Should Fido Fly? A Guide to Air Travel With Your Furry Friend

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Who do you miss most when you travel? Many travelers admit they miss their pets more than anything else when they step on the airplane, and that’s why so many of them are now bringing their pets along for the journey. There’s no doubt that having your four-legged friend by your side on your travels can be fun for both of you, but you’ll need to follow a few key tips to ensure your pet gets to your destination safely and without too much added stress.

Address the Airline

Before you take any steps toward buying your pet a plane ticket, it’s important to contact the airline (or airlines) you’re planning to use. Many airlines have different policies for pet travel, so it’s necessary to check their fees and regulations before you purchase anything. Airline pet fees range from $50 to $250 depending on the size of your dog, the airline and if your pet will be flying in the cargo or cabin space. Always choose your flights with your pet in mind — direct flights are much easier on pets and minimize risk.

Over 15 major airlines report their pet incidents (injury, loss or death) to the Department of Transportation (DOT) every month, these incidents are available to the public, so it’s important to choose your airline wisely, and perhaps pay a little extra for a carrier with very few incidents.

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Is Your Pet Healthy?

Cats and dogs that are very young, very old or in poor health should not fly. All airlines require that your pet is at least 8-weeks-old, and some carriers have banned some breeds from flying, such as snub-nosed dogs like English bulldogs or pugs, which may have trouble breathing in the confined space and airline atmosphere. Remember never to fly to hot or cold destinations without ensuring that the airplane’s cargo and holding areas are climate controlled.

Will Fido Fit?

Many small dogs and cats can be carried on the plane in a small crate and placed beneath the seat in front of you. Since many dogs (including labs, retrievers and other common breeds) are too large for the cabin, they’ll have to be crated and transported as cargo. While many airlines have different size requirements for crates, it’s universally enforced that your dog must be able to stand up and turn around in his crate, he must have separate food and water bowls, the words “Live Animal” must be displayed and arrows should be pointing up toward the top of the crate. Make sure your contact information is visibly displayed on your pet’s collar as well as on his crate.

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Prepare Your Pet’s Papers

Many travelers cross borders with their pets, because they’re headed on extended vacations or are moving to a new destination. Research the country to which you’re traveling and be sure you understand their quarantine policies as well as the documentation you will need to cross the border. Visit your vet before you plan to travel, so you have an up-to-date health certificate on hand. Your vet can also check to make sure your pet is physically prepared for flight.

It’s Almost Time To Fly

Your tickets are booked, your pet’s crate fits all of the airline’s requirements and it’s almost time to head to the airport. Before you hit the road, give your dog or cat a good workout to expel any excess energy. If your pet is worn out from exercise, he’s likely to relax or even sleep through the flight. Don’t forget to make your pet’s crate as comfortable as possible and to include a toy, blanket or special object that your pet enjoys — the familiar smell will help him relax in unfamiliar surroundings.

Cesar Milan discourages giving your pet pharmaceuticals to calm him down before flight. Your voice, a familiar toy, a bone or even a familiar scent can relax your pet better than any pharmaceutical sedative. If your pet is particularly anxious, Milan suggests giving your pet a light lavender oil massage at the base of his head before flight. Refrain from feeding your pet for roughly six hours before flight.

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At the Airport

Even if it’s your pet’s first time flying, it’s essential to refrain from giving him an elaborate good-bye when you hand his crate over to the airline. If you act like your separation from your pet is no big deal, he’s much more likely to relax during the flight, but there’s no doubt he’ll be excited to see you when you reunite at your final destination.

Pet Airways — A Luxury Travel Alternative for Your Pet

If you’re worried about your pet’s comfort and safety during flight on traditional commercial airlines, you may want to consider Pet Airways. This pets-only air carrier — available in over 12 major cities — transports your pet to your destination in a climate-controlled cabin where a flight attendant will check on him every 15 minutes. Upon arrival, your pet is taken for a bathroom break, then he waits in the comfort of the airport’s pet lounge until you arrive.

About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a travel writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C, Mexico and around the world. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and surfing new waves.

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