If the thought of leaving your trusted companion at home when you wing off on a vacation leaves you filled with dread, never fear. If your dog (or cat or other assorted small pets including birds, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters, depending on the airline) is small enough to fit into a carrier, it is relatively easy to carry your pet onto an airplane.
First, you’ll need to know the general rules established by the United States Federal Aviation Administration for carrying your dog on the plane. Dogs (and cats) must be at least eight weeks old and must have been weaned for at least five days before they are allowed to fly. The FAA requires that your pet container must be small enough to fit underneath the seat without blocking any person’s path to the main aisle and must remain in the container for the duration of the flight.
The American Humane Association adds to that, saying, “As a general rule, puppies and kittens, sick animals, animals in heat, and frail or pregnant animals should not travel by air.” In addition, the American Veterinary Medical Association notes that “most airlines also require a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (health certificate) issued within 10 days of travel,” which means scheduling a vet wellness visit before you fly.
Next, determine the rules of the airline you will be traveling with, as policies differ greatly. American Airlines, for example, only allows dogs and cats, charges $125 each way of a round-trip flight and the combined weight of the carrier and the pet cannot exceed 20 pounds; United Airlines allows dogs, cats, rabbits and birds and charges $125 as well.
Some U.S. airlines will allow you to carry your dog on for both domestic and international flights, others only domestic. Don’t even consider taking Fido on vacation with you to Hawaii, as authorities there will quarantine your dog, sometimes for longer than your trip (and will charge you at least $165 in the process).
No matter which airline you fly, be sure to reserve a spot for your pet on your upcoming flight, by calling their reservations line. Do this as soon as you book your ticket, as most restrict the number of pets permitted to fly in the cabin on any given flight. American Airlines allows a total of two carriers in first class and five in economy on a single flight, while others only allow a total of five on a given flight. Every airline counts your dog carrier as one of your two carry-on items for the flight, so plan accordingly for that as well.
In the weeks leading up to your trip, be sure to leave the carrier open and available at home, so that your dog begins to use it as a cozy place to take a little nap. That way, on the day of travel, your pooch will feel comfortable and at home in the carrier as you move across the airport and the skies.
At the airport on the day you travel, you will need to go to an agent at the check-in counter in order to pay the fee for the pet. Carry that receipt along with your boarding pass, as you will likely be asked to show it both at the TSA security screening and as you board the plane. And, remember; do not leave your dog in the carrier as it goes through the security scanner for bags! Carry the dog in your arms as you walk through the body scanner, and then return your pup to the carrier on the other side.
Otherwise, flying with your dog in the cabin of an airplane is a pretty simple process, if you just plan ahead. Then on the day of your trip, you can both simply sit back and enjoy the flight.