Tips for Airline Travel with Pets

February 23, 2016

airline travel blackledgeBy Laurie Darroch

Airline travel with your dog or cat may seem somewhat intimidating. However, if you do your research and arrive at the airport fully aware of what you need to do and what the requirements are, the experience should go smoothly. Here are a few helpful tips for flying with your pet.

Space Limits

Each airline may only allow for a certain number of animals on a particular flight. Book your flight ahead of time to ensure that your dog or cat can travel as well. Make sure when booking your trip that the airline knows your pet will be traveling with you. If you can get a direct flight instead of one with stopovers, the trip will be easier on both you and your pet. Try to avoid heavily booked travel times such as holidays. Reconfirm the reservation a day or two ahead of the flight and remind them a pet is accompanying you.

The size of your pet may determine whether or not it will be permitted to be with you in the passenger area of the plane, or will be required to go in the cargo hold. If you do not already own a crate for your pet, purchase one in the appropriate size. Get them used to being in the crate at home, well before you leave on the trip. Your pet should be able to lie down, turn and stand in their crate. The crate needs to close securely. Be sure to check with the airline to learn what their crate specifications are for air travel.

Be Prepared

Carry with you all the appropriate documentation required for your dog or cat to fly on a plane, particularly if you are going to another country that may have specific rules for allowing animals into their country. Some do require a quarantine period before the animal can be in the new country.

Bring along vaccination records, identifying photos and descriptions, medications, comforting toys, a favorite blanket, leash, ID tags, collar, their regular CANIDAE food and treats for the trip, food and water dishes, and any other items needed for the care and safety of your pet.

If you have any doubts whether or not your dog or cat will fare well on an airline trip because of age, health or other possible limitations, check with your vet to get the go ahead for your pet to travel by air. This is especially important if your pet will need to travel in the cargo area.

Your vet may suggest using some form of sedation to ensure the comfort of your pet on the flight, but unsupervised sedation may not be a good choice since the effects may vary due to the flight situation and the altitude.

As a caveat, if your pet is a nervous traveler or prone to motion sickness,airline travel greekgeek don’t over feed them before the trip. Be sure to give your pet some exercise and a chance to go potty before you put them in the crate.

It’s also important to know ahead of time what accommodations are available at your destination.


To easily identify your pet, consider having the vet put a microchip in your pet. The numbers on the microchip should match those on the vet’s records and vaccination papers. This safe and secure form of identification is easily read and more permanent than papers which can get lost.


Put a clear and easily readable label on the crate with your name, your pet’s name, address, phone number, contact information, flight number and anything else needed such as medical alerts. Include a “LIVE ANIMAL” sticker on the crate. Put the feeding schedule on the crate as well.


Arrive at the airport with plenty of extra time to get your pet checked in and situated properly. Airlines do reserve the right to deny a sick or dangerous animal to fly. Your airline may have a cutoff time for arriving with a pet for a flight. Be aware that if it is deemed unsafe for your pet to travel in the cargo in extreme temperatures, they can refuse the animal or put them on another flight other than the one you are on. Find out where you are required to check your pet in case it’s in an area other than the normal check-in terminal for human passengers.

As a responsible pet owner and loving human companion to your pet, your primary concerns for air travel are their safety, comfort and well-being. Being fully prepared and knowing what is required before you fly with your pet will help ensure that your airline travel goes smoothly.

Top photo by Andy Blackledge/Flickr
Bottom photo by greekgeek/Flickr

Read more articles by Laurie Darroch

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