Airline Pet Travel

Airline pet travel, although it may seem traumatic to a caring pet owner, whether in-cabin or cargo, is oftentimes the best way (or the only way) to travel. Dogs, cats and all pets get to their destination quicker and as safely as possible. It should be noted that millions of animals travel safely aboard aircraft every year. Airline personnel make every effort to handle these animals with the care they deserve.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets and enforces regulations for the transportation of live animals. These regulations apply to the pet owner, the shipper, as well as to the airlines. If you decide to transport your dog or cat by air, there are some things to check for in order to be in compliance with applicable laws, and to assure the safest and most comfortable trip for your pet.

If you are traveling with a smaller dog or cat, generally under 13 pounds and 12″ from floor to front shoulder, you should be able to bring the pet into the cabin with you. Always check with the airlines to find out the dimensions under the seat in front of you. An airline compliant carrier is a must. It should have a waterproof bottom, secure fasteners, (zippers) and ventilation on all sides. (These carriers are available at PetTravelStore.com.)

If you cannot accompany your pet, or they are too large to fly in the cabin, dogs and cats typically are transported as cargo or as checked baggage. Sometimes these terms create confusion, but both describe humane means of shipping animals. What is important to know is that you may only transport your pet as checked baggage if you are a passenger traveling on the same flight as your pet and the combined weight of your pet and its crate is under about 70 pounds. (This weight varies by airline.) If flying cargo, your pet may travel unaccompanied, either through the regular cargo channels or through an especially expedited delivery service that several airlines have developed. Many airline cargo departments have specialists in the movement of animals who can assist you with answers to your questions. They are trained to handle your pet with care and are experienced in doing so.

What is important for you to know is that pets traveling as cargo are transported in the same pressurized holds as those in the checked baggage system and this area is temperature and pressure regulated similar to the cabin.

Each airline has its own pet policy, but one thing remains the same. You MUST call the airline as early as possible and tell them that you are traveling with a pet. Most airlines will only allow a certain number of pets in the cabin. Additionally, there will be a cost to bring your pet in the cabin with you. Your pet’s ticket cannot be purchased online for any airline that we are aware of.

For more tips on traveling with a pet on an airline, visit airline travel tips.

For airline pet policies for every airline that we can find worldwide, visit airline pet policies.


Comments

Airline Pet Travel — 112 Comments

  1. Are there any airlines that don’t manadate a booking agent to ship your dog from PHL to Australia? I’ve reviewed the import/export requirements and although they are lengthy, they are extremely detailed and manageable. I do understand the value of a professional, but my VET is experienced in the process, is USDA registered and the APHIS authority for the final health cert is only an hour away…additionally I was licensed as an IATA dangerous goods SHIPPER when I lived in Australia, so I am familiar with working with airlines and the accuracy of documentation.

  2. Gillian – because China is considered a high-rabies country by the EU, your relative’s dog will need to follow the process here in order before it can enter the UK: http://www.pettravel.com/immigration/UnitedKingdom.cfm. It will need to fly as air cargo into the UK and it is difficult to find an airline that will book the transport directly out of China (although it may be possible, we do not know of one). They all require that agents handle the booking. If you want to get a free quote from an agent in China, go to IPATA.org.
    Phil

  3. HI I am travelling from uk to China and bringing to the uk my relatives dog to stay with me for a year in the uk as my relative will be travelling the world and unable to accommodate the dog too.
    This is a medium size dog and she will have had all her injections etc.
    Im uncertain the process and we need advice as how this can be done.

    thank you in advance

  4. Marta – Lufthansa, Swiss Air and Air Canada all have confirmed that they will carry live animals out of the UK in the cabin. You may want to contact them to see if your specific route is included as the duration of the flight may matter.
    Susan

  5. I am flying from the U.S. to the U.K. to pick up a puppy and bring the puppy back to the U.S. I know that I cannot fly INTO the UK with a pet in the cabin, but can I fly OUT of the UK with an in-cabin pet? The information I have found has been inconclusive or contradictory. If in-cabin travel out of Heathrow or Manchester is not allowed, I will start looking at travel via Paris.

  6. Debofa – according to the Animal Welfare Act, US-based airlines will not transport pets in the cabin on flights over 8-9 hours in length. Acceptance of live animals in the cabin or as checked baggage depends on the airline if choosing a foreign-based airline. However, if you split up your itinerary, then you will need to claim and recheck your pet and pass through customs in the layover country.
    Phil

  7. There seems to be confusing information about bringing a cat on the plane with us from the Philippines to TX . Is there a 12 hour flight restriction now for pets period inside or as accompanied baggage? Can you do a short flight and a layover and then a 12 hour flight?

  8. I am returning to Australia from USA with 3 domestic cats. Can they travel with me on an International Flight and then do the quarantine period in Melbourne Facility.

  9. Hi.
    I am flying with my dog to new York from Copenhagen Denmark. What are the regulations and what papers do I need when I enter the United States. Where can I get a hold of this documents to start preparations.
    Would appreciate your help.
    Kindest regards/Jannica

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