If you’re traveling with your pets by plane for the first time, you’re undoubtedly a little worried. Air travel is stressful enough!
With the extra responsibility of keeping your pet calm and safe, flying sounds overwhelming. Yet, once you know what to expect, traveling with a well-behaved animal can be quite a treat.
Here are some tips to help get you prepared for a low-stress flight. Rules and restrictions vary by airline, so always check your airline’s website or call ahead if there’s anything you’re unsure about.
What Kind of Pets Can Fly by Plane?
You can take most types of pets with you on the plane. Each will need their own carrier, though birds are an exception to this rule.
Short-nosed dogs like pugs and bulldogs should not travel in hot weather as they are more prone to overheating.
If you’re traveling within the United States, it’s unlikely that you will have to present a health certificate, though you may want to get a checkup with your vet to make sure your pet is healthy enough to fly.
In-Cabin or Cargo?
Regardless of how your pet is traveling, you will need to make your pet’s reservation in advance. You typically have to pay a pet fee unless you are traveling with a service animal. Call your airline after you book your ticket to add your pet to your reservation.
If your pet fits in a carrier under the plane seat in front of you, they can travel with you in the cabin. If your pet is too large, they’ll have to be transported in the cargo area of the plane.
In-cabin travel is relatively easy on your pet. They’ll be with you the entire time, though they are not permitted to leave the carrier to sit in your lap. The carrier should not exceed 17.5 inches in length, 12 inches wide and 7.5 inches high. Your pet carrier counts as one of your personal items.
Soft-sided carriers can be slightly larger if they can squish under the seat, and they’re easier to haul around the airport. Hard-sided carriers protect your pet if you bump into people on the way.
You may have heard horror stories about pets being mishandled in cargo, but thousands of others travel safely each year. It will be more stressful for your pet because they will not be with you for the whole trip, but it’ll be your only choice if your pet is too large to travel in the cabin.
United Airlines has a tracking tool that allows you to use your phone to check on your cargo pet. The cargo is not temperature controlled, but you can line the kennel with blankets and attach a water bowl to ensure your pet will travel comfortably.
Going Through TSA Security Checkpoints with Your Pet
Many people find TSA checkpoints stressful. You may feel rushed as the line grows behind you while you struggle to take your shoes off, remove your laptop from your bag, and find trays to hold your belongings.
Having a carry-on pet does not significantly add to the stress. You’ll simply need to remove your pet from the carrier so they will not go through the x-ray machine. You’ll then carry or walk your pet to the nearest TSA officer, who will swipe your hands with a cloth to check for explosive residues. Then, you’ll collect your belongings and return your pet to their carrier.
Tips for Minimizing Stress
Acclimate your pet to their carrier by leaving it open around the house for several weeks following up to the flight. Add foods, toys and familiar-smelling bedding to make it inviting.
Aim to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your plane begins boarding. Walk your dog or take them to pet relief area before you head to the check-in counter. Some airports only have relief areas outside security, though it’s becoming more common for them to offer indoor relief areas so you do not have to go through security after every potty break.
When It’s Best to Fly Without Your Pets
Even healthy, well-trained pets will find travel stressful. It might be best leave your pets at home and hire professional pet care services from Ready Pet Go to visit your home while you’re away.
Contact us to set up a Meet & Greet and schedule pet sitting services. We’ll provide daily updates so you’ll have peace of mind throughout your trip. Travel safe, we’ll take care of the rest!