Pet Air Travel: Planning Guide

by DFS-Pet-Blog on July 21, 2010


Your faithful friend stays by your side most every day and night – so when it comes time to book your next family flight, why not take him along? Air travel for pets is no longer reserved just for jet-setting champions sauntering off to Westminster. Airlines have come a long way to make sure traveling pets aren’t treated like “luggage with legs.” With proper planning, some online research, and a few phone calls, any pet owner can feel as comfortable about flying with their pet as they do flying alone.

Questions to Ask Your Airline:

  • Where does my pet travel on the aircraft?
  • Is it temperature controlled and pressurized?
  • What temperature do you keep the bin?
  • How many dogs or cats travel per aircraft?
  • When do you load the pets onto the aircraft?
  • Are pets held and supervised in a cool/warm room before they are taken out to the aircraft and loaded?
  • Does the pilot or ramp agent check on pets before their departure?
  • Is each kennel separately strapped down to the aircraft floor?
  • What is your procedure if the flight becomes delayed?
  • Do you bring the pet to the owner until a delayed flight is rescheduled?
  • What documentation do you require for my pet?
  • For overseas travel (including Hawaii), inquire about any special health requirements (such as quarantine upon arrival).

Choosing an Airline
The most important factor in selecting an airline is how they will handle and care for your pet. There should be absolutely no reason to doubt that your pet will be cared for properly and arrive safely along with the rest of your family. Some airlines simply don’t allow pets, others have questionable track records, while a few go out of their way to welcome and ensure your pet’s safety and comfort.

The safest and least stressful flights are always going to be direct flights. You may even consider driving a couple extra hours to another airport that offers direct flights.

Choosing an Airline-Approved Kennel
While some airlines offer kennels for sale right at the ticket counter, it’s recommended you purchase yours a few months in advance so your pet can get used to spending extended periods in it. Since the main risk to air-traveling pets is panic, you’ll fly much more at ease knowing your pet is as comfortable for a few hours in his kennel as you are in coach.

Get Your Pet Health Certificate
Arrange a Health Certificate exam with your veterinarian no more than 10 days before departure. After your pet’s successful pre-flight checkup, your veterinarian will sign a Health Certificate required for boarding all flights in your itinerary. The certificate is valid for up to 10 days pre-flight and 30 days post-flight for your return, so plan the timing of your appointment wisely. You don’t want your pet’s certification period to expire before you depart – or return! If your pet needs to fly more than 10 days after the certificate is issued, you will need to get another one.

Travel Day

Label Your Pet’s Kennel with the Following Info:

  • Pet’s Name.
  • Your Name.
  • Cell Phone #.
  • Origin & destination addresses with home phone #’s.
  • Name of an emergency contact.
  • Picture of your pet – for quick identification if your pet becomes lost.
  • The night before departure, fill your kennel’s plastic water bowl and put it in your freezer. Clip the frozen water dish inside the carrier before heading into the terminal. This will keep your pet hydrated as the ice thaws during the flight, and prevent major spills during transport.
  • Trim your dog’s nails to avoid them getting snagged on anything within the carrier/kennel.
  • Feed your pet a light meal 4-6 hours before your flight, then do not feed him again, but continue to offer small amounts of water.
  • A long walk before getting in the car will help burn off excess energy and make it easier for your pet to relax in flight. A quick pit-stop before reaching the airport is also recommended.
  • Plan on arriving at the airport at least two hours prior to departure time and go directly to your ticket counter to begin the check-in process. The ticket agent will review all your pet’s documentation and place them in a plastic sleeve that attaches to your kennel.
  • Be sure to keep your pet in his kennel or carrier within the airport except when requested by security or airline personnel.
  • Be careful with tranquilizers and be sure to check with your veterinarian. They can increase the risk of heart and respiratory problems during flight. If you are worried about your pet’s anxiety level, consider a homeopathic pet stress product like Rescue Remedy.


Congratulations on a “Bone Voyage!”
Flying with your pet doesn’t have to take your stress-level to new altitudes. When you trust your airline, ask the right questions, and plan well-ahead, there’s no reason why your pet can’t enjoy a little getaway with the rest of the family!

Other Pet Travel Posts:

{ 1 trackback }

Tweets that mention Pet Air Travel: Planning Guide --
July 21, 2010 at 8:04 am

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Peggy July 21, 2010 at 9:31 am

Very helpful tips. I still couldn’t feel comfortable about putting my live dog in a cargo hold. I think planes should have two sections, a cargo area, and then a separate live animal area. The live animal area should have a trained animal aide flying there with the pets at all times. There could be music to soothe the animals and video cameras so the owners in their seats could check in on their pets. I dream, don’ t I?

Ellen B. July 21, 2010 at 9:56 am

Peggy – Dream? I think those are some great ideas! From what I understand, some airline are definitely more accommodating than others.

Kevin July 21, 2010 at 5:31 pm


Great tips on moving or traveling with your pets! You can also check out for a comprehensive ebook designed to help you with all aspects of your pet travel needs.

Kathleen July 24, 2010 at 3:56 am

That is a very helpful tips..I am so glad to see your blog. By the way just to give you some name ideas for your pet.This site is nice..

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: