Tips for Flying with Animals

In recent months, a lot has been written about bringing emotional support animals on flights. Heck, we’ve written our own guide to doing so. But that leaves out whole categories of people flying with animals: from folks with service animals, to people who want to bring their pets on vacation, or those making a permanent move. Here’s what the airlines and the FDA need you to know about air travel with animals.

air travel for pets

Every Airline is Different
Please do your due diligence if you’re planning to fly with an animal. Each airline, domestic and international has different rules for transporting critters. You’ll be in a much better position if you do your research and understand the policies and procedures for the airline you choose. Not all airlines allow “pets” in the cabin (service animals and emotional support animals are a different category), but certain airlines do. And some airlines are downright, pet-friendly. Check out the jetBlue JetPaws program for more details.

Service Animals Get Special Consideration
The Americans with Disabilities Act allows service animals to fly with their owner/trainer in the cabin for free without any other special considerations. Basically, if you have a service animal they can sit with you on your lap or at your feet, without a carrier.

Book Early and Fly Direct
Most airlines only allow 1-2 dogs per flight, so to minimize your own frustration it’s a good idea to book well in advance. To keep the stress minimized for your animal (especially when they’re traveling in the cargo hold), you’ll want to look for direct flights without layovers. This will minimize their discomfort. And finally, think a bit about weather conditions. Try to avoid extremes in cold or heat and if you must fly in the summer, try to book morning flights when the heat of the day will be minimized.

Don’t Try to Put a Baby Puppy in Cargo
Dogs must be at least eight weeks old before they can be transported via airplane and they have to have been weaned for at least five days. Older puppies and kittens can fly in cargo if they are in a shipping container that meets minimum standards for ventilation, size, strength sanitation and design (for safe handling). Please reach out to the airlines for additional information about requirements for the animal you plan to transport.

No Medications! (usually)
Though lots of people think that tranquilizing their pet is the best option for decreasing their stress, it’s not recommended. The stress that a sedative can put on a dog’s respiratory and cardiovascular system with altitude and pressure changes is not worth the peace of mind you think you’re giving them. In addition, sedation upsets a dog’s natural equilibrium and might create undue stress if their carrier is moved. Nevertheless, in some scenarios a veterinarian may recommend sedation – please make sure to follow all of the recommended dosages and administer exactly as the vet suggests.

air travel for pets

Be reasonable and humane
The Department of Transportation suggests not feeding your pet solid foods for 6 hours prior to the flight, but does recommend a walk before and after along with some water. On the other hand, pets in transit for longer times are required to be sent with food (every 24 hours) and water (each 12 hours). Young animals are required to have food and water after 12 hours of travel. Most airlines require a certificate of good health for any pets transported, so it’s a good idea to get a letter from your vet. Also, while flying is completely safe, it’s just a good idea to know that your furry friend is in tip top shape before subjecting him to the stress of a flight.

Know the ins and outs of quarantine requirements
Sometimes people moving overseas are unaware that they can’t just bring their animals with them. In fact, most countries (and Hawaii) have rather strict rules for bringing animals into their countries. To start the process for bringing an animal with you overseas, call the appropriate embassy in Washington DC. Animals are quarantined for mainly to prevent the spread of rabies, and every country has a classification that tells us if it is rabies-free, rabies-controlled, or high-rabies. The website is a great resource to explain everything you need to know about travel from a country with one classification to another. Pets are often required to be quarantined for a period before entering another country, which makes bringing a dog or cat on a short vacation with you a rather tricky proposition. Most people find a more permanent move a greater incentive.

For more information about booking a flight with your animal, call and speak with one of our U.S.-based travel advisors today at 1-800-CHEAPAIR or email us!

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