Happy Flying with Your Dog or Cat

You may think that you want to take a dog or cat on a plane trip, but you really, really don’t. In the best circumstances, they’ll be treated like third-class passengers; in the worst, like luggage. Flying with pets can be stressful. So reserve airplane rides only for those “must” excursions—you’ll be gone for more than a month, you’re moving, or you’re sending a pet to a new home too far away for the reasonable person to drive. And if your four-legged friend must fly the friendly skies, an owner familiar with the drill can make a dismal experience bearable. Here’s how to create a pet-friendly travel experience.

First Stop, the Veterinarian

Before you leave on your trip, you’ll need to get a certificate of health from your veterinarian for any animal that will fly with you. The airlines require it, and your pet will have to be up-to-date on all shots to pass muster. Check with the airline you’re flying to find out how far ahead of time you can take care of this (the certificates are good for only a limited period).

Beethoven Won’t Quite Fit

Before boarding a plane, find out whether an airline will allow you to take a small pet carry-on. Pets usually must fit in airline-supplied or airline-approved pet-travel carriers that are small enough to go under the seat in front of you. Otherwise, the animals flying will travel in a cage with the luggage or in the cargo hold (on small planes, that may be the same place), where it’s sometimes dark and cold.

Best Bet: Same Flight

Ask your travel agent to find the least expensive way you can fly with your pet. Since travel agents work on commission and have loyalty to certain airlines, you need to make the request specific: “I want you to find the best rate for me and my cat to be on the same flight.” Some airlines will give you an inexpensive rate for your pet or charge nothing extra if you and your pet take the same flight.

Even if you must pay extra, take the same flight so that you and your pet will share all the same delays and rerouting.

Plan On Separate Rooms

If you are traveling with two pets, no matter how well they get along, the airline will insist that they travel in separate containers. Plan accordingly.

Fido Can’t Take This Flight

If you’re a veteran commuter flyer, be forewarned that your pet won’t be able to take certain commuter flights. Some of the turboprop aircraft don’t have pressurized storage areas, and that’s where Fido would ride.

Barking Baggage

When you simply must send animals flying via air freight, ask for priority parcel service. That way, you can choose a flight, and the airline will guarantee when the animal will arrive at her destination (sort of like Federal Express, only the package is alive). You can plan when to drop the pet off at the airport, and the person at the other end of the line has a reasonable assurance of when to pick her up.

Limited finances should be the only reason that you opt for regular cargo, and you should understand that your pet might end up on any flight. Cargo is “standby,” loaded on the plane after baggage if the weight limit hasn’t been met. Your animal could wait for quite a long time before catching a flight, and you’ll be expected to provide 24 hours’ worth of food.

But I Wanted to Show Fifi the Eiffel Tower

Don’t plan to take a pet abroad unless you’re planning to relocate permanently. Most foreign countries will require that your dog or cat be quarantined for up to six months (at your expense) upon arrival.

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Evelyn A Keyes
Evelyn A Keyes4 years ago

That is quite horrible that a dog has been frozen to death - Especially when one simple check in the back compartment could have saved a life. Although they aren't exactly homo sapiens, they still deserve better. Would you really enjoy being in a cage in a cold room with no lights and possibly other unfriendly and scared pets? If the answer is yes, you need to get a doctor - 10% off at the mental asylum for the next 3 days!

Pamela H.
Pamela H.4 years ago

"But I wanted to show Fifi the Eiffel Tower" - seriously?

shannon b.
S B.4 years ago

Carol H. says
Dec 11, 2010 1:53 PM
"I would think that the animals just don't understand where they are going or what did they do to deserve such treatment.

I have a cute story I need to tell this happened many years ago when I was young.

Anyway we were moving and we had a simiwild cat and we had to take her to the new house and we had to figure a way to do so. So we put her in box with air holes and put her in the trunk and all you could hear was this cat screaming. We pulled up to pay the tole and the person could hear her yelling and..."

WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!?!?! you think this is a "cute" story?!?!?!?! "Aawww, look how we torture our cat, isn't it cute?"

People like you should be banned from "owning" any animals or having children.

shannon b.
S B.4 years ago

PLEASE DON'T EVER FLY WITH YOU ANIMAL UNLESS HE WILL BE IN THE CABBIN WITH YOU AND NEVER OUT OF YOUR SIGHT!! Animals die and go missing with high frequency when being shipped or flown. I would drive cross country or re-home my companion before I would ever let her be "cargo."
PLEASE visit this site:

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.4 years ago

Thanks for telling the world

Hester Goedhart
Eternal Gardener4 years ago

I only took my cat Loetje on the plane when we were emigrating to Australia, otherwise I would have spared her the ordeal!

Milla T.
Milla T.4 years ago

I just have to comment on the picture, is that a dachshound? adooorable!!

Francesca Doria
Past Member 4 years ago

one of the best holiday of my life I will always remember was when I flew to France (Biarritz) with my cats Ophelia and Alison in their carrier as hand baggage (close to me all the time). It was a pleasant flight and a wonderful sunset waited for us... a most wonderful place with my two best companions and friends!

Chris L.
Chris L.4 years ago

I would never, ever take my beloved pets on board a flight with me unless they were with me under the seat. For big animals, I would drive them across country myself before sticking them in cargo, especially in very hot and cold weather; it's just cruel to do so. BEWARE that most airlines have limits on how many animals they allow in the cabin, so be sure to call them on the phone, which means if you want an online fare, you had better do your homewaork and call for pet availability in the cabin before hitting that submit button, and make ressies well in advance.

Jennifer S.
Jennifer A.4 years ago