Airplane Travel Tips
Every country has its own specific rules regarding traveling with pets. Follow them carefully to avoid any hassles later.
Make an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian for a check-up, and make sure all vaccinations, tattoos and microchips (if applicable), are up-to-date. Obtain all government health certificates, including countries where the pet is making a connection. Please note that local veterinary certificates are not sufficient.
When you contact the airline, be sure to find answers to these questions:
* Does the airline allow you to take your cat or small dog on board with you?
* If that option isn’t available to you, does the airline have any restrictions on transporting your pet as cargo?
* Does the airline have any special pet health and immunization requirements?
* Does the airline require a specific type of carrier? Most airlines will accept either hard-sided carriers or soft-sided carriers, which may be more comfortable for your pet, but only certain brands of soft-sided carriers are acceptable to certain airlines.
Give your pet at least a month before your flight to become familiar with the travel carrier. This will minimize his or her stress during travel. Write the words “Live Animal” in letters at least one inch tall on top of and at least one side of the crate. Use arrows to prominently indicate the upright position of the crate. On the top of the crate, write the name, address and telephone number of your pet’s destination point, and whether you will be accompanying him or if someone else is picking him up. Make sure that the door is securely closed, but not locked, so that airline personnel can open it in case of an emergency. Line the crate bottom with some type of bedding—shredded paper or towels— to absorb accidents.
Affix a current photograph of your pet to the top of the crate for identification purposes. Should your pet escape from the carrier, this could be a lifesaver. You should also carry a photograph of your pet.
Do not feed your pet for four to six hours prior to air travel. Small amounts of water can be given before the trip. The night before you leave, make sure you’ve frozen a small dish or tray of water for your pet. This way, it can’t spill during loading, and will melt by the time he’s thirsty. Tape a small pouch, preferably cloth, of dried food outside the crate. Airline personnel will be able to feed your pet in case he gets hungry on long-distance flights or a layover.
Fit your pet with a collar that can’t get caught in carrier doors. Breakaway collars are best for cats. The collar should also include destination information in case your pet escapes. Make sure that your pet’s nails have been clipped to protect against their hooking in the carrier’s door, holes, and other crevices.
If the plane is delayed, or if you have any concerns about the welfare of your pet, insist that airline personnel check the animal whenever feasible. In certain situations, removing the animal from the cargo hold and deplaneing may be warranted.
Tell every airline employee you encounter, on the ground and in the air, that you are traveling with a pet in the cargo hold. This way, they’ll be ready if any additional considerations or attention is needed.
Book a direct flight whenever possible. This will decrease the chances that your pet is left on the tarmac during extreme weather conditions or mishandled by baggage personnel. Try not to fly with your pet during busy travel times such as holidays and the summer. Your pet is more likely to undergo rough handling during hectic travel periods.
If traveling during the summer or winter months, choose flights that will accommodate the temperature extremes. Early morning or late evening flights are better in the summer; afternoon flights are better in the winter. Don’t ever ship pug-nosed animals such as Pekingese, Bulldogs, or Persians in the cargo holds. These breeds have short nasal passages that leave them especially vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke. Tranquilizing your pet is generally not recommended, as it could hamper his breathing. Check with your veterinarian first.
When you arrive at your destination, open the carrier as soon as you are in a safe place and examine your pet. If anything seems wrong, take your pet to a veterinarian immediately. Get the results of the examination in writing, including the date and time.