Flying with Pets

Essential Travel Tips: Flying with Pets

It’s moving day for the whole family – and that includes your best friend, Sparky.

So how do you transport your pet – on a plane – so everyone involved survives the experience? We’ve done most of the work for you, but you have to do some too – like, answer the following questions:

Is your pet up to the rigors of a plane trip?
Can you afford to fly your pet?
What about the other passengers?

Not sure of the answers? The following practical guide will help you out.

Learn Your Airline’s Pet Policies

Pet Policies Differ. For example, Southwest will not transport any pets (except for assistance animals) and US Airways will only transport pets in the cabin – which means no pets in cargo – so if your animal weighs more than the typical 15-pound cabin limitation, you’re out of luck.

Hot/Cold/Snouts: Some airlines won’t carry pets if the weather is too extreme, while others won’t carry certain breeds anytime (mostly, short-snouted dogs who might experience breathing problems – think, pugs). Again, learn the rules.

Airline pet-sites: Click here for a list of airlines websites; locate the search box and type in “pet” for each airline’s specific pet policy.

Should Your Pet Fly ?

Ask your vet: Is Sparky up to the stress of flying? Is he okay with being stuffed in a small crate near your feet and sitting there for hours without barking? Or if he’s a big boy, can he handle being treated like luggage? Talk to a professional.

Doggy Downers: Think drugs are required for flying a dog (or cat)? Think again; most veterinarians frown on this practice – sedatives can do an animal much more harm than good.

Documents: Check with the airlines, and be sure you have what you need to prove your dog is in good health and up-to-date on his vaccinations.

Can You Afford Air Travel for Your Animal

Costs are high: Let’s look at domestic pet-transport prices on Northwest: Northwest pet-in-cabin travel: $160 roundtrip Northwest pet-in-cargo travel: up to $718 roundtrip NOTE: That $718 fee is for “canines of size” so if Sparky is a big boy and requires a giant-sized travel kennel (dog + kennel = 150 pounds), you will pay $718. Would you transport a child at that price?

Pet Behavior

Beware the brat: Face it, you don’t like squalling and seat-kicking when “human pups” do it, so be considerate of neighbors who may see your gentle Sparky as a hound from hell. Do not remove Sparky from his cabin kennel so he can “make friends” with your seatmates – it’s not allowed. Come prepared with anti-barking solutions (treats, toys, whatever) but if you can tell nothing is going to work, please-please-please leave Sparky at home.

Allergies: Unfortunately, a lot of us are allergic to a lot of things, whether it’s perfume or peanuts or…dog fur. Such is life in the 21st century, and if a passenger cannot deal with it, the passenger should fly pet-free airlines only.

Not All Animals Should Fly

Ask yourself honestly: would Sparky be better off at home? Think about it: air travel can be hell on humans these days – so why subject your mutt to it? And if you can’t get a house-sitter to watch old Spark, well, kennels are looking cheaper and cheaper these days – at least compared to the cost of flying your furry friend.


Updated: January 23, 2015