Does Your Pet Need a Plane Ticket? And Other Questions You May Have About Flying with Pets

Whether you're relocating or considering taking your pet on vacation with you, flying with pets can be challenging, and you'll likely have many questions.

The first - and most important - one is: will the airline I booked allow my pet to fly? If so, how do I make sure my pet will be allowed on the plane, where will my pet be, what kind of carrier/kennel will I need, and what kinds of paperwork are required? 

Specific details about flying with pets vary from airline to airline, but there are some commonalities for everyone.

 

Initial Planning

We've found that when it comes to pet policies, airlines change these frequently, so you'll want to contact the airline you're considering. We recommend calling them (in addition to checking out their published policies on their website) prior to booking your ticket to help avoid any surprises.

For example, their published policies may say they allow multiple pets in the cabin, but that is not always the case. It may depend on the flight duration and destination. Also, you may not be the first person to inquire about bringing a pet on that flight, so they may have already reached their maximum number. There are countless factors that can affect individual flights. 

That said, people fly with pets every day all over the world, so let’s look at some of the typical questions.

Can your pet fly in the cabin with you? Do you need a special type of pet carrier? Should you give a sedative to your dog or cat? Do you need special paperwork? Is there an extra charge for traveling with your pet?

Let’s dive in. First things first, how big is your pet?

 

Size MattersCan your pet fly in a cabin-friendly carrier?

Every airline has a weight policy when it comes to animals in the cabin. With most airlines only allowing pets under 20 pounds in the passenger cabin (exceptions are made for service animals), you will have to look into other options when it comes your Golden Retriever or other similarly large pet. (Many airlines offer pet cargo options, but these need to be booked well in advance and have different requirements than flying in the cabin.)

If you have a dog or cat who is within the weight limit for in-cabin travel, then you’ll want to consider if your pet carrier will fit under a typical airline seat. Pettravel.com shares some considerations for airline carrier requirements. Your pet needs to be able to stand up and turn around within the carrier, so keep that in mind if you need to buy a new one. As with other questions, though, it's very important to check with your chosen airline to make sure their policies aren't more stringent.

 

If Your Pet Must Fly Cargo

If you have a larger pet who isn’t allowed in the cabin with you, then you’ll have additional considerations, including the time of year you’ll be flying. The seasonal temperature may require you to find another means of transportation. From the Transportation.gov website, “Animals may not be exposed to temperatures less than 45*F unless they are accompanied by a certificate signed by a veterinarian stating that they are acclimated to lower temperatures.”

Airlines will have restrictions in hotter weather, too. Many don't allow pets to travel as cargo if the temperature at either the departure or arrival location (or any lay-over) exceeds 85 degrees on the day of travel. 

If you're flying internationally (or to Hawaii), you need to be aware that some countries have quarantine restrictions and require all animals to enter as cargo.  The United Kingdom and many islands fit into this category. 

Another consideration is snub-nosed pets such as pugs and bulldogs. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, "In July 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation released statistics that showed short-nosed breeds of dogs—such as pugs, Boston Terriers, boxers, some mastiffs, Pekingese, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus and bulldogs—are more likely to die on airplanes than dogs with normal-length muzzles."  As a result, many airlines won't allow these dogs - or cats, like Persians and Himalayans, with similar issues - on their flights.

 

Immunizations, Health Records and Identification

In most cases, you'll need to show proof that your dog or cat is up to date on immunizations and healthy in order to fly. Required documentation can range from a signed letter from your veterinarian stating that your pet has been examined within 10 days of your trip and is in good health, to a formal health certificate outlining vaccines and tests performed on a specific timeline. The USDA website can offer some guidance, and if you're traveling internationally, it can be helpful to contact that country's embassy.

Additionally, many countries have very specific requirements for pets entering the country, and you may need a few months lead time to get everything in order. We strongly recommend that you find out the requirements as soon as you know you'll be traveling, so you can get any necessary paperwork started and vet visits scheduled!

You also will need to be sure your pet has proper identification. We recommend microchip, collar with ID tag (with your contact info), and a clearly labeled kennel/carrier. (The airline you travel with may require these things, as well.) You may also want to have a temporary ID tag and additional kennel/carrier labels with your vacation contact information (just in case). 

 

Pets are not "regular" airplane passengersWhat About a Plane Ticket?

For most airlines, your pet doesn't actually get a "ticket" like you do. However, every airline has fees associated with flying with your pet. Often those vary based on your pets size and whether or not s/he will be in the cabin with you. Additionally, you need to make sure you "book" your pet on your flight as soon as possible by calling the airline.

As you can see, there are several steps you need to take in order to fly with your pets. We recommend starting with calling the airline you have in mind to get their most current pet policy. Then, contact us to get started on the needed exams and paperwork.

 

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