Travel with My Pet

Introduction

We have to travel a lot, but we hate leaving our dog, Brindle, with family and friends a lot of times. However, it is not so easy to travel with my pet. Detailed planning must go into it, and some airlines don’t allow pets on their planes at all. Furthermore, airlines that do allow you to travel with your furry friends often have complicated rules. So, to make the best of traveling with your pet, consider the following advice: 

Plan

Airline

As previously stated, you must make sure that your airline will allow you to bring your pet. It’s also important to ensure that the airline considers your pet, well…a pet. Some may have a snake or other reptile as their pet and even though you may have these types or other types of animals in a cage/container, there may still be risks that the airlines will not allow. Also, there are restrictions when it comes to the height and weight of your pet. Unfortunately, we can’t take a St. Bernard dog with us on the plane, but if your dog is small to medium-sized, it’s still important to ensure your pet is within the height and weight guidelines. 

Destination

According to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Pet Travel, there are also animal health requirements according to your destination. Take a look at their site to find the details for taking your pet from the US to a foreign country, or from state to state. With this information, you can then visit your veterinarian to get the relevant vaccinations, diagnostic testing, health certificates, or administration of treatments/medications. If traveling domestically, you can contact the State Veterinarian Office from the state you will be visiting to ensure you have all of the information you and your pet need.

It’s important to remember that regulations for traveling with a pet change frequently. So, it’s imperative to plan every time you plan to travel with him/her. When pets are brought from a foreign country to the US, there are regulations set by USDA APHIS and sometimes other federal agencies too. 

Cat standing on map with flags

Learn About Your Airline’s Pet Policies

Here we detail the pet travel policies as laid out by the most popular US airlines, skip down to your most frequently used, the list includes:

Delta Air Lines
American Airlines
United Airlines
JetBlue Airways
Southwest Airlines
Spirit Airlines

If your next or most frequent airline is not featured here, just check their website or give them a call to found out their most up-to-date pet info.

Delta Air Lines

When we took our dog Brindle on Delta Airlines, we had to make arrangements with them before traveling. We were told that she could be taken onto the plane as a carry-on or shipped as very special cargo. With the option, we would never ship her as cargo. So we carried her in her carrier along with a few chew toys and snacks, and although slightly freaked by the noises and all the people, it ended up being a smooth, two-hour flight. 

Support and Service Animals
To travel with a support or service animal, you must submit the required documentation no later than 48 hours before the flight. The documentation must be no more than a year old from when the first flight as stated on the itinerary is scheduled. The documentation required includes the animal’s health certification showing the rabies shot verification, and a form from a certified mental health professional. Conveniently you can upload these documents on the Delta Air Lines site. 

Other guidelines are as follows: 

  • Delta Airlines has the right to review documents at any time. 
  • The documentation must be on you while traveling to ensure the health and safety of everyone.
  • No type of Pit Bull breed is allowed as support or service animals.
  • The support and service animal must be seated on the passenger’s lap or on the floor space below the passenger’s seat. 
  • These animals and their items fly for free.
  • The animal size must be no bigger than the passenger’s seat footprint. 
  • Passengers requiring support and service animals can only take one support/service animal. 

For more information concerning traveling with a pet, whether a regular pet or a service/support animal, contact Delta at 1-300-221-1212, or click here

American Airlines

American Airlines has even more guidelines when it comes to pet travel. Firstly, you must choose whether to transport/check your pets or carry on, for a fee, depending on your pet’s size, requirements, and breed. Secondly, you can only travel with breeds of dog and cat and even then there are a few breed restrictions.

Dogs
American Airlines does not accept snub-nosed or brachycephalic dogs of any variations, such as an Affenpinscher, Boston Terrier, English Toy Spaniel, or a Pug.

Cats
American Airlines does not accept brachycephalic cats of any variations, such as Burmese, Persian, Himalayan, or an Exotic Shorthair.

Additionally, American Airlines require dogs and cats to be at least eight weeks old to travel throughout the US and Puerto Rico. Dogs must be at least 16 weeks old to travel to the US. Also, you can travel with your pet for up to 11 and 1/2 hours for most flights within 48 US states, Canada, Central America, Mexico, Alaska, St. Thomas, and St. Croix. There are more restrictions concerning destinations in other countries and continents, such as Australia, and South America.

Other guidelines for American Airlines’ pet policy are as follows: 

  • You can bring one kennel if you pay the pet charge for a carry-on.
    • Your pet must remain in the kennel and under the seat in front of you for the whole flight. 
    • Your pet must be able to turn around, stand up, and lie down in a natural position in the kennel without him/her touching the top or any side of the kennel. 
    • The dimensions of the non-collapsible kennel must not exceed any aircraft’s under-seat dimensions.
    • Collapsible kennels with soft sides can be a little bigger. However, it still must be able to fit under the seat without being required to excessively collapse the kennel. It must be padded, secure, and made of water-repellant material with nylon mesh ventilation on at least two sides
  • Must contact the airline at least 48 hours before traveling for pet arrangements.
  • If checking your pet, you must check-in no earlier than four hours before your flight. 
  • The combined weight of the pet and the carrier must not be heavier than 20lbs. 
  • You must provide your pet’s health certificate.
  • You must adhere to the health requirements of the USDA.

There are additional limitations and restrictions concerning kennels, sedation, food, water for the pets, charges, and more. Visit their website or call American Airlines directly to ensure you and your pet are safe and prepared to travel with them.

United Airlines

Offering a PetSafe program and more, United Airlines has lots of guidelines, rules, and offers concerning carry-on and transporting of your pet. As of June 2018, they have implemented a plethora of new requirements and policies for pet air transportation to improve the travel safety experience for everyone, and their pets. 

They have many of the same requirements as the airlines above. But they also have their own unique offers and programs as illustrated on their various videos and information on their site. Some of their guidelines are as follows: 

In-cabin Pets
They allow domesticated small cats, dogs, birds, and rabbits to travel in an aircraft cabin on most of their domestic US flights. There are, however, some restrictions, see their website for more info.

PetSafe
United’s PetSafe program, allows you to comfortably, and safely, ship (check) your pet if they are ineligible to travel in-cabin. 

Service Animals
For passengers with qualified disabilities, trained service animals are allowed in the United and United Express aircraft cabins. 

Pet Exceptions for the U.S. military and State Department
Personnel of these departments along with their spouses can transport their cats and dogs when traveling on assignment to and from international destinations. Again, check their site for more details.

JetBlue Airways

JetBlue Airways states that their passengers’ small cat or dog must be in an FAA-approved pet carrier that comfortably fits under the seat in front of the passenger. Customers can “book” their pet by calling 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583), on the free JetBlue app, or online on their site. 

With JetBlue you are only allowed one pet. The fee for the pet is $125 each way. Also, you are not allowed to book pets on codeshare/interline bookings regardless of the booking source. (This is when you, say, book with Delta but fly on an Alaska Airlines plane.)

Restrictions
Pets cannot travel with JetBlue to Barbados, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, St. Lucia, or Trinidad & Tobago.

Nevertheless, TrueBlue members will earn 300 more points for each segment when adding a pet to their booking. 

Further JetBlue pet travel regulations are as follows:

  • You must check the countries that allow or restrict pets to enter.
  • You must check the documentation and vaccination needed for each destination on the itinerary.
  • You must have your pet’s license and ID tags.
  • Your carrier along with the pet count as one carry-on bag.
  • The pet must stay in the carrier while on the plane and even at the airport.
  • The combined weight of the carrier and the pet must not be more than 20lbs. Also, the carrier’s dimensions must be more than 17″L x 12.5″W x 8.5″H

When it comes to support or service animals, their requirements and policies are different than they are for pets, see their website for more.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines allows you to carry small, vaccinated dogs and cats in-cabin, in front of you, and under the seat. No animal will be allowed to transport as cargo. Many of the regulations are the same when it comes to the size of the kennel and the weight of the pet along with the carrier. 

Some of the rules and regulations that are different from the other airlines mentioned are as follows: 

  • Southwest will not allow pet remains as checked baggage or a carry-on. 
  • Pets can’t travel on any itinerary with an international flight.
  • Six pets can be taken onto each flight, with one pet per carrier.
  • Pets engaging in disruptive behavior may be denied boarding. Disruptive behavior includes biting, growling, lunging, scratching, excessive barking or whining, etc. 
  • Pet fees are subject to $95 each way for each pet carrier.
  • The pet must be able to completely fit inside the carrier, move around with ease and also stand in the carrier. 

Spirit Airlines

A quick look at the regulations of Spirit Airlines

  • Small animals that are vaccinated can travel on all domestic flights, including ST. Thomas, and Puerto Rico. 
  • They allow domestic cats and dogs, small domestic rabbits, and small household birds.
  • Birds and rabbits can’t travel to or from the US Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico.
  • Customers are allowed up to six pet containers for all domestic flights in the US and the other destinations mentioned.
  • No health certificate is needed on Spirit Airlines for pets traveling with guests in the aircraft cabin except for those traveling to the US Virgin Islands.
  • They don’t allow transporting of pets in the cargo. 
  • The weight of the carrier and the pet may not be more than 40lbs. 
  • Passengers with pets are allows to sit anywhere except for the first row of seats. 

Packing and Other Preparations

Once you have found out all the guidelines, rules, regulations, and offers with the airlines of your choice and federal agencies, you can plan accordingly with your veterinarian and for any emergency evacuation situations for your pet, just in case.

Your furry friend can have some of their favorite food, treats, and toys for the journey – as loving pet owners, we want to make the whole trip as comfortable as possible. It’s a good idea to be able to track your pet while you are traveling, again just in case. And if you are doing a road trip, it’s always good to go for a practice run to ensure you don’t forget anything when you travel with your furry loved one.

Summary

As loving pet owners, we all want to travel with our pets, at least sometimes, instead of always having them stay with family, friends, or a pet hotel. When doing so, it simply requires some more time to find all of the relevant information for your pet’s health, airline policies, and destination policies. It may seem impossible, but it’s often very doable and it’s always great to come home to that smiling face, wherever “home” is.

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