When Cats and Dogs Fly! Choosing an Airline

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August 1, 2010
Comments (2)

When I was moving a few months ago across the country I was trying to figure out what would be the best way to transport my two cats. They are older and not the bravest souls in the world so I knew a cross country car ride wouldn’t work for them. I also knew a plane would scare them. But of the two “evils” the plane was the best decision. The flight would be a few hours and they’d be with me the entire time and I’d be able to make sure they were comfortable even if they were frightened by the whole experience.

A number of airlines allow you to travel with your pet in the cabin but have very specific rules about the size of the animal, carrier, and limit of how many you can fly with at a time. I’m one person with two cats. Many of the airlines would have required me to check them rather than have them with me. My cats are in their teens and my goal was to minimize their stress so I searched and searched till I found a few airlines that really sounded great.

Pet Airways is a great choice but since they are fairly new, they only fly to a few cities. As much as I wanted to use them, they weren’t flying to a city near me. However, Pet Airways is only for pets, the seats have been removed to allow carriers to fit and they section off the cabin to separate the cats and dogs.

Flights can be booked online and “pawsengers” are checked in to a pet lounge at each airport where they can hang out with their owners till it’s time to start boarding. Airline staff give all pets pre-boarding walks and bathroom breaks. During the flight, the pets will be under the care and monitor of trained attendants with a check at least every 15 minutes for the flight’s duration. The price of a ticket for your pet varies depending on the size of the carrier. You can also track the flight on their website to see if they are on time.

If a pet becomes ill, Pet Airways will contact you immediately and together you’ll decide if your pet should continue the flight. If it’s a serious illness, the airline will land at the nearest airport and seek veterinary attention.

A budget-friendly airline is Air Tran, with a price of $69 one-way and is non-refundable. Six pets are allowed per flight with a limit of one pet per paying customer traveling on the same flight. There is an exception to the number of pets on the flight if you have a service dog and need to book a flight.

They require that the carrier for your dog, cat, or bird fit under the seat and have ventilation on at least two sides and close and be secure.

JetBlue has a JetPaws program for furry flyers and does not allow pets to be placed in the baggage or cargo area of their planes. Your pet must fit into a carrier than can be placed under the seat. The price for flying with your pet is $100.00 and they allow one pet per seat or customer but they do have exceptions.

If your pet becomes ill during the flight, the crew will ask if there is a vet on the plane to assist you and if not, they will assist with finding the nearest emergency hospital to the airport that you are heading towards.

Jetblue does not take reservations for your pet online, you’ll need to call and book the flight. They also count the carrier as a carry-on item but also allow you to carry on a “purse” or shoulder bag. If you’re a light traveler, a bookbag and a carrier will not incur any additional baggage fees.

United Airlines allows all kinds of pets to travel including rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, and, of course, cats and dogs. While some of these critters can travel in the cabin with you, others travel in the checked baggage area or you can contact them about flying your pet in a cargo flight.

Pets flying as checked baggage tend to be safe but we all know the horror stories of a pet on a plane having problems and dying. United Airlines knows of the dangers of flying for dogs and cats and has a policy that restricts certain breeds during the hot summer months. Dogs with snout noses and cats with smushy faces are not allowed to fly between June 1 and September 30.

Booking you pet on United Airlines will cost about $125 or more if you need to book your pet as cargo or in the baggage area.

Given the fact that all these airlines and others have great policies and rules regarding pet travel, I ended up choosing Jetblue for the following reasons:

1: Direct flight
2: I did not need to check a bag (light traveler)
3: I was able to book both cats for the flight
4: Once the plane was in the air, I was allowed to place one of the carriers on the seat next to me at a time

No matter which airline you choose when you need to fly your pet, don’t hesitate to call or email them and get all your questions answered before you choose and book a flight. Also, don’t hesitate to call the airport you’re leaving from and ask them exactly what and how they allow your pet to pass through the security gates. It’s all for peace of mind. Happy travels!

Comments

2 Responses to “When Cats and Dogs Fly! Choosing an Airline”

  1. Meg B. says:

    Excellent article. Thank you very much, Kathy!

  2. Annalisa says:

    did you have to pay for an extra seat for your second cat? how did that work?

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