Flat-faced dogs and cats now get special attention from airlines. Brachycephalic pets are considered special cases because air travel puts them at higher risk than dogs and cats with normal, longer muzzles.
Flying exacerbates their natural breathing difficulties, which can increase anxiety and make breathing even more difficult. Beyond that generalized issue, there are specific aspects of air travel that increase risk for flat-faced pets. These include:
Weather. Airlines embargo all pet travel when outdoor temperatures are very cold or very warm, because pets are exposed to the elements at least for short periods for loading, unloading, etc. For snub-nosed dogs and cats, very warm weather is an especially dangerous hazard.
Flight length. Trips of more than a couple of hours can pose greater risk.
Pet size. Although some airlines allow flat-faced dogs and cats to ride in the cabin, the animal has to be small and lightweight enough to qualify. On the flip side, however, some airlines won’t allow flat-faced pets to ride in the hold. So if your dog or hefty kitty isn’t eligible for the cabin, he may not be able to fly at all on many airlines.
Some airlines no longer accept brachycephalic pets under any circumstances. Of those that do, each carrier has their own policies, and to make matters more confusing, airlines use different lists of dog and cat breeds they consider to be “brachycephalic.” You can see each airline’s list of embargoed breeds on their website.
You don’t want to arrive at check-in or the cargo terminal and discover your pet’s travel plan won’t work. Therefore, it is critical that you investigate airline policies for flat-faced pets – every detail – before booking.
Here are examples of how popular pet-friendly airlines handle brachycephalic dogs and cats:
American Airlines allows flat-faced dogs and cats to ride in-cabin, but does not allow brachycephalic or snub-nosed dogs or cats of any “mix” to travel as checked pets or as cargo.
Delta Airlines also allows all breeds in-cabin but does not permit snub-nosed cats or dogs (purebred or mixed) to travel as cargo or on Delta Connection flights.
United Airlines also has a new policy that enables brachycephalic cats and small dogs to ride in the cabin, but they do not allow specified snub-nosed breeds to travel via their PetSafe program (in the hold). United uses the same list of embargoed dogs and cats as American.
KLM allows flat-faced cats and dogs to travel in-cabin or as cargo, but not as checked baggage (a different part of the cargo hold). That said, they will not accept English or French bulldogs, Boston terriers or pugs under any circumstances.
Australia’s official airline welcomes brachycephalic cats and dogs, but requires that you purchase a travel crate that is one size larger than that recommended for other types of pets. (Here at Starwood Animal Transport, we recommend you choose a kennel that is 1-2 sizes larger no matter what airline your pet will fly.)
We can help
Certain domestic and/or international destinations may also be embargoed for pet travel, entirely or seasonally due to heat concerns. Sometimes these rules are airline-specific, but sometimes they are set by the destination country. Many countries do not allow pets of any breed to arrive as in-cabin passengers, so you will need to compare your destination country’s rules against your airline’s to be sure they are compatible.
Airline policies surrounding brachycephalic pets are still evolving, and every pet’s prospective journey is unique. The best way to ensure your dog or cat will fly as safely and expediently as possible is to call us. Our Starwood Animal Transport team is in constant contact with airlines around the world, so we know the latest requirements as well as which carriers are the most pet-centric. Most important, though, is the fact that we are pet parents ourselves. We have the utmost empathy for your anxiety about pet travel, and we will treat your pet exactly as if he were our own, whatever his breed.