- In the cabin with you.
- As checked baggage.
- As cargo.
Each alternative has pros and cons, all come with a fee and no matter how your pet flies, they’ll need proper identification and health documentation.
Other than service dogs, dogs and cats can only board the plane with you if they are small enough to fit underneath the seat in front of you. They have to be in a carrier (and stay in it), which can be either hard-sided or a soft pouch style. On the plus side, this is the most convenient choice for small pets, especially if you’re not travelling an excessive distance. And you don’t have to wonder how your pet is doing during their trip. On the down side, every plane has different under-seat dimensions, so choosing the right carrier can be a hassle. You have to carry your little pooch or kitty everywhere, which can be cumbersome, and your pet counts as carry-on luggage. So much for that other bag you had planned to take on board.
Sometimes you can check Fido or Fluffy along with your luggage when you arrive at the airport. He or she will head on down the conveyor and ride in the plane’s hold, which is pressurized and temperature-controlled. When you arrive at your destination, you’ll collect your pooch or feline at or near baggage claim. For obvious reasons, your pet can’t fly as excess baggage unless you are on the same flight. On the plus side, you don’t have to make a special trip to the cargo terminal.
On the down side, pets traveling in the hold must be in an IATA-approved kennel that meets strict construction specifications for security and safety and is large enough for your pet to stand upright with headroom, sit and lie down comfortably. In effect, your lab in his kennel makes one more huge piece of luggage to haul from your car to the check-in counter. Any size pet can travel as cargo. As noted, the hold is a safe environment, and your pet will need the approved kennel. On the plus side, pets can fly this way whether you’re on the same flight or not, which can be more convenient depending on your overall travel plans and itinerary. On the down side, you’ll need to take your pet to the cargo terminal to check them in, and you’ll need to collect them from the cargo terminal at their destination.
You don’t always get to choose.
How your pet travels depends on the airline, the size of the plane, your destination, what breed dog or cat he is and other factors. Every airline makes their own rules. Every country also has rules about how pets can arrive by air. This is the final word, no matter what the airline might otherwise allow. The country’s requirements are based on customs and pet health considerations. The most dangerous mistake you can make is assuming anything. Here are a few random examples of how rules can differ, simply on the subject of where on the plane your pet can ride:
- The United Kingdom only allows pets into the country as manifested cargo, though sometimes pets leaving the country can travel in-cabin or as excess baggage.
- Lufthansa allows pets in-cabin based on size/weight, or as cargo.
- American Airlines allows all three options, depending on your destination.
- Delta restricts the number of pets in-cabin by section.
- Qatar Airlines allows dogs and cats to fly as excess baggage or cargo, but only falcons and service dogs in the cabin. Yes, falcons.
Your pet’s safety and comfort are at stake here. So is your peace of mind.
Multiple flights and/or multiple airlines add more twists, turns and dead-ends to this maze. With so many complexities involved, it doesn’t make sense to try making your pet’s flight decisions on your own. Even if in-cabin travel seems the obvious choice, it’s still not a no-brainer. Taking the time to get expert advice from an animal transport company can save you untold time, headaches and potential heartache. You’ll be confident you’re doing everything right.
Realistically, however, cargo may be your only option, no matter where you’re going or what airline you’re using. Enlisting a professional to handle the trickier aspects – flight arrangements and documentation – can be a real life-saver. They can also take responsibility for your pet’s entire move – literally door to door. That turns the maze of travel considerations into a straight path from departure to destination and ensures nothing gets lost along the way, including your precious kitty of pup.