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Flying with your pet (Guest Post)

The following guest post about taking your dog on a plane was submitted by a good friend of mine who happens to be a flight attendant.

Traveling by air can be a stressful time for just about anyone.  Throw in a baby or a pet, or an unwieldy piece of luggage, and your trip can easily become a nightmare (pity the mom who is traveling with toddlers all by her lonesome)!

Taking your dog along on an airplane ride is no walk in the park, yet sometimes flying with your pet may be your only option. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to ensure that you and your furry pal have the best and safest air travel experience possible.

Plan ahead!

Planning is the first and most important step in your journey, so don’t neglect it! Make sure you do your research before you buy your airline ticket. Unfortunately for traveling pet owners, airports and airlines do not make it simple for us. Local laws regarding dogs vary from airport to airport thanks to different municipal ordinances, and every airline has different pet policies that vary wildly!

  • Educate yourself on the pet laws in your destination city, so you won’t be caught unaware.
  • Most airports require all dogs, big and small, to be in a carrier or kennel when inside the terminal building (working dogs excepted).
  • Most airlines require small dogs to remain inside their carrier when traveling in the main cabin, so ensure that your carrier is small enough and fits comfortably under an airline seat. Make sure you follow all your airline’s rules for pet travel to avoid complications that could cause you and your pet to be denied boarding.
  • Double check your pet carrier to make sure it is approved by your airline! The last thing you want is to get all the way to the counter, only to be told your carrier will not fit, or is not approved. Check with your airline to be absolutely sure.

Because airline pet policies vary so significantly from airline to airline, it is to your advantage to educate yourself on the best airline to choose for you and your pet. When buying your tickets, visit the airline’s website to be sure of exactly what they require. Many airlines, unfortunately, have breed restrictions, and refuse to accept many kinds of dogs. Some airlines, such as American Airlines, allow your large dog to fly in-cabin as a “celebrity pet,” however this is expensive, and also requires the purchase of an extra seat for your dog. Until last year, Southwest Airlines didn’t allow pets on board at all!

Only the airline’s official website can provide the most accurate and up-to-date pet policies, but many blogs out there do recognize some “pet friendly” carriers.

JetBlue, for example, offers perks such as kennel tags, a travel “petiquette” guide, and even frequent flyer points for your pet! Frontier Airlines gets high marks, both for the variety of pets permitted in the cabin, and for the number of pets allowed per flight.

Prepare your pet!

If your pet is not used to traveling often, make sure that he or she is acclimated to their carrier. Allow yourself 10 days before your flight to get your pet used to the kennel. Often, dogs can injure themselves during transport if they try to escape.

Make sure you have a current health certificate from your vet, and have all your required paperwork and documentation in order. This will save you a lot of headaches.

Make sure your pet’s tags are up to date! If you have a microchip, ensure that your contact information is correct or on file with your vet’s office.

Take a photo of your pet and tape it to the kennel or carrier, along with your pet’s name, in case the pet gets out. Keep a second copy of the photo on your person.

Most airlines and veterinarians don’t reccommend using tranquilizers for your pet while flying, as this may create health complications such as difficulty breathing. Be sure to consult your vet before making any decisions about drugs if you are considering this option.

Purchasing your ticket

If you are flying with your small pet as a carry-on, most airlines require pet reservations to be made over the phone, however many charge an extra fee for issuing tickets via telephone. To avoid this, you can usually book online, then call the airline soon afterward to have your pet added to the reservation.

Remember that different airlines charge different fees for carrying a pet onboard, so shop around. Be prepared to pay anywhere from $75 to $150.

Note: United Airlines and Virgin America do allow for pet reservations to be made online. Frontier Airlines does not charge an extra fee to book over the phone. US Airways and Southwest do NOT allow pet reservations to be made in advance, and pet assignments are given on a first-come-first-served basis, so check in early at the ticket counter to ensure availability as only a certain number of pets are allowed to travel on any one flight.

One of the easiest and best things you can do for yourself and your pet is to book a nonstop itinerary.

Not only do connecting flights add hours to your journey, but pet relief areas at airports, if they have them at all, are always well beyond the secured areas and often require a long walk to reach. In addition, you’ll have to be rescreened by TSA to continue on your next flight. If you absolutely must connect to another flight, be sure when booking your itinerary to allow for plenty of time to accommodate your dog’s bladder. Leaving at least two hours between flights is a smart move, and you won’t feel rushed even if your first leg flight is slightly delayed.

 A word on safety

 Traveling with dogs as cargo entails certain risks, but it may be the only option for those of us with large dogs. Delta made news recently as having the dubious distinction of having a notably high number of dog deaths last year. Many horror stories have been reported on the internet after pets have escaped from their kennels. However, even those sad statistics account for only a very small number of incidents. The vast majority of pets arrived safely.

Happily, a dog made it safely home last  month after taking a jaunt around the runways at La Guardia!

Still, for some of us, even a small risk is too much to take for our beloved dog pals.

If the thought of turning over your dog to an airline is too much to bear, perhaps a road trip, or a boarding kennel may be in order. Happy trails and happy tails!

Have you ever taken your pet on a plane? Leave you story in the comments.

Come back this weekend for the continuation of the series on what to do when your pets cannot travel with you.

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About crystalwayward

I live with two formerly wayward dogs. I care deeply about the environment, and I think gardening is a revolutionary act.

Posted on June 22, 2012, in Dogs, Travel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. This amazing posting, “Flying with your pet (Guest Post) Wayward Dogs” indicates that you really comprehend exactly what
    u r speaking about! I really entirely agree.
    Thanks ,Marjorie

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