7 Tips to Fly Hassle-Free With Your Pet

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A poll taken by Travelhorizons, a research program funded by the U.S. Travel Association, found that 18 percent of regular travelers take their pets with them when they travel. Those 18 percent know how difficult, time-consuming, and expensive it is to fly with a pet. But what about the rest of us?

There are special regulations, preflight requirements, extra costs, and a load of information you’ll need to absorb before you can board a plane with your four-legged buddy. In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson breaks it all down. Check it out and then read on for more information about flying with your pets…

Stacy explained what to expect, but here are some more ways to make flying easier on you and your pet…

The cost

As Stacy said in the video, the cost for flying Fido ranges from $75 to $650 and up and depends on several factors, especially the airline you choose, since they charge vastly different prices.

Then there’s how you fly. If you have a small pet, most airlines will allow you to bring it onboard with you. But you’ll pay a service fee, and your pet’s carrier or kennel counts as a carry-on. If you need to bring another carry-on (like your laptop,) you’ll have to pay an additional fee. Here are a few rate examples:

If your pet carrier isn’t small enough to fit under your seat, you’ll have to check your pet as cargo. Don’t fret, Fido will ride in a temperature-controlled cargo section of the plane. Here are a few rate examples:

  • American Airlines – $175 per carrier
  • United Airlines – starting at $169 per carrier
  • Delta – starting at $178 per carrier

Then there’s size. Many airlines charge based on the height and weight of your pet. For example, United Airlines charges from $169 for a 1- to 9-pound pet and up to $659 for a 201- to 250-pound pet traveling within the United States.

If your pet is flying alone, you’ll pay based on the weight of your pet and the distance of the flight. You can get an exact quote by contacting the airline directly.


And just in case the pricing isn’t confusing enough, many airlines also have restrictions on what types of pets and flying situations they’ll accept. For example, some airlines – like American and Delta – have breed restrictions for both in-cabin and cargo-shipped pets. For dogs, that typically includes snub-nose breeds like pit bulls, mastiffs, and pugs, because of breathing issues.

Some cats are also restricted. American Airlines, for example, doesn’t allow Burmese, Persian, Himalayan, and Exotic Shorthair cats on their flights. Many airlines also ban kittens and puppies that are less than 8 weeks old.

Other airlines may require you to accompany your pet. For example, Southwest Airlines won’t let pets travel alone or with a minor. Depending on the flight, you might not be able to sit in certain parts of the plane. And Delta doesn’t permit in-cabin pets in business class.

What you’ll need

Booking a flight with Fluffy is a bit more complicated than buying a ticket for yourself. First, pets require a reservation, so you’ll need to contact the airline directly when you book your ticket.

Most airlines require a veterinary certificate showing your pet is healthy and approved for travel. And your vet may require other services – like flea medication or vaccinations – before clearing your pet for takeoff.

In colder temperatures, you might need to get an “acclimation certificate” from your vet stating that your pet can handle cold weather.

On the day of your flight, you’ll need to bring your pet to the ticket counter in an approved transportation carrier or kennel: Generally, one that’s large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around will do. You’ll also need to give your pet food and water, then take them to the designated area so they can relieve themselves before the flight.

Flying with your pet sounds complicated and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips to minimize the cost and the stress:

  1. Research flights early. Compare the cost of flights on several airlines and call the airlines’ reservation line to get a quote for your pet’s travel costs.
  2. Get a list of requirements from the airline several weeks before you fly to make sure there aren’t any surprises at the airport.
  3. Schedule an appointment with your vet after you book your flight. Tell the vet you’ll need a travel certificate.
  4. Make sure you book a pet-friendly hotel. Check out our story 10 of the Most Popular Pet-Friendly Hotels in America for ideas or search for your own on a site like petswelcome.com.
  5. Shop around for a travel carrier or ask your friends and family if they’ve flown with a pet before. They may have one you can borrow.
  6. Test your travel carrier by having your pet sit inside. Make sure your pet has enough room to move around. Otherwise, you may have to buy an expensive carrier from the airline.
  7. Arrive at the airport early. You’ll have to visit the ticket counter, go through security with your pet, and prep your pet for travel. Give yourself plenty of time.

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