Airplane Travel with Pets: Your Ultimate Cheat Sheet

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Pets make everything better, so naturally that applies to vacations too. But before you can drink mimosas and puppuccinos by the pool with your golden lab, you’ve got to get there. And that opens up a whole new world of travel headaches, especially if you’re traveling by plane: Cabin or cargo? Pet carrier or no? What about emotional support animals?

Stick with Pawscout, kids. We’ve got the answers to all your burning questions about flying with pets.

(Note before we start: The following guidelines apply to pets you’re traveling with primarily for fun–not because you need them for reasons of health and wellness. Specific rules and rights apply when you travel with emotional support/comfort animals or service animals!)

Are there any pets that just can’t fly?

Before you head to the airport, you’ll want to make your you can take your pet on the plane to begin with.

  • Pets with heart conditions generally should never fly, whether in cargo or cabin.
  • Snub-nosed (brachycephalic) cats and dogs are at high risk for respiratory issues, which are often exacerbated by air travel. They should never fly in cargo, and it’s not super safe to fly them in the cabin.
  • Be aware of airlines’ breed restrictions. Snub-nosed breeds are banned on many airlines, but so are other breeds you may not expect.

Should my pet fly in cargo, or with me in the cabin?

We recommend that whenever possible, you should have your pet fly with you in the cabin. Some tips to bear in mind:

  • Under normal circumstances, a cat or dog can travel in the cabin only if they fit in a pet carrier that goes underneath your seat. (You can find a breakdown of underseat dimensions by airline here.) Typically, pets must be 15 lbs or less.
  • Your pet will need a recent health certificate from the vet. Check with your airline as to how recent it should be.
  • Acclimate your pet to the carrier you will use on the flight. During the flight, line the carrier with pee pads.
  • If you have a layover, research pet relief area locations in the layover airport. If possible, exit security with your pet and take a little walk.

We don’t recommend letting furry friends fly in cargo. But if you have no other option, you should do your best to maximize their comfort and safety.

  • Call the airline at least a few weeks ahead to make sure they have room for your pet. Be prepared to pay additional fees.
  • Research the airlines’ crate requirements and make sure you have the right food and water containers for the crate.
  • Many airlines have climate-controlled areas of their cargo holds for pets. However, ask your airline for specifics, including when the climate control is enabled.
  • Avoid excessively hot or cold seasons.
  • Trim nails. Pets can injure themselves trying to claw out of their containers.
  • Before the flight, make sure to place something with your scent in your pet’s crate.
  • Remove any collars or bandanas that could get caught on something.
  • Nonstop flights only.

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And of course, to stay safe wherever your travels take you, make sure your pet is #pawscoutprotected! Get your Pawscout Tag and custom nameplate today (not the day before vacation starts):

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