Travelling with Pets on a Plane

In our last post on this topic, we shared some tips for travelling long distances with your pets in the car. But what about when you’re making the trip by air?

Flying with your pets is, of course, a quicker solution than taking the car, but you also have less control over the situation from start to finish. If you’re trying to decide between flying or driving, try to weigh the overall stress it will place on your pet. Is yours the kind of pet who would easily sleep through a few hours in a cargo hold? Or would they rather stick close to you, but be stuck in a car for a longer period?

If you and your pet are going airborne, here are a few things to note.

  • You’ll need to get in touch with the airline well in advance, as your booking won’t be as flexible as usual. Airlines tend to block off specific times when pets are allowed to travel along on their flights.
  • You will likely have to remove your pet from their carrier at security. If your pet is prone to bolting in terror, you might want to have some kind of harness on them, just in case.
  • If your pet is small enough, you may be able to take them into the cabin with you. However, they’ll need to comfortably fit in a soft carrier that can be placed under the seat in front of you. And, for the sake of other passengers (who may have allergies—or a fear of animals), you shouldn’t take them out of the carrier while you’re flying.
  • If you do bring your pet on board, your other carry-on will be restricted to a satchel or purse. Additional small baggage will be disallowed.

Tip: No matter where you’re travelling or how, placing an absorbent pad at the bottom of your pet’s carrier is a wise thing to do! It will significantly minimize the catastrophe level of an untimely accident.

  • If your pet isn’t petite, then they’ll have to be checked as cargo. Not to worry, they will be treated more gently than your suitcase! And, of course, pets are placed in a pressurized and climate-controlled part of the cargo hold. Still, especially on a long plane ride, this can be a stressful experience. Some travellers choose to give their nervous pets a mild sedative—this is something to discuss with your vet and possibly test out in advance. Placing a favourite toy as well as a t-shirt you have worn a few times into your pet’s carrier may also alleviate stress.
  • Obviously, your pet will not come bouncing down the baggage carousel—you will likely be reunited with them at the “oversized baggage” area. Talk to airport staff at your destination to find out where you can pick up your pet.

Tip: Are you bringing your pet to a new country? You’ll need to ensure they have the proper vaccinations—and get documentation of this on your vet’s letterhead with their signature. Make sure you arrange for their shots well in advance, as a certain amount of time needs to elapse after the vaccine is given to ensure it’s effective. If you take your pet over the border too soon after vaccination, they may have to be quarantined until the wait time is up.

In special circumstances, some airlines make exceptions for larger pets to join the cabin. During the evacuations of Fort McMurray during early spring 2016, WestJet welcomed many animals aboard.

With careful planning and consideration of your fuzzy friend’s needs, you’ll have them safely at your destination in no time!


Check out our blog for more travel tips.

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