Not all commercial airlines will accept pets for travel, either in the cabin or below in the cargo hold. Carriers that do accept pets have their own transportation policies. Customers need to contact an airline directly when making travel plans for their pet. For written documents detailing information on pet flight policies, look on an airline's website.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) sets and enforces regulations for the transportation of live animals that apply to customers and their pets, as well as to the airlines. Comply with the applicable laws, which are designed to ensure pet saftty and comfort.
Method of travelEdit
Some airlines will allow travelers to keep a small pet in the plane cabin if the animal will fit into a carry-on kennel or approved carrier under a passenger seat. For animals other than dogs or cats, contact the airline for its acceptance policy. Carriers have very specific rules regarding their transport.
Another option is accompanied baggage where the pet travels in the cargo hold alongside one's checked luggage. It is important to remember that airlines allow transport of a pet as accompanied baggage only when the owner is a passenger traveling on the same flight.
A third option available by the airlines is as a live animal cargo shipment. In the cargo system, the pet travels either through regular cargo channels or special expedited delivery services that many airlines have created. Pets in the cargo sytstem are transported in the same pressurized holds as those in the checked baggage system. Seek out pet transportation specialists in airline cargo departments to find answers to questions.
- APHIS requires cats and dogs to be at least eight weeks old and fully weaned before traveling by air.
- A signed health certificate from the pet's veterinarian is required to comply with carrier rules, as well as state and federal regulations. It should be issued no more than seven to ten days prior to departure. Check with the carrier for specific details.
- Book a direct non-stop flight when possible and avoid holiday and weekend travel. Try to avoid traveling during extremely hot or cold weather.
- Veterinarians generally advise against sedation due to the fact that tranquilizers' effects on animals at higher altitudes are unpredictable.
- The owner and airlines must observe APHIS regulations on the pet's kennel size. It must be sturdy, properly ventilated and large enough to allow the pet to freely stand, turn around and lie down. Clearly mark the kennel with the pet's name, the owner's name and address, and the name and telephone number of the receiving person who can be contacted about the pet.
- Advise the airline when booking the flight that a pet will be traveling as well, and how and where it will be traveling. Contact the airline again twenty-four to forty-eight hours before departure to confirm the pet's transportation plans.
- The U.S.D.A. requires that the pet is offered food and water within four hours prior to airline check-in, which will also need a signed certification of the time when food and water was last given.
- If the pet is traveling as unaccompanied baggage or by special expedited delivery service, check-in will usually be at the passenger terminal. If the pet is traveling through the cargo system, check-in would be at the air freight terminal which is in a separate part of the airport.
- Confirm with the airline the location from which the pet can be retrieved at the destination airport. The pet may not be given to the airline more than four hours before flight departure (six hours by special arrangement).
- Transportation Security Administration regulations require physical screening of all pets and their kennels no matter their method of transport.
Know airline policies if flying with a pet by Irene Croft Jr., Honolulu Advertiser July 13, 2008 page E6