Update: There have been recent updates centered around flying with pets. This article, Taking Your Dog on a Plane Just got Harder, offers information on transporting a snub-nosed dog, flying internationally and also which airlines do and don’t offer pet transfers.
The numbers of people who are flying with their pets are on the rise. According to Travel Weekly in 2017, London’s Heathrow airport handled 16,000 dogs and cats, 400 horses, 200,000 reptiles, 2,000 birds and 28 million fish! A few months ago, we offered tips on flying with a small dog in-cabin. I had just experienced it with a friend and her dog on our way to Mexico. That successful in-cabin flight made me curious about flying with pets in cargo.
So, what’s new?
There’s good news. Policies and procedures for cargo transport of pets and other live animals are improving. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has introduced a global certification program called The Center of Excellence for Independent Validators for Live Animals Logistics (CEIV Live Animals). This program provides reliable standards that ensure employees are trained to deal with not only the physical state of an animal but also their emotional state. Stressed and disoriented animals often require special consideration.
More and more major airports are offering pet facilities where you can take your dog to relieve itself right before or right after you fly. Search online or ask your airline whether the area is located inside or outside airport security.
First, all airlines are different. Some, like Southwest and JetBlue, permit pets to fly only in-cabin. Some permit pets only in cargo. United Air excludes certain breeds due to unique health issues (for instance, a snub-nosed dog) and some airlines don’t permit animals on the plane at all.
The cost of flying with pets in cargo also varies from airline to airline. Some are as low as $125 each way. American Air is $200 each way and others base the price on the weight of the animal plus the weight of the carrier. Check the airline’s pet policy before booking your flight.
Before flying, ensure your pet is comfortable and not stressed inside a crate or carrier. My dog spent his first 18 months at his breeder’s home sleeping inside his crate at night. When we adopted him, he gravitated to his open crate because it was his safe-haven. Start positive-experience crate training at least a month or more before flying.
When your pet is flying in cargo, it’s best to book a direct, non-stop flight. I was in Munich once, racing to catch my connection after my first flight arrived late. I met a lady who was on the same two flights and was also racing to make that connection but she was distraught. Her dog was in cargo and she was worried that they wouldn’t have enough time to transfer her dog to the next plane. She was trying to find an airline employee who could tell her if the dog would make it onboard and if not, then she would prefer to stay in Munich and catch the same flight the dog did. My heart truly bled for her and her dog. I don’t know if the dog made it onto her same flight but it was a situation I’ll never forget.
Ensure the pet has a collar with tags that list your cell number and also your destination, if possible.
This PetTravel.com article offers specific tips for cargo travel.
TripAdvisor Forums includes many discussions about flying with pets. Just go to TripAdvisor.com, on the top/main navigation bar, select the 3-dot elliptical dropdown and select Travel Forum. In the search box, input ‘flying with pets’.
This list from PetTravel.com includes more articles about flying with pets in cargo.
Opptee Travel Search: One App. All Travel.