Tips for Flying with Your Pet

Although many pets regularly fly on commercials airlines all the time, the idea of trusting your best friend’s safety to other people can be a bit scary. Thousands of competitive show dogs, performance sports dogs, and treasured family pets fly successfully every year, though there are a few mishaps. But don’t let that scare you away! It takes a bit of preparation and research before flying with your pet, but there’s more than a great chance both you and your furry friend will make it through without any hiccups.

Dog waiting at airport terminal

Do Some Research

Not all airlines are pet friendly, and some have better reputations than others. If you have a tiny dog or cat that can fit under the seat, you will still need to know whether the airline you are planning to travel on allows pets in the cabin. Plus, many airlines limit the number of animals in the cabin, so you may need to book your flight significantly ahead of time.

If your dog will be traveling in the cargo area, do some online research as to whether the airline you’re considering using has had problems with dogs being shipped in cargo. One site to check out is www.faa.gov/travelers/fly_pets/.

Many airlines have restrictions due to weather, both very cold and very hot; any weather that would put dogs at risk during loading, off loading, and sitting on the runway. For example, American Airlines does not fly dogs into or out of Phoenix, AZ, Palm Springs, CA, Las Vegas, NV, or Tucson, AZ between May 1st and Sept 30th. They plainly state there are no exceptions. Other destinations may have similar restrictions due to weather, so make sure you check ahead of time.

Many airlines also have breed restrictions for both dogs and cats. Those with short muzzles, such as Persian cats and Pug dogs, are prohibited by some airlines. Extra large dogs, such as some Mastiffs, are prohibited or are charged extra. Some guardian breeds known to be more protective (or aggressive) are not allowed by airlines. As these restrictions can change (as United Airlines restrictions recently did), check when you make plans and reservations and then check back before your flight.

Cat in travel carrier

Your Pet’s Crate

Check on what your chosen airline requires regarding crates both for in the cabin and in cargo. The size of carry on crates to fit under a seat are very specific and there are no exceptions. Your pet and his carry on cannot be on your lap, in the aisle, or where your feet are so check the airline’s website for specifications.

When your dog is going to travel in cargo, his crate must be large enough for him to stand and sit erect without hitting his head on the inside top of the crate. He should also be able to lay down comfortably.

The other requirements may vary from airline to airline. American Airlines, for example, says crates may be rigid plastic, metal, or wood with a metal grated door. They must be leak proof and escape proof. They must have good ventilation, and if the crate has wheels, they must be completely removed. There are a number of other requirements, including fasteners, top loading kennels, and folding kennels.

In the crate, for the flight, put some dog potty pads on the bottom in case of any accidents. A thick, fluffy towel can serve as bedding. Most airlines require two dishes mounted to the inside of the crate door; one for water and one for food. You can also tape a zip lock bag of dry food to the top of the crate. The crate should also be prominently marked with ‘Live Animal’ stickers and ‘This side up.’ Tape any instructions, your dog’s name and destination, your name and destination, your cell phone number, and any other pertinent information to the top of the kennel.

Small dog playing fetch with owner

Get Your Pet Ready

Your furry friend will need a health certificate issued by his veterinarian within ten days of his flight. Make sure you also have copies of his vaccinations, including the rabies, and a copy of his license.

Set up the crate in the house, especially if the travel crate isn’t his normal daily use crate, and let him get used to it. Feed him in it and let him spend a few nights in it so it’s no longer strange.

On the day of the flight, make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise before leaving for the airport. Play ball or go jogging so he’ll be more apt to nap in his crate. Make sure he’s got on a collar with identification tags. Take him for a potty break before going into the airport.

Small dog in toy airplane

Ask Questions!

Find out ahead of time where to arrive with your pet, where to bring him, his crate, and his paperwork, and where to check in. Where can your dog make one last potty stop. Some airports, like San Diego’s International Airport, have a dog restroom/potty area.

Can you watch him be loaded and if so, where? As you board the flight, tell the flight attendant your dog is below in cargo. Put a real face to this so people are aware. She can tell the pilot.

Find out where to meet your dog on the other end. This is especially important if you don’t know that airport well.

If you have any other questions, ask them! Ask lots of questions. After all, you are trusting this airline with your best friend.

By: Liz Palika

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