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A Useful Guide to Pets on Airplanes

When traveling, sometimes we want to bring our pets along for the journey. When driving, it’s a simple matter of loading your pet into a carrier or the car and setting off. Flying with pets, though, is a little more complicated.

Airlines have many rules and restrictions for bringing pets on airplanes with the purpose of keeping both passengers and pets safe. Knowing those rules and your expectations as a pet owner on an airplane can make the flight process much simpler for everyone involved.

How Will Pets Travel?

Depending on the size and breed, as well as the airline’s policy, the airline will allow a pet to travel as a carry-on, a checked item, or with cargo. Smaller animals whose carriers can fit under the seat can board as a carry on, while larger animals will need to travel as a checked item or with cargo.

Which Pets Can Travel?

Most airlines only allow for cats and dogs to travel, though some others allow for domesticated rabbits and pet birds to board as well. Some airlines only allow pets to travel as carry-on items, which brings size restrictions. Others can have policies that restrict which breeds and the age of pets that may travel.

When planning to bring your pet along for the ride, it’s best to check if the airline allows it.

Where Can Pets Travel?

Most airlines permit pets to travel during flights that are less than twelve hours, including checking pets upon landing. When traveling abroad, additional restrictions to pets may apply, such as fulfilling vaccine requirements and whether the pet is pregnant. Pet owners should look up specific requirements of their destination before deciding to bring a pet.

Booking Flights

Airlines have a limited number of spaces they can give to pets per flight. Beyond checking airline policies and destination requirements, you should try to book your flight as early as possible to ensure a pet spot on your flight.

Carry-On Pets

Airlines charge an additional carry on pet fee, which you must pay to bring your pet on board. Pets must also stay within their kennel for the duration of the flight. Some airlines may require your pet to be a certain age before allowing travel, and a common benchmark is eight-years-old. Flights will not assume any liability for the health of pets in a normal flight situation.

Kennels are also subject to regulations. Your pet’s kennel must be large enough for your pet to move comfortably in while not exceeding size requirements to fit under the seat. The kennel must also be safe and breathable for your bet. The combined weight of your pet and kennel may also be subject to weight restrictions, depending on the airline.

For passengers flying in first and business class, your pet’s kennel will not rest under the seat, but likely in a special compartment for the duration of taxi, take-off, landing, and turbulence.

Temperature Restrictions

To prevent pets from exposure to extreme temperatures, some airlines have temperature restrictions on where pets may travel. Some airlines can waive temperature restrictions if passengers complete certain steps. This process can include a letter from your pet’s veterinarian that claims the pet as acclimated to the temperature of your destination.

Additional Processes When Preparing to Fly With Your Pet

Depending on the airline’s policies, you may have to fulfill additional obligations when traveling with your pet:

  • Contacting reservations before travel
  • Check in at ticket counter as opposed to self check-in
  • Allow extra check-in time
  • Complete a checklist with an agent
  • Provide an up-to-date health certificate

Traveling with your pet can bring an extra level of joy to your vacation, but it’s important to know all the requirements involved. Planning your trip early and researching specific airline policies can deter misunderstandings and make your journey as relaxing as possible, for both you and your pets.

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