Jet Set Pets: How To Keep Your Animals Happy & Healthy on Airplanes

Jet Set Pets: How To Keep Your Animals Happy & Healthy on Airplanes

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Jennifer Hunter
Jun 9, 2015
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Hoping to head out on vacation with your furry friend this year? If you're planning a plane ride, it'll take a little extra planning before you're set to jet. Here's what you need to know.

There are two main options when flying commercially with your pet: checking your pet in his carrier into the cargo hold or bringing him into the cabin with you. Either way, your first order to business is to get your pet a checkup and make sure he's okay to fly and up-to-date on all his vaccinations. You'll need a vet-approved health certificate dated within 10 days of your flight.

Canines in the cabin

Only pets who can fit into small carriers (specifics vary so make sure to check with your intended airline) are allowed to fly in the cabin (under the seat in front of you) and will require an additional fee. Keep in mind, pets aren't allowed in exit rows so book your seat carefully.

Here's a handy price list we found over at Popsugar:

(Image credit: Popsugar)

Many pet owners choose to give their animal a sedative so he stays calm and sleepy during the flight (check with your vet first, it's not recommended for all breeds). If drugs aren't your speed, make sure to pack toys and snacks for your pet to keep him occupied in his carrier and do your best to tire him out pre-flight to increase the chances he will relax and take a nap.

Only pets that are designated as service or emotional support animals (by getting a letter from a licensed mental health professional) may exit their carriers in the cabin. They also fly for free.

Cargo checked

For larger pets that need to be transported in the cargo hold, it gets a little more complicated (and expensive). For safety, many airlines will not allow pets to fly during the winter or summer months or when the weather is above or below a certain temperature as cargo holds are not conditioned like the plane's main cabin.

Also, many airlines will no longer allow snub-nosed pets like Persian cats or bulldogs (or sometimes even mixed breads) to fly because they're prone to breathing problems. Again, make sure to check with your airline directly for their current policies.

It's also a good idea to book direct flights whenever possible so your pet doesn't have to deal with the stress of being transferred from one cargo hold to another. And, here's a smart tip from the ASPCA: freeze a bowl of water to put in your pet's checked carrier. It won't slosh around during loading but should melt during the flight so he can get a drink.

What about Hawaii?

If you're going on a Hawaiian vacation, your pet won't have nearly as relaxing a trip as you will. Hawaii is a rabies-free state and, to remain that way, requires all dogs entering the islands to endure a quarantine before they're allowed out of the airport. It's full of complicated paperwork and stress for your pet so, unless you're moving there, it really is best to leave him at home.

International pets

We asked our friend Cynthia (who will soon fly from Singapore to the US with her pup Scout) for some international pet travel tips and she told us a tale of paperwork, export licenses and doggie diapers:

We couldn't go though Hong Kong because dogs aren't allowed in the airport there, so we're flying via Narita (Tokyo, Japan). Most airports have places for dogs to relieve themselves. I've also purchased dog diapers for the first time in my life, with a hole for the tail.
The upshot is, it's a lot of details, and you you need to do your research early because of strictness over seemingly-arbitrary date limits. There are professional exporters who will do all of this for you (even fly them in special pet transport planes), but they cost the earth, naturally.

It's a lot to think about so we want to hear from you. Is your pet part of the jet set or is a road trip more your speed? Tell us your pet travel tips!

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