If you’re going to be traveling by air with your dog or cat, chances are you’ll have a choice of airlines. However, booking a reservation will be a bit more complicated than the process of purchasing a ticket for yourself. For one thing, not all airlines allow pets. Those that do have differing policies and limitations, and they don’t all offer the same options. Here are some things to consider when deciding which pet friendly airline fits your needs best. This chart, accurate as of December 2014, will help you sort through some of the key details and compare one airline to another. You can easily add information about other airlines you’re considering.
Does the airline carry pets to your destination?
Many pet-friendly US airlines serve a wide range of cities across the country and internationally. But that doesn’t mean they can take pets to every destination. Smaller planes have less cargo room, and in some cases large and extra-large dog kennels literally do not fit. It’s vitally important to check on this. You may have to choose a different airport for departure or arrival, or you may have to use more than one airline to complete your pet’s itinerary.
Where can your pet ride?
Most pet friendly airlines allow cats and dogs that are small enough to ride in the cabin, under the seat in front of you. All cats and dogs can also travel as cargo, in a special compartment that is pressurized and temperature-controlled. If you’re traveling on the same flight, you can make reservations at the same time, but you’ll need to drop your pup or kitty off at the cargo terminal (unless you’re taking him on board).
Some airlines allow pets to travel on the same flight with you as checked baggage instead of cargo – the required kennel and other rules are the same, but you can all check in at the “human” terminal.
Does the airline restrict certain breeds?
Pet-friendly airlines care about the safety of your dog or cat. Because snub-nosed pets are naturally inclined toward breathing problems, some airlines will not take them at all, or they require these dogs and cats to fly only in the cabin. If your dog Rex is a boxer, he is effectively out of luck in this case, and you’ll need to find a different airline.
What kind of carrier does your pet need?
No matter how Fluffy or Rex are traveling, they must be in a carrier approved by the International Air Transport Association. Every airline adheres to this rule. For in-cabin travel, you can use a hard-sided or soft-sided carrier, but it has to fit under the seat. This can be tricky, because airline interior dimensions are not standardized. You’ll have to find out the exact measurements of your airline’s space in order to choose the right carrier.
To ride in cargo, your pet’s personal measurements determine the size of their kennel. They must be able to stand or sit upright (some airlines require 2” of additional headroom), turn around and lie down comfortably. The correct kennel may seem overly-large to you, but consider the fact that your furry friend will be confined for some time – you don’t want them to be cramped, because it’s not only uncomfortable, it’s unsafe.
What paperwork does your pet need?
All animals traveling internationally must have a USDA health certificate, proof of rabies vaccination and a microchip at the very least. Many destination countries also require additional immunizations, tests, treatments for fleas/ticks and internal parasites, import permits, etc. If you and your pet are headed out of the country it is critically important to understand what is required and to meet these requirements to the letter.
Airlines are also concerned about health issues, so whether your pooch or feline is flying domestically or internationally, they still may need a health certificate or other paperwork to meet your airline’s own rules.
What does it cost?
Fees vary by airline, too, although typically in-cabin rates are considerably less expensive.
Clearly, there is more to organizing air travel for your pets than searching for the cheapest ticket. But making the effort to find the pet friendly airline that best fits your needs will give you greater peace of mind, knowing Rex or Fluffy will have the smoothest, safest trip possible.