Assuming you’ve done your part in figuring out the route you will take and whether your dogs can accompany you on that route, we’ve got the answers for the best in-flight experience for you and your fur-friends. It’s understandable that you’re wary of flying with your dogs – there are tragic stories of airline mishaps. Furthermore, air travel isn’t a pleasant experience for humans, much less animals. With a lot of preparation and patience many of us can travel with our pets. The list of airline carriers is not in any order as each one has its pros and cons. Be aware that restrictions are subject to change at any time as the airlines have complete control over their planes. Always check the airline websites for updated rules and regulations regarding pet travel.
Your dog must be healthy. This is a non-negotiable rule. Flying induces stress on animals. The mid-flight conditions can exacerbate health conditions for them, too. The longer the flight, the healthier your dog must be.
Along with a good certificate of health, many airlines will require vet records and/or certificates of vaccinations. If you haven’t visited a vet in a long time, you must do so well before you travel. Even though you may have booked with a carrier that doesn’t require health certificates, you’ll want to get those documents from your vet anyway. If your flight must be operated by another carrier, you’ll be very glad that you did!
Breed, age, and size matter to the airlines. Some may require larger dogs to fly in the cargo hold while others may not allow large dogs under any circumstance. Check on these restrictions before you book non-refundable travel!
Lastly, remember the adage about the flies and honey! Being solicitous and courteous (rather than entitled) goes a long way with airline personnel. Part of this is planning air travel carefully when you have a dog. Document all phone conversations and, when possible, get everything in writing. Print out your documents so that you have them as proof when it’s time to check in. It might be worth it to buy an upgrade to board first. This will result in less stress for you as you won’t have to climb over a hundred passengers to settle yourself in.
This German airline has been renowned for their humane treatment of dogs. For a fee you can check both small and large dogs. Although their prices for canines aren’t cheap, they are one of the most trusted airlines for doggy passengers on international flights.
Delta may not be the favorite of human passengers, but it was awarded Air Cargo Excellence Gold Award not too long ago – meaning your large dog might have a better flight than you do. Delta is the favorite for people traveling with dogs within the USA. As always, there is a charge associated with pet travelers and a limited number can fly in-cabin. Therefore, advanced reservations are a must!
Southwest and JetBlue
These are great low-cost airlines that don’t charge you an arm and a leg to travel with your beloved fur-buddy. The caveat is that they don’t allow pets in the cargo hold meaning you can only travel with a small or smallish-medium dog. Otherwise, they are known for being very pet-friendly in-flight.
They are a favorite for West Coast travelers with dogs in tow. Note that any pet, large or small, must travel in the cargo hold if the flight is over the ocean. Also, dogs with flat faces and short noses are prohibited in the cargo hold as they are known for having respiratory issues.
Is Airline Travel Safe for Dogs?
While there are sad stories of dogs dying in the cargo hold or even in the cabin, these occurrences are very rare. Keep in mind that there are more than 43,000 flights crossing the just the USA in one day. The deaths may have had to do with the short-nosed breeds which is why most major U.S. carriers have banned them from the cargo holds. Overall, airline travel is safe for dogs even in the cargo hold. If you pay attention to the needs of your dog and make advanced preparations, your flight should proceed without a hitch.
By Gabrielle Allemeier
About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.