For a lot of pet owners, the perfect trip may involve bringing Fido or Chloe with you – but flying with pets can be an adventure in and of itself. If you are traveling with your furry companions soon, these seven tips can help you both have a smoother journey.
1. Notify the Airline In Advance.
Contact your airline in advance to let them know that you plan on traveling with a pet. Ideally, you should contact the airline before booking a flight. This is because each airline has different pet travel policies in regards to permitted breeds, seat selection, and health requirements.
Many people may not know that pets may only be able to connect through certain airports. Airlines also restrict the number of carry-on pets per flight. As few as two or as many as six may be allowed to fly.
Breaking up the flight can help you meet the airline requirements but also gives you a chance to free your pet from their carrier. If you are flying internationally, consider upgrading the class you are seated in. Some airlines, like the Avianca LifeMiles credit cards, are currently offering large sign-up bonuses that can help you pay for flight upgrades.
You will also need to pay attention to any heat or cold temperature restrictions. For example, American Airlines may prohibit pet travel if the current or forecasted temperature exceeds 85 degrees or dips below 45 degrees at any location on your itinerary.
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is another valuable planning tool for knowing the travel requirements of your destination state or country. This resource can answer some of the pet travel requirements that are not airline-specific.
2. Time Your Flight.
As previously mentioned, airlines restrict pet travel if there is extreme heat or cold along the travel route. On pet-friendly travel days, you can reduce your pet’s exposure to the elements by timing your flight time.
In the summer months, try flying early in the morning when temperatures are cooler. Fly mid-day during the winter when the tarmac temperatures are warmer. All pets fly in pressurized cabins (even in the cargo area). Timing your flight times helps keep them as comfortable as possible.
3. Avoid Aisle Seats.
Airlines require your pet to remain in their carrier at all times on the plane. Service animals and emotional support animals can be exempt from this rule.
Depending on the plane, the middle seat or window seat can have more under-seat storage. These few extra inches can give you the assurance your carrier fits underneath. Being away from the aisle may also keep your pet calmer as there is less activity.
You can also use some of the best credit cards for purchasing flights to upgrade your seat. This way both you and your pet remain comfortable. Plus, a quiet pet means less stress for you and nearby passengers.
4. Use a Soft-Sided Pet Carrier.
Carry-on pets can either be in a soft or hard-sided carrier. Soft-sided carriers give you more flexibility. Even if you have limited under-seat storage, a soft carrier is more forgiving.
For your carrier to be accepted, you must make sure your pet has enough space to stand and move around with ease. All carriers must also be well-ventilated and leakproof.
Try getting a carrier that has side storage pockets as carriers count as your carry-on. These pockets should hold pet supplies and potty pads. Any remaining space can hold items that might normally fit inside the travel bag you usually put under the seat.
If your pet is traveling in cargo, your only option is a hard-sided carrier. To save time at check-in, attach a bag of food to the top of the carrier with feeding instructions for a 24-hour period. Your carrier and destination state may have extra requirements.
5. Exercise Before You Board.
Having your pet active as much as possible before check-in can be a great help in keeping them calm. Being in the carrier for an excessive amount of time can make your pet restless or aggressive. Even though you purchased a ticket, the airline can still refuse boarding if your pet exhibits excessive barking, whining, or aggression.
The earliest you can check-in your pet is four hours before boarding. Once they arrive at the airport, your pet cannot exit the carrier unless passing through airport security or at pet relief areas. Use the perks like Global Entry and TSA PreCheck credit, lounge access, and priority boarding that come with some of the best rewards credit cards 2019.
You might wait as long as possible to check-in to spend more time with your pet. Also, use this extra time to let your pet eat and drink. As each pet handles travel differently, you may abstain from feeding them at most fours hours before takeoff to minimize the chance of motion sickness.
6. Map Out Pet Relief Areas.
Spend a few minutes researching where the pet relief areas are in your connecting or destination airports. Most large airports have several pet relief areas. It’s not uncommon for them to be located in the pre-security area, meaning you will need to re-enter airport security. Allow extra time for potential delay when comparing layover times.
Knowing where these pet relief areas are can help optimize your layover so you have more time to relax or let your dog run around. Some relief spots are better than others. Researching beforehand lets you go directly to the best location.
You’ll likely find that many relief areas are rather unimpressive as they are a small patch of plastic turf with basic cleanup supplies. Others, like the JetBlue’s “Wooftop” at New York’s JFK airport, include benches and ample space for pets and their owners to enjoy the fresh outdoor air.
These relief areas are technically the only place in most airports where pets are allowed to be outside their carrier. Even private airport lounges require pets to remain in their carriers at all times. Allowing a few extra minutes in the relief area for your pet to stretch their legs can help them stay calm on your connecting flight.
7. No Sedatives.
Your vet might prescribe sedatives to keep your pet calm during travel. Airlines strongly discourage this practice as they can do more harm your animal than good. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association discourages sedation because the altitude pressure magnifies the risk of heart and respiratory issues.
Sedatives and tranquilizers can make it harder for your pet to naturally regulate their body temperature. It’s easier for them to become overheated or too cold. They can also affect their behavior which can make the travel experience more stressful for you and them.
Instead, you can bring along their favorite chew toy or snacks. Make sure these items do not present a choking hazard.
If your pet is sedated at check-in, you will need to provide the airline the medication name, dosage amount, and the time your pet was sedated.
Flying with pets adds another dynamic to your travel experience. Planning ahead and being organized helps you and your pet stay calm. Using your points/miles to upgrade your seat can be worth it if it means you and your furry friend can travel in peace. A little extra effort can produce a stressless journey that is worth making effort for.