The holidays are a great time to get together with family. And for many of us, our family includes a furry little baby that we spend our everyday lives with.
If you’re flying to this year’s holiday gathering with your dog, you’ve come to the right place! Follow these pro tips for flying with dogs to help support smooth and abundant travels!
Many international flights have strict guidelines on transporting pets from abroad. Find out whether your dog can join you in the cabin or must be boarded as cargo. Not only will your dog’s size and weight guide your choice, but your destination could inform that decision as well. For instance, American Airlines not only limits some international carry-on pet travel, such as to South America, but on trips between the mainland and Hawaii as well. Airline Pet Policies is a great resource for up-to-date guidelines for flying with dogs.
Carriers, such as Delta, will charge a one-way fee for pets traveling in the airplane cabin. You will pay around $100-$200 extra for each leg of your journey. Keep in mind that this will count as your carry-on bag. If you typically take a bag into the cabin, you could accrue additional fees when you check in that bag to accommodate your dog’s carrier in the cabin.
Speaking of checking-in items: your dog’s checked carrier will also incur fees. These follow the same basic rates as cabin pet carrier fees for most airlines.
Ensure your pet’s carrier fits the proper size requirements. Carry-on bag restrictions vary from airline to airline but in general you’ll need a carrier no larger than 17-inches long by 12-inches wide by 9.5-inches high. When checking with airline personnel, discuss the type of carrier you have – hard- or soft-sided – to see if it matches their requirements.
Call for connections
If you’re transferring flights, call ahead to make sure your dog can make the connection. Even airlines with the same parent company can be incompatible when accommodating dogs on transfers. Flights connecting between American Airlines and US Airways, for example, won’t take dogs because the two airlines’ policies differ when it comes to pets.
In addition, some airlines allow baggage-checked pets to connect only at certain major hubs. Call ahead and speak with a reservation agent to get information on whether your itinerary is 100% dog-friendly.
Verify with the vet
Many airlines require that canines carry certificates of health from their veterinarians before flying. Dogs traveling in the checked baggage area, in particular, need this documentation. These wellness certifications could need approval within a certain time period before your flight, such as with Alaska Airlines; it requires these be dated no more than 10 days prior to boarding.
Talk to your vet early in the travel planning process about getting valid health certificates. You might need to schedule shots to get dogs current on health standards. Giving them a longer stretch of time to acquire the necessary updates will keep them from being overwhelmed.
Ask about assistance dogs
Most of the above applies to companion animals only. If you have a service dog, many of the above fees and requirements change to further accommodate your pet. When talking with airline representatives about your trip, clarify with them whether you have a service dog with you.
While the normal recommended check-in time is an hour before departure, many airlines encourage earlier check-in with pets. (Keep in mind, however, that too much time before flights leave is discouraged; Alaskan Airlines pet check-ins can occur no more than two hours before flights depart.) The extra time is necessary to go over a checklist of pre-flight needs, particular to each individual airline.
When it comes to flying with dogs, your animal looks to you for support. Give your dog the calm, confident energy you’d want them to have. Best of luck with all your travels!