Everything You Need to Know About Flying With Your Pet!

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Planning your next vacation and don’t want to leave the pet at home?  Or moving and need to get your pet to your new home in another state or country?

Many airlines allow pets to fly too!

However, flying (especially in the cargo hold) is not the safest way to transport your pets.  So only put them on a plane if you don’t have other options.

Everything You Need To Know About Flying With Your Pet
Can’t Resist This Cute Face? You May Be Able to Bring Your Pet With You on Your Next Flight, but It Will Take Some Planning!

I’ll tell you what you need to know if you want to bring your pet along for the ride!

Can Your Pet Fly With You in the Main Cabin?

Most airlines allow service animals to fly with you in the cabin for free as long as you provide the proper documentation in advance of your flight.

For other pets, here’s a look at the airline requirements and how much it will cost to bring your pet on board:

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Note:   American Airlines has 2 pet compartments (like a small closet) for First Class passengers in its A321 transcontinental aircraft only.

And here’s a look at general rules and tips that apply to most airlines (but double check for your flight!):

  • Book in advance because many airlines only allow a few pets in-cabin on each flight
  • Animals must be at least 8 to 10 weeks old (depending on the the airline)
  • Bringing a pet on-board counts towards your carry-on bag limit
  • A health certificate may be required (especially on international flights)

Your pet could feel ill during the flight so it’s suggested you give them food and water ~4 hours before boarding and NOT during the flight.

Everything You Need To Know About Flying With Your Pet
You Can Bring Your Furry Friend on the Plane, If They’re Small Enough to Fit Under the Seat in Front of You

Checking Your Pet

If your pet is too big to fly with you in the cabin, they may still be able to ride in the cargo hold.

Here’s what you need to know:

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Note:  Short-nosed dogs (Pug, Boxer, Bulldog, Pit Bull, etc.) and cats (Persian, Himalayan, etc) are NOT permitted due to health concerns.

For safety reasons your pet will need:

  • A form signed by your veterinarian 10 days prior to travel, certifying that they’re in good health
  • Appear healthy for travel and free of infectious, contagious and/or communicable disease
  • Food and water within 4 hours of delivering them to the plane

It’s NOT recommended you give your pet a tranquilizer before the flight because it may impact their ability to adjust to the pressure changes.  But check with your vet!

Bring your pet to the check-in counter or the area specified by the airline well in advance of your flight.

Are You Traveling to an International Destination?

If you’re traveling internationally, it’s important to read the rules and regulations for importing pets in advance of your trip.  Some destinations don’t allow pets and other require permits and proof of specific vaccinations during a certain time frame.

Everything You Need To Know About Flying With Your Pet
If You’re Headed Outside of the US Make Sure You’re Aware of the Rules in Your Destination in Advance!

PetTravel.com is a great resource for the regulations in various countries.  But I don’t know how often they update the information, so you may still want to contact the consulate for your destination.

What Type of Carrier Should Your Pet Have for the Flight?

Make sure you have a carrier for your pet that meets the airline’s guidelines or they won’t be allowed on the flight.  The dimensions required by each airline are listed in the tables above, but the carrier should also be:

  • Leak proof and have a towel or pads at the bottom to absorb any accidents
  • Not all wire
  • Well ventilated on at least on 2 sides
  • Metal NOT plastic fasteners
  • Should NOT contain toys, blankets or dog beds.

And if your pet is checked their carrier should also have the following:

It’s a good idea to get them acclimated to their carrier in advance of your flight.

Traveling is stressful for pets both mentally and physically, so you should NOT fly them in the cargo hold unless it’s absolutely necessary.  Be sure to read the Humane Society’s tips for flying with your pet.

If you need a new carrier or other pet supplies for you trip, you can save 5% to 6% by purchasing PetSmart or Petco gift cards at office supply stores or grocery stores with certain cards:

  • SimplyCash® Business Card from American Express 5% cash back at US office supply stores
  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express – 6% cash back at US supermarkets up to $6,000 per year; then 1%. Terms apply.
  • Chase Ink Bold, Ink Plus, Ink Business Cash Credit Card – 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points (5% cash back) at office supply stores

Don’t forget to check shopping portals for more bonus points or cash back!

Bottom Line

Some airlines allow pets to fly with you on the plane or in the cargo hold.  But there are restrictions and guidelines you must follow.

And if you’re flying internationally you’ll need to know the rules for importing pets to your destination.

No one wants to leave their pets home alone when they go on vacation, but flying can be traumatic for them, especially in the cargo hold.  So be sure that bringing your pet on the plane is the best thing to do.


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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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