What’s a family vacation without your fluffy companion? If man’s best friend is preparing to hit the skies with you, a few extra steps may be necessary in order to ensure that you, your pet and your fellow passengers have a great flight!
Take Your Pet’s Breed and Health into Account
Before you book your flight, take your pet’s health into consideration. If your animal is very young or old, pregnant or sick, it may be best to leave them at home. Additionally, some breeds with ‘pushed-in’ faces, including bulldogs, pugs and Persian cats, should not fly because they are more prone to respiratory issues at the high altitude. For a complete list of federal requirements when flying with pets, visit the DOT’s Traveling with Pets page. Ultimately, you know your pet the best and can make the best decision for you and your family.
Check on Your Airline’s Pet Policies
Most airlines permit small pets to be carried onboard in the passenger cabin and larger or exotic pets to be checked and safely transported in the belly of the plane. However, these policies can slightly differ with each carrier. Check your airline’s website for information or call the customer service line for answers to more specific questions. Our members’ pet pages are listed below:
- Air Canada
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- jetBlue Airways
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
Most airplanes have a maximum amount of live animals allowed in the cabin so be sure to inform your airline that you plan to carry-on your pet and reconfirm 24-48 hours ahead of departure.
Prepare Your Pet for the Journey
Since your pet will have to be transported in a kennel, it’s always a good idea to familiarize them with the space a few weeks ahead of the trip so they’re comfortable there. The kennel must be sturdy, well-ventilated and large enough for your pet to sit, stand, lie down and turn around. Because some toys aren’t allowed in the kennel when flying in the belly of the plane, it’s a good idea to associate a soothing scent with the kennel to make your pet more comfortable. Experts recommend putting a few drops of lavender oil in the kennel and on your hands before a feeding or a walk a few weeks ahead of your flight so the presence of the same smell in the kennel is familiar to your pet in a new place.
Make sure your kennel is labeled with your contact information and home address. It should be clearly marked with ‘LIVE ANIMAL’ in at least 1 inch letters on the top and side and ‘THIS SIDE UP’ on each side. Cover the floor of the kennel with bedding or another absorbent material and make sure all food and water dishes are secure and accessible from the outside.
Some airlines require animal health certificates or vaccine documents before a trip, especially internationally, so be sure to make an appointment with your vet within the designated timeline if necessary.
Arrive Early and Organized
Before you leave home, take your dog for a walk or play with your cat—the more energy they exert before the flight, the better chance they’ll have of sleeping on the plane. Remember to slip on their collars and identification before heading to the airport.
Arrive early for your flight so you have plenty of time to speak with the ticket agent and check in with your pet. Keep in mind, extreme temperatures may prohibit your pet from flying in the belly of the plane. If this is the case, your ticket agent may be able to walk you through available options and help arrange other accommodations for your pet.
If your pet will be flying with you in the cabin, the TSA requires all pets and their kennels to be screened, so make sure to pack a leash for your time at security.
Plan Your Time at the Gate
Once you pass through security, familiarize yourself with nearby pet relief stations in the terminal. Some airports will even offer pet boarding or “doggy daycare” services for a hassle-free wait before your flight. When boarding, keep your animal in their kennel for a more streamlined boarding process and immediately place them under your seat so they can begin to get acclimated with their new surroundings.
Enjoy a Paws-itively Great!
With your precious pet tucked safely away, you can both enjoy a relaxing flight to your destination. Just follow these simple tips to ensure a smooth journey and a flight that’s anything but “ruff!”