How to Travel With Your Pet on a Plane

BY Travel Writer

Traveling with pets on planes is more and more common. According to the 2017-2018, National Pet Owners Survey revealed that about 37% of pet owners travel with their pets, and so are the problems associated with it. So it’s vital that you plan ahead of time as much as possible and make travel decisions that first and foremost keep your pet safe and comfortable. Follow these tips for domestic air or car travel.

International travel with your pet requires much more preparation. Did you know that cat and dog passports are specific to each country? Pet owners need to be familiar with these rules before traveling to address pet quarantine in countries that require it.  As a general rule, cats are almost always better off left in their own homes. Look into a cat-sitter for your time away.

Your Pet will Need to go Through TSA

If your pet is traveling in the cabin with you your pet will have to go through TSA screening just like you do.

Here is what you and your pet will experience as described by the TSA website

  • All pets should be brought to the security checkpoint in a hand-held travel carrier. Remove the pet from the carrier just prior to the beginning of the screening process.
  • Do not put the pet into the x-ray tunnel, which is used to screen a passenger’s personal property and carry-on luggage. Place the empty travel carrier on the belt to be x-rayed.
  • The pet should be carried during the screening process; alternately, a pet can walk thru the process if the owner has the pet on a leash.
  • A TSA officer will give the pet owner’s hands an explosive trace detection swab to ensure there is no explosive residue on the hands.
  • Once the screening process is completed, owners should return the pet to the travel carrier at the re-composure area, away from the security checkpoint for the safety of the pet as well as other passengers.

What to Do Weeks or a Couple of Months Before Departure

Traveling with your pet

Help your pet get used to the pet carrier they will travel in ahead of time months or weeks preceding your trip. Place a food dish inside and confine them in it for brief periods. Short drives around the neighborhood can help them get used to the motion and being confined in the small space.

Always check the airline requirements before booking a flight. Each airline has different regulations and exceptions and make sure to ask any questions that may be unclear (be specific). Also, most airlines only allow one or two dogs on each flight, book your pet’s flight as soon as possible, you may need to buy a “seat.” Try to fly on a weekday when airports are less hectic and if they will be traveling in the cargo hold, it is best to fly early in the morning or during the evening and in summer and midday during winter to avoid extreme temperatures. You will also need to obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian dated within ten days of departure.

Follow these tips from the Humane Society of the United States regarding the cargo hold:

  • Use direct flights. You will avoid the mistakes that occur during airline transfers and possible delays in getting your pet off the plane.
  • Always travel on the same flight as your pet. Ask the airline if you can watch your pet being loaded into the cargo hold and unloaded.
  • When you board the plane, notify the captain and, at least, one flight attendant that your pet is traveling in the cargo hold. If the captain knows that pets are on board, he or she may take special precautions.
  • Don’t ever ship brachycephalic animals such as Pekingese dogs, bulldogs or Persian cats in the cargo holds.
  • If traveling during the summer or winter months, choose flights that will accommodate the temperature extremes. Early morning or late evening flights are better in the summer; afternoon flights are better in the winter.
  • Fit your pet with a collar that can’t get caught in carrier doors. Affix two pieces of identification on the collar: a permanent ID with your name and home address and telephone number, and a temporary travel ID with the address and telephone number where you or a contact person can be reached.
  • Affix a travel label to the carrier on which you’ve written your name, permanent address, and telephone number, final destination, and where you or a contact person can be reached as soon as the flight arrives.
  • Make sure that your pet’s nails have been clipped to protect against them getting hooked in the carrier’s door, holes, and other crevices.
  • Give your pet at least a month before your flight to become familiar with the travel carrier. This will minimize his stress during travel.
  • Do not give your pet tranquilizers unless they are prescribed by your veterinarian. Make sure your veterinarian understands that the prescription is for air travel. Use it to keep your pet, you and your seatmates happy.
  • Do not feed your pet for four to six hours before the trip. However, you can give him small amounts of water. If possible, put ice cubes in the water tray attached to the inside of your pet’s crate or kennel. (A full water bowl will only spill and cause discomfort.)
  • Try not to fly with your pet during busy travel times such as holidays and the summer. Your pet is more likely to undergo rough handling during hectic travel periods.
  • Carry a current photograph of your pet. If your pet is lost during the trip, a photograph will make it much easier for airline employees to search effectively.
  • When you arrive at your destination, open the carrier as soon as you are in a safe place and examine your pet. If anything seems wrong, take your pet to a veterinarian immediately. Get the results of the examination in writing, including the date and time.

Note that the Humane Society of the United States recommends that you do not transport your pet by airplane unless it is absolutely necessary. That is because they can be vulnerable to oxygen deprivation or heat stroke. Animals flown in the cargo area can be hurt, lost, or while rare even killed. Take caution when flying on a plane with your favorite pet.

Packing List for Your Pet Traveling with pets on planes

Don’t forget these items when packing your pet’s suitcase:

  • Health certificate and medical records,
  • Contact information for your regular veterinarian and an emergency contact at your destination
  • (Dog) Comb, brush, and flea control product
  • (Dog) Leash and poop bags
  • Pet wipes or grooming products
  • Paper towels and stain remover
  • Enough food and treats for the entire trip
  • Any special medication
  • Spare collar with id tag
  • Lots of bottled water (a sudden change can upset your pet’s stomach)
  • Food and water dishes
  • Your pet’s favorite toy and blanket