How to Take Your Pet on a Plane!
Air Travel Tips for Pets: Airline Pet Policies
Read this in-depth pet air travel guide for tips and a detailed list of pet travel policies for major U.S. airlines and some international air carriers.
I've been flying with my cat in the airplane's main cabin for thirteen years. I don't have experience with shipping pets in a cargo hold or international travel, but I've got links below to resources where you can find more information. Most importantly, I've got links to to the pet travel pages for almost all U.S. airlines and some of the most popular international airlines in the English-speaking world like Quantas, Air New Zealand, British Airways.
Disclaimer: I am not a pet travel expert, just a cat owner with a lot of pet flying experience. Double-check pet policies with your airline and reserve a spot for your pet well in advance.
UPDATE April 2014: Samhain is now 18 years old -- WOW! and stopped traveling with me by air about 4 years ago. So please double-check with your airline to make sure their rules haven't changed. The last I checked, JetBlue appeared to be the most accommodating carrier for pets within the U.S., although I usually used Delta because its hub happened to be my parents' airport.
Here's the soft-sided airline pet carrier I used for seven years of airline travel, and still use for transport to the hated vet.
I recommend it or a Sturdibag pet carrier, which was recommended to me by someone who shows dogs.
Air Travel Pet Tips: BEFORE You Fly - Prepare Yourself and Your Pet For Air Travel
- One month before: Get your pet's vaccinations up-to-date. Many destinations require you to carry your pet's vaccination record. If they don't, you want to protect your pet from catching something from other pets on the plane!
- As soon as possible: Check the animal transport polices for country and state/province (if applicable).
- For travel within the U.S., get a licensed vet's
- health certificate no more than
- For international travel from the U.S., the USDA requires a Stamped Certificate of Health NOT from your vet, in addition to the vet's health certificate. See the U.S. Dept of Agriculture's resource center on pet travel for regulations.
- Each country has pet travel guidelines. Many require special forms, quarantine, and/or pet transport services. See Delta's excellent guide to international pet travel, pettravel.com's international pet travel policies guide, and/or petfriendlytravel.com's International Travel Guide for Pets to look up your destination country's policies and forms.
- Get a good pet carrier! If you don't have one, see my reviews of good airline-approved cat carriers, including sizes. Measure your pet carrier to make sure it fits your airline's bag size restrictions. Soft-sided pet carriers usually squash an inch or two.
- Check airline policies for pet travel: in-cabin if your pet is small (up to about 15 pounds), in the hold if larger. I've listed most U.S. airlines' pet policies and the pet travel policies of some popular international air carriers below. Also check pet travel fees. Many U.S. airlines charge $100 each way.
- Call to reserve a spot for your pet on the plane. Most airlines limit the number of pets per flight. Review the airline's pet policies with the agent when you make your reservation. (A few airlines let you reserve spots online...see below.)
- Add luggage tag and/or a label to your pet carrier with your name, address, phone # (cellphone you're travelling with is best).
- Get your pet used to your carrier and do a trial run of putting them in, carrying them, taking them out. I leave mine out for a few weeks before hand and will sometimes give my cat treats or feed her in it.
- US regulations limit pet travel (even on-board) to destinations whose current temperature is between 45Â° and 85Â°F, or down to 20Â°F with a Certificate of Acclimation from your vet. That said, I've never been stopped when flying my cat to Utah at Christmas. ;)
- Many countries and airlines restrict transport of snub-nosed pets due to respiratory issues. In the U.S., you can't transport these animals when temperatures are higher than 75Â° F. Review airline's pet policies for rules on snub-nosed breeds, ask your agent when making reservations, and/or check your country's pet transportation policies. I suggest contacting exhibitors who show those breeds for advice, since they've probably had to deal with this issue.
- Have a backup plan in case you're not allowed to transport your pet for whatever reason (haven't gotten necessary permits, weather is too extreme for animals in hold on day of flight, kennel doesn't meet regulations, pet is a snub-nosed animal).
3 Kinds of Pet Air Travel
Different airlines offer one or more different options for transporting your pet:
In-cabin (take pet onboard as carryon luggage)
Checked luggage (on your flight, in the hold)
Cargo/air freight (on a NON-passenger flight; pick up and drop off at airport)I recommend soft-sided pet carriers as carryons, but checked luggage/cargo must be hard-sided kennels.
Airline Pet Policies and Guidelines - Links to Major Air Carriers' Web Pages About Pets
I've scoured the web to save you time! Here are links to airlines' web pages covering travelling with pets. I've covered major US carriers plus a few popular international carriers.
Notes: I've summarized pet travel information from air carrier websites, but they or I may have outdated info. [Last update: Jan '09]. Call to double-check your airline's animals policy and reserve a spot for your pet (most planes limit the number of on-board pets per plane). Watch out for connections with partner airlines that may have different rules/size requirements. Many countries including the U.S. require airlines to allow service animals in the cabin, but call to make arrangements.
- Air France
In-cabin up to 6kg (carrier included) or up to 75kg in hold. $200 from US or Canada, 80euro in Europe. Call Air France (800 375-8723 in US/Canada) to confirm availability and carrier size restrictions. See EU's rules for pet travel within EU or inter
- Air Canada / Air Canada Cargo Live
Pet transport within Canada must use Air Canada Cargo. It looks well-organized. For US and international flights see this page on main Air Canada site. Pets to Canada need a certificate proving rabies vaccination or to be from a country Canada consid
- Air New Zealand
No pets allowed in-cabin except for service animals. Pets may only travel as cargo. Within New Zealand, you just need an airline approved pet carrier. Call Air New Zealand Cargo 0800 737 737. Pet travel from New Zealand requires a special Pet Transpo
- AirTran Airways
Small on-board pets permitted with advanced reservations; 6 pet slots available per flight, 1 pet per owner, $69 as of 1/10. Call 1-800-AIR-TRAN to reserve. Dimensions 8.5" high x 17" long x 12" wide. No animals in baggage hold.
- Alaska Airlines / Horizon Air
Both on-board (max. size 7.5"H x 12"W x 17"L) and checked luggage/cargo (max 30" x 27" x 40") pet travel permitted. Call Alaska Air (1-800-ALASKAAIR) to reserve spot.
- American Airlines
In-board cats and dogs permitted, limited slots per flight, call reservations to book. Under-the-seat dimensions 19"x13"x9", 2 small animals permitted per carrier! Pets may travel as checked luggage. Good info on website.
- British Airways
Pet travel must be booked through British Airways World Cargo, pets only in hold. Webpage has info on pet quarantine to UK and some other countries.
- Continental Airlines
In-cabin permitted, limited spots available per flight. Continental lets you book pet spots online-- a good sign-- or call Reservations. Under-the-Seat dimensions: 17x12.5x9". Their pet cargo services appear well-organized and include online tracking
- Delta Airlines
Limited onboard slots available; call Delta at 800-221-1212 for availability and size restrictions. Pets allowed in checked luggage, but NOT between May 15th and Sept 15 due to temperature concerns. Delta has another pet cargo transport service that
- Express Jet
They used to permit in-cabin pets, but their website is stripped down as of 1/10 so I can't tell what their policy is. It's now a private charter company, so just call and ask.
- Frontier Airlines
On-board pets permitted on most flights; check webpage for dimensions since it varies by aircraft. Limited pet spots available per flight; call 800-4321-FLY (800-432-1359) for reservations. Pets may travel with checked baggage; again, call to verify
- Japan Airlines
Their website has guidelines for on-board pets, but international flights allow only pets only as checked luggage. Call for info and reservations. Rules for bringing pets to Japan sound pretty strict.
- JetBlue's JetPaws Program
JetPaws Program encourages pet travel; go to site to get their brochure. Reserve a spot for your pet by calling 1-800-JETBLUE. Health & vaccination documentation required for travel outside or to the U.S., not within U.S. Maximum pet carrier dime
In-cabin transport for small pets; checked luggage and cargo options also available. call Lufthansa when you make reservations. Under-the-seat dimensions 55x40x20cm, and free "transport boxes" are available at check-in. Check international pet travel
- Midwest Airlines
It looks like they no longer allow in-cabin pets, but have a special pressurized compartment in the hold for them. Call 800-452-2022 to make pet reservation. Small airline, but they sound pet-friendly. Also have pet cargo option: 800-892-6580.
- Northwest Airlines
Small pets permitted in-cabin; limited number of pets per plane, no health certificate required in continental US. Call for pet reservation or book pets online. Maximum kennel size: 17x12x8". Advanced reservations also needed for "Pets Travelling wit
Pets must be in a "Pet Pack" and can only be transported as freight, not on-board. Contact Telephone Sales for in-Australia services or Freight for travel from the US. See Importing Cats and Dogs to Australia for permit, quarantine, and other info.
- Skywest Airlines
Their website info boils down to: "Same rules as our partners, but only one pet per cabin." Basically, when you book with Delta, Midwest or United, watch out for Skywest connections-- the planes are small. I avoid them to avoid any problems.
- Spirit Airlines
Limited number of small pets allowed in-cabin; call 800-772-7117 for reservations. Under-the-seat dimensions 18x14x9". No pets allowed as checked luggage.
- United Airlines
In-cabin and baggage compartment animals permitted; call 1-800-864-8331 (1-800-UNITED-1) when making reservations. In-cabin carrier 17x12x8. Certain snub-nosed dog breeds not allowed in hold June 1st - Sept 30th.
- US Airways
Limited pet spots available in each cabin on a first come, first served basis; call 800-428-4322 for info. Hard-sided carriers up to 17x16x8 inches; soft-sided up to 17x16x10. $125 fee. No pets allowed in luggage hold, because their hubs are Vegas an
- Virgin Atlantic
No in-cabin pets. Pets can only travel in the hold to and from: Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York-JFK, New York-Newark, Orlando, San Francisco, Washington. Call for reservations/info: UK 08450 701 701 | US 1 800 828 6822
Pet Travel Tips: On the Day You Fly - Taking Your Pet on the Plane
Here's my tips to help you get your pet ready for the trip in the airplane cabin. I don't have experience with transporting pets in the hold, but see the excellent tips on TakeYourPet.com.
- To repeat, because it's the most important pet travel tip: Schedule an appointment with your vet several days before travel to get a health certificate and make sure your pet's rabies shot is up-to-date. Have a backup plan in case your vet can't give Fluffy a clean bill of health.
- Pack towels, wet wipes and/or a few spare carrier liners for accidents.
- Bring a small plastic bowl in case you get stuck. Pets can get by without food for a while, but dehydration is dangerous. You'll have to fill it inside security, since you can't take water through.
- Most airlines require pet owners to check in at the desk, not curbside or online. DON'T PANIC if you look for your reservations online and get "Reservation Not Found!" Apparently someone forgot to make a separate "Sorry, passengers with pets must check in at airport" error message. (I hiss at you, Delta.)
- Most airlines issue a pet carrier tag at check-in which you'll need to show during boarding.
- Be prepared to take your pet OUT of its carrier at security and hand-carry your pet through the metal detector while the carrier is X-rayed on the luggage belt. If you're afraid your pet might bolt, consider a pet harness. Its rivets might set off the metal detector, but at least you'll have a handle.
- Some airline and official websites discourage the use of sedatives, since animals could have bad reactions. For many years I successfully used kitty valium, the same mild sedative my vet gives pets when trimming nails, but last year Samhain was cranky, wobbly, and seemed to have a hangover for hours after arrival, so I've decided to stop.F
- You can find more detailed information than I can give you from TakeYourPet.com's Free Pet Travel Tips guides.