Pets and Flying: Is It Worth the Stress, Hassle—and the Risk?
With more pet-friendly hotels and leisure destinations, the idea of bringing our Labs and Tabbies on vacation with us has increasing appeal. Leaving any beloved family member behind seems unthinkable. But transporting pets on planes involves a complicated list of regulations, preparations and fees. It's important to do your homework first.
Maybe you don’t mind all the documentation, health certificates, vaccinations and added costs (from $100 to $500) that flying with pets requires, but can you guarantee them a safe, stress-free experience and a comfortable environment? Unless you’re relocating or planning an extended trip, you may want to think twice before booking flights for a canine or feline.
Up in the air
Peacocks, goats, insects, hedgehogs and other animals (including some breeds of cats and dogs) are now banned from most airlines as emotional support for passengers. After an increase of nearly 75% in emotional support animals in cabins over the last year (maybe due to lower ticket prices and fear of cargo holds), airlines have changed policies “for the safety of flight attendants, customers and trained service animals.” Each carrier has its own set of rules.
Some pets are too big or nervous for the cabin, but cargo-holds can be dark, noisy areas with fluctuations in air pressure and temperature. If you're thinking of checking pets as cargo, consider the following:
- space shortages (especially during heavy holiday traffic)
- weather limitations and seasonal embargoes on the route (if tarmac delays in connecting cities are too hot, above 85 degrees, or too cold, below 20 degrees the carrier will impose an embargo on animals as cargo)
- destination prohibitions (Australia and some states)
- breed restrictions (strong-jawed dogs and "brachycephalic" or short-nosed animals, such as Persian cats, Bulldogs and some mixed breeds, that are vulnerable to respiratory issues and heat stroke)
Up in the air
Flying with pets goes beyond the dilemma of “cabin or cargo.” Heartbreaking stories of cats and dogs getting lost, injured or worse on flights may give pause to bringing along our four-legged flyers. While some pet passengers are easy-going, consider these practical tips:
- book early to plan for limited space for animals
- select a nonstop flight
- research airlines, FAA and Dept. of Transportation regulations
- acclimate pets with crate training before departure
- plan food and water before, during and after the flight
- schedule a vet visit well in advance for all necessary authorizations and vaccines
- obtain approved crates with secure latches and clear identification
Weigh the downside
Traveling with a pet is not as simple as selecting a window or aisle seat. Consider a pet’s disposition. "Puppies and kittens, sick animals, animals in heat and frail or pregnant animals should not travel by air," says the American Humane Association. Other resources on traveling with pets: The American Veterinary Medical Association and FAA information on security screenings.