Everything you MUST know to fly with your dog in-cabin
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One of the greatest advantages of having a small dog in the United States is the ease and ability to take them on a plane with you. They comfortably fit under the seat in front of you and they are by your side the entire time.
I have carried my dachshund, Rocket on a plane more than 50 times. In a way, I feel like an expert in this department. For first-timers, the process can indeed be intimidating and stressful.
I am going to walk you through everything you need to know to fly with your dog in-cabin so you and your best friend can have the best possible experience while on the plane.
To ensure a safe and stress-free flight, preparation ahead of time is vital.
1. Choosing the right pet carrier
You will need to purchase an airline approved carrier to take your pet with you on the plane. There are specific requirements and features that the bag must have.
The bag must:
- Be airline compliant
- Have adequate air ventilation
- Be fully enclosed so your dog can't escape
- Be leak-proof with absorbent bedding
Additionally, your dog needs to be able to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably inside the bag. Typically, the weight of your pet and the carrier combined can't exceed 20 pounds but it depends on the airline.
This is the bag that has always worked for me:
Sherpa Deluxe Pet Carrier: I love this carrier because it has a spring wire frame making it protective of my dachshund, but is also able to be pushed down to fit under the seat. It has a seatbelt strap for safety in the car. It also lasts forever. I have had this carrier for 10 years!
Here is another bag that I have tried and would recommend:
Kurgo Metro Dog Carrier: Super stylish and airline compliant! It's easy for your dog to get in and out of this bag because it has a side and top entry.
Be sure to acclimate your dog to the carrier at least two weeks before traveling. Doing so will help reduce stress and anxiety.
2. Make an appointment with the vet.
It's important to visit your vet to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about your upcoming trip. Your vet will also make sure your dog is up to date on shots, in good health and tell you if the place you will be visiting has any vaccine requirements.
If you have a very anxious dog, your vet will discuss the possibility of a sedative. Now is also an excellent time to consider having your dog microchipped if they aren't already.
Depending on the airline, you may need a health certificate. A health certificate is a document signed by your vet and states that your pet is free of infectious disease. Make sure to contact your airline to find out their requirements.
3. Reservations and Pet Fees
Most major airlines accept in-cabin pets within the United States, but because airlines only allow a certain number of pets to fly in the cabin, you must reserve them in advance. For example, according to Southwest, “There will be no more than six (6) scheduled pet carriers per scheduled flight. However, from time to time, circumstances may allow for more (or fewer) than six (6) pet carriers per scheduled flight.”
The best way to ensure your pet will get on the flight with you is to call the airline directly to make a reservation. That way, you can let them know that you will be traveling with a dog and they can help you pick the best seat.
Reserving directly through the airline is not always the most affordable option, though. Third party sites like CheapOair may offer lower prices and give you a variety of different airlines for your choosing.
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If booking through a 3rd party site, call the airline directly once you find the flight you are interested in reserving. Make sure they have availability for your pet and then go back and buy your ticket online. You can't reserve your pet online, so you must call the airline directly.
When you call to reserve your pet, they will ask you these specific questions:
·What are the exact dimensions of your carrier?
·What is the total combined weight of your dog and carrier?
·What breed is your dog?
Try and book a direct flight for the shortest possible travel time
When you fly with your pet in the cabin, you must pay a pet fee. The fare is paid at the airport when you check in for your flight. You will need to go to the ticket counter as you can't pay for your pet at the self-serve kiosk. Be sure to allow plenty of time in case the line is long.
Another thing to note is that you are charged each way. For example, let's say you have a roundtrip flight on Delta. Delta charges $125 each way. You will pay a total of $250 for the entire trip. You will pay the remaining $125 when you check-in for your return flight.
Here is a list of the Major Airline Pet Fees. These fares are each way so you will need to double it if you have a round-trip ticket.
Alaska Airlines: $100.00
Allegiant Air: $100.00
American Airlines: $125.00
Delta Air Lines: $125.00
Frontier Airlines: $75.00
Hawaiian Airlines: Permitted only on inter-island flights and flights leaving the State of Hawaii.
Southwest Airlines: $95.00
Spirit Airlines: $110.00
United Airlines: $125.00
Since in-cabin travel for pets is booked on a space-available basis, call the airline asap to reserve your pet. Ask them to assign you a seat that works for you and your pet. Due to limited storage space on certain aircrafts, the pet carrier may only fit under specific seats. You cannot sit in an exit row or a seat with no forward under-seat stowage.
Day of Travel
Your pet carrier is considered either a personal item or a carry on item. You can't board the plane with a personal item (like a purse), a carry-on item and your pet carrier. When I travel, I bring a backpack and the pet carrier. I'm able to fit my small purse inside the backpack and this system has always worked for me.
1. Packing List For The Plane:
·Pet Carrier with proper bedding
·Poop Bags – Doubles as garbage bags
·Leash and Collar
·Necessary Documents/Vaccines/Health Certificate
·Paper towels in case your dog gets sick or has an accident
·A small toy
You can get water for your dog on the plane if they need it. If you are checking a bag, pack your dog's food in your luggage to save room.
2. Pre-flight workout
A pre-flight workout will relax your dog and help them sleep while flying. You can take your dog for a walk or jog, to the park or play some indoor games.
Related Post: 8 Amazingly Fun Indoor Dog Games
3. Food and water
Once your dog is on the plane, the only place to relieve themselves is in their carrier, and no one wants that. For this reason, it's important to limit the amount of food and water your dog has before flying.
Don't feed your dog within at least two hours of flying. You should also try to limit the amount of water they have only giving it to them if necessary.
Take your dog outside before entering the airport to give them one last chance to relieve themselves. Sometimes airports have indoor pet relief areas, but they are few and far between. Keep in mind that if your pet needs to relieve himself once through security, you will have to go back outside the airport and through security all over again.
I know that booking a direct flight isn't always possible. If you have a connecting flight with a layover, check the airport to see if they offer a pet relief area. My layovers are typically around one hour. In this case, I don't take Rocket to relieve himself. If you are traveling with a young dog though, they may not be able to hold their bladder that long.
4. What to expect while at the airport
Once you check your pet in at the ticket counter, you will go through security. You will need to take your pet out of the bag and carry your dog through the walk-through metal detector. Once through the metal detector, an airport agent will need to swipe each of your hands while holding your dog.
Once through security, place your dog back in their carrier and proceed to your gate.
Sometimes you can board the plane before general boarding begins. When you get to your gate, tell the agent you are traveling with a pet and ask if you can have an early boarding.
On the Plane
When you get to your seat, slide the pet carrier under the seat in front of you. Your dog will need to remain inside the carrier until de-boarding.
Many pet carriers have a zippered compartment on one side. When sliding the bag under the seat, have the zipper facing you to keep things like your phone, notepad, pen, mints, etc. within easy reach.
Unless your dog is prone to car sickness, they will most likely not get sick on the plane. Sometimes, the flight can experience turbulence which can be scary for a dog. If so, I recommend placing your hand inside the carrier to comfort them if they seem stressed.
If your dog is quiet though, it's best not to disturb them so they can try and sleep. Giving your pup any attention may cause upset which can lead to barking and crying.
Only give your dog water if they need it. Remember, the only place for them to relieve themselves is in the pet carrier.
Try not to leave your seat unless necessary. Your dog can sense when you are not around, and they may become very scared!
Once off the plane, immediately take your dog outside to relieve themselves and give them plenty of water.
Links to all major USA airline's pet policies
For reference, here is a link to all of the major airline's pet policy. Be sure to read them thoroughly before flying as they will have the most accurate and up-to-date information.
Allegiant Air: https://www.allegiantair.com/traveling-with-pets
American Airlines: https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/special-assistance/pets.jsp
Frontier Airlines: https://www.flyfrontier.com/travel-information/family-pets/
Flying with a Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal(ESA?) Click HERE for more information. You should also contact the airline directly to find out their specific policy.
Traveling with your dog is a wonderful thing. Hopefully, this information makes flying with your dog in-cabin a little easier! As always, be sure to call the airline directly to get the most accurate information available. Happy travels!
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