are trained to handle your pet with care and are experienced in doing so.
What is important for you to know is that pets traveling as cargo are transported in the same pressurized holds as those in the checked baggage system and this area is temperature and pressure regulated similar to the cabin.
Each airline has its own pet policy, but one thing remains the same. You should call the airline before you book and tell them that you are traveling with a pet. Most airlines will only allow a certain number of pets in the cabin. Additionally, there will be a cost to bring your pet in the cabin with you. If your pet is traveling unaccompanied, then contact your airline’s cargo department.
For more tips on traveling with a pet on an airline, visit airline travel tips.
For airline pet policies for every airline that we can find worldwide, visit airline pet policies.