Traveling with your fur-baby can be a stressful time, especially if you’ve never done it before. There are so many rules and regulations that it can be hard to navigate what applies to you and what doesn’t. Not only do the policies change frequently, but they often vary from airline to airline, as well. To help mitigate some of that stress, we’ve compiled this handy guide to flying with your pet that will have you and Fido confidently boarding your plane with ease.
1.) How will your pet travel?
Your pet will be able to fly to your destination with you, but how they get there will depend on a variety of factors. If your pet is on the larger side and isn’t a service dog or an emotional support animal, chances are good they’ll wind up flying as cargo, which is where all of the luggage is stored. If your pet is small enough to fit in a carrier under your seat, then they’re invited to share your cabin space on almost all of the major airlines. If you’re traveling with an exotic animal, you’ll have a bit more difficulty finding an airline that will accept your pet. Rodents, insects, spiders, snakes, hedgehogs, etc. are prohibited on many major airlines so you may be better off leaving them home.
2.) Is your pet allowed to fly in-cabin with you?
Before we start this section, we should note that airlines change their policies frequently. If you have any doubt about your pet’s ability to fly with you, call the airline directly before booking so you can get the most current guidelines. Now, if you specifically want your pet to fly in-cabin, you’ll be met with some restrictions. Certain airlines allow any pet that fits under the seat and weighs less than 20 pounds (with the carrier,) while others only allow service dogs onboard or emotional support animals; both service dogs and emotional support animals require documentation from doctors to prove their label. To distinguish the difference, service dogs are specially trained for years to help assist a disabled person with their daily tasks, while emotional support animals are certified by a doctor or psychologist as being helpful to a patient’s mental well-being. And just because these animals are allowed by law doesn’t mean their travel will come cheap. Even if your dog is documented, if he is over-sized and won’t fit on your lap, you may have to purchase another seat on your flight to accommodate him so you aren’t breaking airline rules. The airlines also have the right to refuse any animal if it’s misbehaving, dirty or doesn’t have up-to-date immunizations.
3.) Which airline will you choose?
Considering that all of the major airlines allow pets in some way, your decision will vary greatly depending on the type of pet you’re traveling with, its size, price points and convenience. If you’re worried there’s too much to factor in before making a decision, we recommend speaking with a travel agent. They’ll be able to find the right match for you and Fido with a lot less stress, and it won’t cost you any extra money to book through them. But if you’d prefer not to go through a travel agent, we strongly recommended calling the airline directly when you’re ready to buy your tickets. Some airlines only allow a handful of animals per flight, so calling is the best way to make sure there’s a spot available for your companion as well as yourself.
4.) Will it be cost-prohibitive?
The cost of bringing your pet also depends on a variety of factors. Some airlines allow small animals for no charge, while other options can be as costly as flying yourself. For large service animals, you may be required to purchase additional seats on top of the animal service charge. The cheapest option is to have your pet fly in the cargo hold, but this is a more dangerous and stressful option for your pet and should be a last resort. You’ll be looking at an average of $100 fee (each way) for having your pet fly in-cabin with you.