Airline Pet Travel – Five Tips to Help Select the Best Route When Transporting Your Pet

pet-travel-airplane-taking-off

Traveling with a pet can be challenging, especially flying with one. There are so many things to think about before finding the right route to transport your pet, then selecting an airline then booking a reservation. Here are a few things you should be thinking about:

Does your airline’s pet policy allow animals? Does the airline fly your route directly? How long should your layover be? Can you change airlines in the layover city? Does your destination country require that your pet enter as air cargo? Can your dog fly in the cargo hold during summer and winter months? Is your dog a larger breed of dog or other animal? Is your dog a breed known to be “dangerous”? Is your dog or cat a snub-nosed breed?

How can your pet fly on a commercial airline?
Before addressing all these questions, you should know that there are three ways that animals can fly on an airplane: in-cabin, as checked baggage or as air cargo.

Flying your pet in the cabin
When flying in the cabin, unless your pet is an emotional support or service animal, your pet will need to fit in an airline-compliant pet carrier that will fit under the seat in front of you. Your pet should fit entirely in the carrier, be able to stand up and turn around and be comfortable in the carrier.

dog-in-airline-pet-carrier

Generally, if an airline’s pet policy allows pets in the cabin, it will allow small dogs and cats. Other animals such as rabbits and birds may or may not be accepted in the cabin. Service animals, those trained to assist with a physical disability or seizures, are always allowed; however, they may be restricted to dogs or dogs, cats and miniature horses as they are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Policies regarding emotional support and comfort animals vary by airline.

Flying in the cargo hold
When flying either as checked baggage or air cargo, your pet will fly in the cargo hold which will be temperature and pressure controlled. It must fly in an IATA-compliant pet crate, which, hopefully, you have acclimated it to before being transported.

With checked baggage, your pet must be accompanied by a passenger and will be checked in at the terminal ticket counter. Generally, this class of service is for pets too large to fly in the cabin but under 70-80 pounds including its crate (maximum weight varies by airline).

pet-transport-cargo

When flying as air cargo, unaccompanied pets, larger pets, and pets other than those allowed to fly in-cabin or checked baggage will be checked in and claimed at your airline’s cargo facility. Air cargo is a more expensive class of service as your pet is tracked at every airport on the itinerary. The airline will also assume more responsibility for caring for your pet during the layover when flying as air cargo and many airlines will require that an agent in the originating airport book international pet travel.

How to select the best route when transporting your pet by air.
Here are 5 tips to finding the best route for your pet’s transport.

1.Know the import regulations of your destination country if flying internationally.
If your pet is flying internationally, you need to know what class of service your pet must fly to enter your destination country. Many countries require that your pet enter as air cargo such as Australia, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa. Most countries will allow your pet to enter in-cabin or as checked baggage as well.

All countries will require that pets clear customs at inspection points in that country, so you will need to make sure your pet’s first stop in a country is approved to clear live animals. Additionally, if your pet is flying to the United Kingdom, it must arrive on approved airlines.

You can find information on requirements to enter over 200 countries at https://www.pettravel.com/passportnew.cfm.

international pet transport clearing customs
Courtesy of asia.nikkei.com

2. Keep your pet on the same airline
No matter whether your pet is flying domestically or internationally, you need to route your pet’s transport with the same airline company for the entire trip. Once you find an airline that serves your pet’s route, research their airline pet policies and any restrictions they may have regarding flying your pet.

The reason to keep your pet on the same airline is that the airlines do not interline pets, meaning they do not move pets from a plane owned by one airline company to a plane owned by another airline company during a layover.

So, if your pet must change airline companies on a layover, someone must claim it, clear customs (if traveling internationally) and recheck it on the next airline. When traveling internationally, this will mean that your pet must conform to regulations of the layover country. This can really complicate things depending on animal import requirements of the layover country.

If your pet stays on the same airline during the layover, then, if you are flying with your pet in the cabin, you will stay in the secure area of the airport until you board your next flight. If flying in the hold, your pet will transit the layover country and will not need to clear customs. If your layover is over 3 hours, contact your airline to make sure they will hold your pet during the layover. A transit permit may be required.

3. Minimize layovers and keep them short
The third thing to know when routing your pet’s transport is to find an airline that flies your route directly (non-stop). More handling means more stress for your pet. If this is not possible, then layovers should be short, under 3 hours if possible, especially if your pet is flying as checked baggage. Many airlines have facilities in their hub airports to care for your pet (walking, feeding, crate cleaning, etc.) and will do so for layovers exceeding 3 hours if your pet is flying as air cargo.

Pet owners should also be aware of welfare regulations if your trip is very long. Pets, especially puppies or kittens, should not be confined in a crate for very long flights, and your airline may require a rest stop. You should discuss this with them before booking their transport.

planes at airport terminals

4. Leave from larger airport
When flying a pet on a commercial airline, the goal is to get your pet to its destination as directly as possible. The less handling, the better. If your pet is flying from a smaller or regional airport, a direct flight will likely not be possible as airlines generally route through major airports to consolidate their long-haul flights. You may want to consider renting a car and driving to a large, international airport if there is one relatively nearby to catch a direct flight to your pet’s destination, to cut down on the layovers, and to have a larger selection of airlines to choose from.

5. Watch the weather
It is always best to transport a pet in the cargo hold during Spring and Fall when temperatures are not extreme. For the safety of your pet, it should not be exposed to ground temperatures over 85 degrees F* (30 degrees C) or under 45 degrees F (7 degrees C) in any airport on your pet’s itinerary. (origination, layover or destination airports). Holding areas of cargo facilities are generally exposed to the cold and heat. Also, live animals are brought out to the aircraft with other baggage and loaded last, so they can spend time on the tarmac before loading. This is the time they are most at risk; not when airborne, but when on the ground. *75 degrees if your pet is brachycephalic (snub-nosed).

pet transport in winter

If it is not possible to travel during times of mild temperatures, try to find flights late in the evening or early in the morning (summer) or at mid-day (winter) when temperatures are not at their extreme. You will also need to be flexible as as the airline’s decision as to whether to accept live animals on the flight will come on the day and time of departure.

Flying with a larger pet
Large pets must always fly in the cargo hold in larger crates. Before booking, you will need to check with your airline to see whether the cargo door on the aircraft serving your route is large enough to accommodate your pet’s crate. When flying from smaller airports, this may be an issue, and you may need to drive to a larger airports that are able to serve larger aircraft.

Breed Restrictions and Snub-Nosed Pets
Owners of dog breeds generally classified as dangerous and also those transporting snub-nosed dogs and cats must be extremely careful in routing transport for their pets. All airlines have restrictions on these pets and most, including all US-based airlines, will not fly them in the cargo hold. Also, some airlines will require IATA CR82-compliant pet crates for dogs whose breeds are classified as dangerous.

CR82 pet crate
Example of IATA CR82 Pet Crate available at PetTravelStore.com

Contact your airline
Regardless of the airline you select to transport your pet, always contact your airline to confirm that they allow pets on your specific route. Contact their cargo department if your pet is flying as air cargo. Make a reservation for your pet as soon as you can as there are a limited number of pets permitted per flight, no matter what class of service they are transported under.

Keeping these tips in mind when routing your pet’s transport can prevent errors in routing which could result in major consequences for both you and your pet as well as cancellation fees and the possibility of customs clearance in a foreign country. Find more information on flying with a pet.

If you need assistance with booking transport for your pet, email info@pettravel.com, and we would be happy to help you.


Comments

Airline Pet Travel – Five Tips to Help Select the Best Route When Transporting Your Pet — 16 Comments

  1. Sara – your health certificate from Peru is only good for 14 days from issuance. We would confirm with KLM that they will accept the health certificate that is done in Namibia. Your second leg of your trip should be on the same itinerary.
    Susan

  2. Can anyone advise me? We are relocating from Namibia to Peru with several pets. We are flying with KLM via Amsterdam. The pets have fulfilled all requirements for entry into both Amsterdam and Peru. If we have a 3 night layover in Amsterdam and pets clear customs, what papers will Peru be interested in? The papers from the place of origin (Namibia) or a whole new set of papers & health certificates from the Netherlands? Thanks for your help!

  3. Gloria – did you try Alaska Airlines? They do not list Shar Pei breeds in their banned breed list. They also have a red-eye flight which would avoid high temperatures in both cities.
    Susan

  4. What airline will accommodate my sharpie of 52 lbs. on the airline. I have contacted Delta, Jet Blue, American Airline, United Airline and they all had issues of not allowing my dog to fly on there airline because of his breed. I have also contacted the IPATA agent and the same issue/ reason. Please Help me I am trying to fly him from California, Los Angeles to New York… Thank you..

  5. Elizabeth – if you are changing airline companies in Canada, you will need enough time on your itinerary to clear customs. You and your pet will need to do that to check-in on your next airline. Canada is not a difficult country to enter with a pet. You can find import requirements for Canada here: https://www.pettravel.com/immigration/canada.cfm. If you are staying on the same airline, then your airline should transit your pet through Canada. If your pet is flying in the cargo hold, the layover should not be more than 3 hours.

    You can find pet import requirements for India here: https://www.pettravel.com/immigration/india.cfm
    Susan

  6. Very informative. Appreciate a lot if you advise us on route. I am planning to travel from Trinidad & Tobago to India chennai via canada

  7. Christian – pets are accepted in Business Class only on flights within South America: Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay.
    Susan

  8. someone knows if the Aereolines Argentines accept pets in the cabin from Buoenosaires to Santiago del chile in business class. Thank you

  9. Bana – your cat’s breed is considered snub-nosed and you are limited with the airlines that will fly it in the cargo hold. Additionally, considering the length of the flight, your cat will likely need a rest stop. If Lufthansa or KLM serves your route, then they may be options for you. They have great facilities in Frankfurt (Lufthansa) and Amsterdam (KLM) where they can care for your cat and it will not need to enter Germany or the Netherlands. They also will fly your cat’s breed in the cargo hold as long as temperatures are not high.
    Susan

  10. So I recently moved to Canada and plan to bring my 8 year old persian cat to montreal. She is concidered snub-nosed/dangerous. She definitly will not fit comfortably under a seat. Unfortunately, it’s a 17 hour flight (considering times spent in airports and inbetween destinations, it’s a 27 hour journey) what is the safest way to transfer her if she is medically fit?

  11. I need to move a blind young raccoon from a licensed facility in DTW to a licensed facility in California at or near LAX. ONT is fine. He has all his shots and is deemed fly-worthy.

  12. Annette – there are 2 ways that larger dogs can fly. When accompanied by a passenger, it can fly as checked baggage. If larger than about 75 pounds, than it can fly as air cargo (more expensive and you check your dog in at your airline’s cargo facility). In both cases, dogs fly in the cargo section of the aircraft. In your case, as you are accompanying your dog, it can fly as checked baggage. It is very likely that your dog will fly on the same flight as you, more likely than if your dog flies as air cargo. As for the temperatures, they should be no higher than 85 degrees F and no lower than 45 degrees F. If lower than 45 degrees, you can have your vet sign an acclimation certificate (https://www.pettravelstore.com/pet-passport-acclimation-certificate/) stating that your dog is accustomed to colder temperatures. There is no such certificate for higher temperatures for the safety of your pet during holding and loading come into play. Let us know if you have additional questions.

  13. Trying to investigate possibility of traveling with our golden retriever fro Toronto Ontario Canada to Huatulco Mexico next year. He would have to go into Cargo due to weight restrictions. My question is can we be on the same flight? It’s a bit confusing all these policies! Also the temperature policies are very confusing to me, if the temperatures aren’t correct that particular day they can refuse! Then what! We would be going from a cold country in winter to a warm country? Sooo ….. not a lot of answers I can find to these questions, and the ones I find are not very reassuring. Thanks

  14. Margaret – in order to respond to your question, we need to know what city and country you are traveling to and from. Chows are banned in some countries and from some airlines. Due to the size of the breed, it will not be permitted for them to fly in the cabin with you unless they are very small puppies. According to all airline policies, dogs and cats flying in the cabin must fit in a carrier that will fit under the seat in front of you during the flight.
    Susan

  15. I have two chiowows I’d like to take on holidays to the sun I never brought a dog before I’m not sure how to go about it like to take them in the cabin whit me if possible

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