Traveling With Fido
Pet Travel 101
Monday, May 10th, 2010
If you’re thinking about taking your pet along next time you fly, here’s how.
First, make sure it’s up to the trip. Flying is stressful enough for humans, let alone animals. Also, pets should be up-to-date on vaccinations; and some airlines require a health certificate. Consult with your vet.
Most domestic airlines allow carry-on dogs. cats or household birds if they fit comfortably in a carrier under the seat in front of you . The carrier is generally considered either a carry-on bag or personal item. In many cases, you must make a reservation for your pet.
Airport security handles carry-on pets the same way as humans. Your pet walks with you through the metal detector.
Carry-on fares generally range from $75 each way on Southwest Airlines to $125 on United Airlilnes. Service animals fly free, and may travel in the cabin as long as they can fit on the floor next to the passenger.
Cape Air, a Massachusetts-based airline, will fly any dog in the cabin without carriers on some short commuter flights. Dogs under 35 pounds may be carried on the passenger’s lap; those that weigh more can sit or stand, but must be restrained. For many longer flights, dogs must be in a carrier. Cats must always be in carriers. Cost is $10 per pet, each way. The airline services New England, the Florida Keys, and parts of the Mid-Atlantic, Caribbean and South Pacific.
The rule of thumb for other airlines is — if your pet is too big to fit under the seat, it will have to travel as checked baggage. Some airlines will only fly rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs as checked baggage. And if you need to ship your pet by itself, it will have to travel as cargo.
In these instances, carriers are put in the cargo hold. There are no attendants, so you’re advised to include absorbant lining. Though the hold is pressurized, there are temperature restrictions in summer and winter. Some breeds prone to breathing problems may be restricted, or not allowed. The ASPCA has a comprehensive list of safe cargo travel guidelines (see below.)
The cost of checking an animal as baggage can run up to $200 each way; as cargo, almost $800 for very big dogs.
For those who don’t like the idea of the hold, there may be another alternative: Pet Airways. This Florida-based airline caters only to “pawsengers” — primarily dogs and cats. All travel in carriers in the climate-controlled cabin. Human attendants monitor the animals. The airline services nine cities nationwide. Each city has a “pet lounge” for pets to wait before and after the flight.
Fare depends on size of the pet carrier and travel distance. Fares can run up to more than $600 each way for very large dogs going on longer flights. There’s a 10 percent discount for round-trip fares.
These are all general guidelines. All major airlines have websites or reservations agents who can give specifics.
For even more information: Cape Air: www.flycapeair.com or 866-Cape-Air
Pet Airways: www. petairways.com or 888-738-2479
ASPCA Pet Travel Tips: www.aspca.org