Air Travel Tips

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Flying with Your Pet

Traveling with your pet in a car can be tedious and flying can make long distances much easier. Preparing your pet to fly will save you a headache in the long run and can make a long trip very simple. Both you and your pet can make the flight in relative ease with some proper coordination. Always check with your vet to make sure your pet is safe to fly; some airlines may require written documentation from a vet before allowing your pet to board.

The Airline

Coordination with the airline is crucial to a smooth flight. Call the airline before you book your ticket and ask for their requirements to accommodate your pet. Space restrictions and weather are two of the biggest show stoppers for your pet’s flight. Most airlines have timeframes in which they will not fly pets due to severe heat or cold temperatures. All airlines require pet carriers, whether your pet is flying in the cargo hold or in the cabin. Ask what the characteristics and sizes for pet carriers should be along with how small your pet needs to be if you want them to fly in the cabin. Crates will need to meet certain guidelines regarding air openings and a lip around the perimeter to keep other luggage from blocking those openings. Make sure the crate is large enough for your pet can stand and turn around inside. Clarify what the fee will be for your pet as it will differ from regular checked baggage and so you won’t be left with any surprises on the travel day.

The Trip

Before departing there are several things you need to do in advance. Verify with the airline 24-48 hours in advance that you will be traveling with your pet. Your pet should be comfortable in the crate or carrier they are flying in so begin by keeping them in the crate as much as possible. Line the bottom of the crate with absorbent material such as shredded paper or a towel in case of an accident. On the day of the trip prepare a portion of food and keep it in a bag attached to the outside of the crate. Most airlines recommend freezing water in your pet’s bowl so that it will gradually melt during your trip and not spill. Label the crate with your home address, destination address, pet’s information, and the last time your pet was offered food and water. Mark the crate with arrows to show which way it should be oriented and “Live Animal” in large block letters.
Traveling on a full stomach may not be comfortable for your pet, but the USDA requires that your pet be fed at least four hours before your flight departs. Try to balance the timeline to optimize your pet’s comfort and exercise your pet before you get to the airport. This way they won’t have pent up energy when they get to an unfamiliar place and they will be easier to handle. Most airlines don’t recommend sedating your pet as this can cause them to lose their equilibrium while flying in a low pressure environment, but your vet may recommend you do this under some circumstances.
Arrive at the airport at least two hours early to check your pet in. Have a leash handy in case you have to take them out of the crate for any reason. ID tags are required by most airlines and it may be wise to have a picture of your pet in case they get lost or loose. It would be a good idea to get a PetHub ID tag which has a QR code and URL that link to an online pet profile. These tags also feature a free 24/7 call center that has access to the owner’s information. Once the airline takes control of your pet, inform the crew of the aircraft that you have a pet traveling in cargo, this way your pet can be taken off the plane or offered food or water if there is any type of significant delay.

At Your Destination

Once you arrive at your destination and you pick up your pet check to see if everything is order. See if there are any notes on the label regarding food and water. Start looking for a place your pet can use the bathroom outside, especially after a long flight (clean up afterwards). If your pet didn’t make it on the same flight, immediately notify the airline staff and find out where your pet is. Give the staff at your destination all the information you can about when your pet last ate or had water.
Flying with your pet almost always goes smoothly with the correct preparation. Airlines handle hundreds of pets a day and are proficient in what they do. In the rare event your pet is not handled as you would like, let the airline management know about it. Other pet owners will thank you.