Flying with Your Pet

Riley contemplating flight

Riley is my 11-year old 19 pound pug. He is a whole lot of attitude in a little body so I was not looking forward to him squirming through a day of airline travel. I had completed the requisite checking around with friends, family and the airlines of course but nothing quite prepares you for the actual thing.

I have had pets all of my life and have managed to fly without them until recently. Air-travel is a stressful time anyway but throw in a terrified animal and it becomes an especially “fun” event.

By carefully planning ahead, it will alleviate a lot of the stress and you’ll actually enjoy the trip!

Making Reservations

I cannot stress this enough, double check with everyone and their brother regarding the fact you are bringing a pet on this flight. Document all of the names and dates of any conversations you have had. Most airlines do not let you pay for the animal until you get to the gate so it is important to be over-prepared.

To add to the madness, usually the airlines only allow 1 to 2 pets in-cabin on any given flight so get to the airport in plenty of time to take care of things.

If it’s a possibility, take a trip to the airport and speak with the gate agents or live animal desk in person, as requirements may vary depending on the airline and airport. Through all of my research Continental airlines has had the most comprehensive pet travel program and they are the gold standard when flying with your pet.

Check out their website for thorough and vital information.

Getting Ready for In-Cabin Travel

My pug has always had the luxury of running free and untamed most of the time. This made for an interesting crate travel experience. On this last flight I was going to have him in the cabin with me, so after hours of standing in front of the travel aisle at pet smart I went ahead with the Sherpa brand carrier. I had read the best reviews on this brand and they are guaranteed to pass the airline specifications.

Flying with Your Pet

Sherpa pet carrier

The carrier is soft and has great mesh air holes so that the puppy can see out and not feel so sequestered. The fact that the carrier was flexible was also important because not all planes are made the same.

While it may fit within the specified measurement requirements, one plane may actually have more room underneath the seat than the other.

A great way to get your pet acclimated ahead of time is to have them spend time in the carrier in the days leading up to your travel. Also you can put something inside with your scent on it to make them feel more at home.

Vital Tips for Pet-Friendly Travel

Make sure your pet is adequately hydrated prior to the flight.  You can get water or ice from the stewardess if needed in-flight.  Keep tranquilizers or Benadryl on hand if they are nervous.  These may only be used for in-cabin flying.

You will need a “certificate of clearance” from your vet within 10 days of travel. Do not forget this point, as it will prevent you from flying altogether!

Book your flights with at least 2 hours layover, so you easily have enough time take them on a bathroom break.  Keep them in the carrier. Taking them in and out will only aggravate them and the in-flight rules are specific that they must remain inside.

Cargo Flight

Flying your pet in cargo is a whole other article, but I do have experience with this, and some quick recommendations. Continental again is a winner, and speaking with their live animal desk will help allay your fears and concerns.

Make sure to pay the upgrade for having your dog walked in between flights so they have a better and less frightening experience.  Also, no tranquilizers or antihistamines are allowed for crated animals!  Though they don’t tell you to do this, be sure to have your cell phone engraved on a trinket to attach to their collar as an extra assurance in case of a mix-up.

Please note that your animals cannot fly in the cargo hold during times of excessive heat at either the departure or arrival airports.  The exception may be if you send them with Pet Airways, but this airline only flies certain days and to just a few cities; which means you may be driving hundreds of miles to drop them off and pick them up, and they may need to board your bed for 1-2 days in some cases.

About the Author:

Carol Young the author of the “Dogs on board – Flying with your pet” is a animal rescue research specialist and a travel enthusiast.