Up, Up and Away?
On a recent airline trip over the holidays, I was fortunate to sit next to a woman traveling with a small dog. Her dog was so quiet that not until I heard a tiny whimper did I realize that her carry-on luggage was really a soft sided dog crate. My new friend explained that she does not go anywhere without her dog and from his calm behavior I could see that this was true. Our flight took off and as I petted her dog I wondered what the airline regulations were concerning traveling with pets.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has relatively little oversight regarding airline travel with pets, other than regulations regarding traveling with service dogs, leaving the airlines to make their own rules regarding pet travel. All the major U.S. based airline carriers have similar rules and fees concerning traveling with in-cabin pets. Current fees average $125 each way with weight and size restrictions of 20 pounds (carrier and dog(s)) and the hard or soft sided carrier must fit under the seat. Some airlines also allow dogs in the pressurized cargo area on certain flights for an average charge of $175 each way, although Delta Airlines is discontinuing this service as of March 1, 2016, except for members of the military and service animals, due to the number of pet deaths (74) in the last ten years. American Airlines will be one of the last major U.S. based airlines to allow dogs to travel in the cargo hold.
What is the best answer when considering airline travel with your canine companion? First, consider the options of air travel and the effect of this stress on your dog. Although it is tempting to bring your dog along on a fun vacation or to visit family, traveling is exhausting and the close environment to so many travelers not healthy for humans let alone our pets, who are placed in this unfamiliar and frightening environment. For most of us, the answer will be to leave our pets at home or, if practical, drive to our destination with our dog. But if airline travel is the only option, prepare well by reading the airline regulations well in advance of your flight, consulting your veterinarian for advice and possible medication, and bring everything you need to care for your dog in everyday or emergency conditions. Perhaps your dog will adapt as well as the woman with her small dog who “goes everywhere with her” but I think that this is the exception rather than the rule. As pet owners, it always comes down to doing what is best for our dogs!