Air travel with your dog: answering the 4 most common questions

There’s no denying that it’s challenging and expensive to air travel with your dog. In the hierarchy of the easiest and least stressful ways to transport your dog to a new location, flying usually comes last. But on some occasions—for example, if you’re moving to another city or state for the long term or if you need to keep a service dog in your company—it can’t be helped. In such instances, you’ll need to do a lot of legwork so that you and your dog can have a safe and smooth travel experience.

What should you know before booking a flight for yourself and your pup? Here are the answers to the four most common questions dog owners ask before traveling via plane with their dogs:

In what circumstances are dogs allowed to fly with their owners?

travel with your dog on your lap

Dogs can fly with their owners as long as the airline itself permits flying with pets. But whether your dog can ride in the main cabin or must be flown in the cargo section depends on the policy of the air carrier. Either way, they will often charge a hefty fee. If they can count your dog and its kennel among your carry-on luggage, be ready to pay extra or lighten your carry-on load accordingly.

Additional limitations will vary per airline. Some airlines allow pets on board during their regular seasons, but don’t offer the same service during holiday months because of the added stress and risk of handling pets in the air. There are also some carriers that have explicit policies against allowing certain dog breeds on their aircraft. For example, brachycephalic or short-nosed dogs are often discouraged from flying because they are more vulnerable to heat stroke, oxygen deprivation, and other health risks. Lastly, airlines are now stricter about the distinction between emotional support animals and service animals. If your dog is a service dog, you must expect to provide specific paperwork declaring them as such.

All in all, you’ll need to do extensive research on which airlines you can book flights with if you’re flying with your dog. You’ll also need to get their requirements well in advance. Make sure to declare that you’ll be flying with a dog as soon as you possibly can so that you’re guaranteed a part of the aircraft’s limited space.

air travel with your dog toys
How to travel with your dog on a plane: pack his favorite toys

What do you need to prepare for the plane trip with your dog?

Your checklist for your flight out with your dog should include the following:

  • A pet carrier or kennel that’s large and sturdy enough for a long trip. Check with the airline about whether they have specific carrier or kennel requirements, like a size limit.
  • A collar, ID tag, leash, harness, dog bandana, or other pet equipment that can secure your dog and make it easily identifiable. You can even have custom dog leashes, collars, or harnesses made so that your pup will visually stand out from their environment, decreasing the chances that they’ll get lost in a crowded place. Important details such as your dog’s name, your name, your number, and your address should be on the carrier/kennel and on their body. 
  • Sufficient food and water for your dog, as well as food and water dishes that can be attached to the carrier or kennel. Dog treats must be packed in hand luggage in your quart-size bag so they’ll take up space that you usually use for your soap and shampoo.
  • A biodegradable bag you can use several times a day at least when you’re throwing out they’re not plastic so it makes you feel a little bit better. It’s highly suggested and be sure you’re prepared to have some on you at all times when you’re traveling with dogs.
  • Absorbent material lining to serve as a barrier between the kennel/carrier and the plane floor and to keep both surfaces clean and hygienic.
  • Your dog’s favorite toys, pillows, blankets, and other items which make the environment feel safer and more familiar to them.
  • Packing an emergency kit is a good idea to have while traveling with your pets so you are prepared to deal with your pet’s medical emergency.
  • Copy of your airline’s pet policy to bring with you should you have any problems at the check-in desk or cargo area.

What paperwork do you need to travel with your dog?

The assortment of documents you’ll need to bring with you depends on the airline’s policy, as well as your personal situation. But it’s good to have the following already ready:

  • A health certificate issued by your vet, attesting that your dog is healthy enough to make the journey.
  • Your dog’s most updated health records, including proof of vaccinations.
  • Any prescriptions for medicines that your dog is taking.
  • A copy of your pet travel insurance or pet health insurance policy if you enrolled your dog in an insurance program.

What rules must you follow when flying with your dog?

tips to travel with your dog

Once your flight’s been booked, you’ll need to follow the airline’s directive for what types of seats you and your dog can occupy. Airline policy usually dictates that you cannot occupy seats in an emergency exit row, bulkhead seats, or flatbed seats if you’re traveling with your dog. In addition, your dog is required to stay inside its carrier or kennel for the whole trip.

You’re also expected to show courtesy to your fellow passengers and to account for any noise or commotion your dog may be making. Oftentimes, the solution lies in ensuring that your dog is as calm and as comfortable as it can possibly be.

Enjoy travel with your dog!

Jetting from Point A to Point B with your pooch will be a lot harder than flying alone. But if you follow the tips enumerated above, there’s a greater chance that both of you will have a pleasant time. Fly safe, and happy trails to you and your pup!

About the author

Mirela Letailleur The Travel Bunny

Mirela Letailleur is a Romanian travel blogger living in the South of France. She writes on The Travel Bunny travel blog about affordable travel in Europe. Creator of unique free travel guides and local travel expert. Problem solver. Wannabe coffee guru.

Read more about Mirela Letailleur

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