There are so many well-known stories recently in the news about pets and airlines. If you are thinking of traveling with your pet, but want to avoid issues, it's best to contact the airline well in advance to check what their policy is. Not only do policies vary among different airlines, but they also change over time, especially as new "issues" arise. The ADA allows for people with disabilities to have certain exemptions from these policies, but that it is a different topic to be discussed in another post. In this post, we have included general policies and some things to be aware of before traveling with Fido, Fluffy or Polly.
If you are traveling with your pet, you may not be able to book online. You must call to make your reservation. The number of pets traveling in the cabin per flight is usually very limited. Only one carrier is allowed per ticketed passenger (1) (and it counts as one of your carry-on items). Some airlines allow more than one pet of the same species in the same carrier.
***There are some airlines that allow you to book your ticket online, however, if you get to the airport to check in your pet without previously making a reservation, you risk being told that your flight has reached its capacity of in-cabin pets.
Cost can vary greatly from about $100 - $200 each way and may even require you to purchase another seat on the plane.
There are minimum age and health requirements that must be met for your pet to be allowed to travel. Typically a vaccines record/health certificate from your vet will be required for travel. For your Veterinarian to provide this, they must have examined your pet in person in the last 6 months, so if it's been longer, plan for a vet visit to acquire your health certificate.
Across the board, all airlines will require that you have your pet in an airline approved carrier. So, your pet must stay in their carrier the entire duration of your flight.
Carriers must be leak-proof, escape-proof, and properly ventilated (the dimensions of the carrier will vary among airlines, but must fit under the seat in front of you.)
Your pet must be able to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortable in the carrier.
Some airlines require a handle on the carrier, some don't, but make sure it has one because you wont be able to fit a wheeled carrier under a seat, so your only option is to carry it by hand through the airport. (Which brings us to weight limits - usually about 20lbs pet and carrier together, but varies among airlines)
Type of Pet
The most common pets allowed to travel as carry-on are small dogs and cats, and many airlines limit pets in cabin to these. However, there are some that allow birds, rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters.
Your pet must also be able to remain calm while in the airport and throughout the flight. If your pet is disruptive or seems dangerous, he will not be allowed on. On that note, also make sure your pet is comfortable in his carrier. If you have not accustomed your pet to his carrier, it will most likely be disruptive at the airport.
Check-in at Airport
You must check in at the counter. This means you may need to arrive at the airport earlier than if you were traveling alone to allow for pre-flight check in. You may also be required to hold your pet while the carrier is being x-rayed at the TSA checkpoint.
*There may be restrictions and requirements not mentioned in this post. We always recommend you contact the airline you plan to travel with well in advance to get the right instructions and answers to your questions.
If you don't currently plan on traveling with your pet, it's still a good idea to check what policies may apply to you because unexpected travel does arise. Also, you don't want to plan a trip assuming you can bring your pet, and last minute find out you can't. Some of my clients have had to book a boarding visit with me last minute because of this very reason.
Though it may seem overcomplicated, keep in mind that safety is the priority - for you, your pet, and other passengers. Not only can it be done, but it is done by hundreds of people everyday. If you plan to travel with your pet often, it will become a part of the travel preparedness routine and feel less taxing. Best of all, you'll have your best buddy along for the ride.