By now, you’ve probably heard that United Airlines has significantly changed their policies and customer requirements for pet air travel. The new rules affect United’s PetSafe program, which handles pets not eligible to ride in the passenger cabin. From now on, only cats and dogs are allowed to use this option.
What else is new?
- United will no longer accept reservations for brachycephalic (short- or snub-nosed) dogs and cats or for “strong-jawed” dog breeds, because these animals can be at higher risk for adverse health problems while flying. For cats, the embargo includes Burmese, Persian, Himalayan, and exotic shorthair breeds. The list for dogs is quite long.
- Also, due to concerns about hot weather, United will no longer allow pets to fly into or out of Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix, or Tucson between May 1 and September 30. For other markets, the airline will monitor weather and may embargo or reroute pets if temperatures are deemed unsafe. This is in keeping with routine weather monitoring most airlines use to protect pets in both hot and cold seasons.
United partnered with the national organization American Humane Society to review the PetSafe program and develop the new rules. You can read the full details here. The airline had stopped accepting pets altogether while the review was underway. But as of July 30, 2018, the airline has restored travel for in-cabin as well as PetSafe transport options, as long as animals meet eligibility requirements.
Will you be affected?
Here at Starwood, we have always used multiple airlines, so when United was not accepting pets we switched over to other airlines for our pet transport needs. With United’s changes for warm weather locations during the summer, or for snub-nose breeds, ground transportation is the only option domestically. Starwood has been using ground options more frequently, as other airlines already had heat and breed restrictions.
For international travel, we may use a combination of ground and air, because we have to get pets to Miami, New York, or another major city in order to catch an international flight.
Dogs and cats can fly whether or not their owner is on the same flight. For most clients, we recommend separate travel for pets and their families. Frankly, it usually works out better for everyone.
If you’re traveling a long distance, especially internationally, you have your hands full getting your human family members and your belongings through airports and clearing customs. Adding one or more pets to that mix can be truly overwhelming. Usually pets don’t even depart or arrive at the same terminal. The more chaotic your travel experience, the more stressful it will be for everyone, including your poor pup or kitty.
Furthermore, the most efficient, comfortable itinerary for you may not be desirable, or even possible, for your dog or cat.
Ground transport is growing in popularity
Increasing airline restrictions and potential weather embargoes are just two reasons to choose ground transportation instead of air. As we noted above, there is a good chance that your pet’s point of departure is not near a major airport. And many aircraft that serve mid-size and small airports cannot accommodate large dog kennels. In these cases, at least the first leg of your pet’s journey will have to be on the road.
Some pet parents are also choosing ground as a less stressful option. Our Starwood team is highly experienced when it comes to taking pets on the road. You can think of our ground transportation as a concierge service with a chauffeur. A pet-loving, professional chauffeur who provides door-to-door transport complete with walks and cuddles.
Summer is always busiest
Anytime you are flying in the summer you should plan ahead. Routing takes a little longer because there are fewer options, and the demand is the highest during the summer months. Here, at Starwood, we are as crazy-busy in June, July, and August serving pets as the airlines are serving human passengers.
It comes down to trust
It’s too hard to keep up with changing airline and country-specific rules. And it’s nearly impossible for non-professionals to understand all the ramifications or how to work within the regulations to devise a best-for-pet travel plan. It simply makes more sense to rely on pet transportation experts. How do you find someone you can trust? Ask lots of questions.
We’re pet owners, too. We know how hard it is to hand over your beloved companion to someone else, whether it’s for an international air journey or a cross-country relocation by ground. But we also know your #1 concern as a pet parent is your dear dog or cat’s safety and comfort.