8 Tips for Flying With Pets

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Any dog or cat owner will tell you that pets are much more than animal companions; for many of us they have become real members of the family. As such, many four-legged friends – and even feathered ones – travel with their owners when they fly away for a much-needed vacation.

As people travel with their pets and more airlines allow pets to travel with their owners in the cabin, it brings up a whole new set of issues like what to do on long flights and layovers, and whether it’s OK to remove a pet from its carrier during the flight or in the airport to let it stretch its legs.

And how do you manage today’s extensive security procedures?

Well, to help pet owners involve their little friends in their relaxation plans, without driving the people sitting next to them nuts, MainStreet canvassed travel and pet experts to round up the best tips for traveling with pets.

Know the rules. Most airlines will allow passengers to take some smaller pets into the cabin, but the rules are complicated and fees can go upwards of $125 for the pets that qualify.

Airlines generally require that pets be in approved carriers and fit under the seat in front of you. Many also count the pet as your one allowed personal bag and some limit the overall number of pets per flight. Most pets have to be current on vaccinations, and expect to show paperwork to prove that fact.

Terri Slater and her husband say they have taken their 6-year old Yorkshire Terrier Teddy on at least a dozen flights. “It’s easy because he’s small and we haven’t found anyone we’re comfortable leaving him with,” said Slater.

However, their peace of mind comes with a price. “We’ve paid less for our tickets on some flights than we have on Teddy’s,” said Slater.

Many airlines will also give passengers the option of letting a pet fly as cargo, but some dog breeds are not allowed in the cargo hold at all due to the difficulty many have breathing in such confines, and many airlines will not put live animals in the hold if it is too hot or cold outside.

Pet owners must also be aware that accidents do happen and pets sometimes die en route or are lost in the cargo hold after escaping from a cage. When anything like this happens, airlines’ policies ensure that they will not be held responsible. You give up control of your pet at your own risk.

Keep in mind that traveling outside of the continental U.S. or to Hawaii carries some special rules, so make sure you check those out before your trip. Slater is preparing to take Teddy to Europe this year and has found he will need a special microchip embedded under the skin, and detailed veterinary records.