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Air Travel

Center for Pet Safety needs to complete a study looking at all aspects of what happens to pets when they travel by air.  We unfortunately know pet incidents will continue if we cannot complete a study to provide insight and guidance to the airline industry. Banning specific breeds from airline travel is not a solution. In our opinion, one death, is one death too many and we know these problems can be solved. Our team is ready to hit the ground running to develop real solutions for pet owners in partnership with the airline industry.

Until the time we can locate a champion, CPS urges caution when entrusting your pets to airline care and management. Most pet owners we speak with are finding alternatives to cargo travel, with some going as far as to charter private planes to transport their pets.  While the majority of pets arrive at their destination safely, we understand that pet-related airline incidents continue to happen – including the recent pet deaths reported in 2018.

Booking your flight:

  • Before booking your flight – check the airline’s pet safety record.
  • Certain breed types (bracheocephalic) are restricted from flying during certain times of the year. Check with your airline for details.
  • Speak with the airline directly to book your pet’s flight.  Understand the airline policies and procedures as they apply to your pet’s travel.
  • Confirm the airline’s required dimensions of your pet’s carrier (if flying in the cabin), or the required crate size (if flying via cargo.)
  • Confirm that the airline policies guarantee compliance with animal welfare regulations.  This is specific to the temperatures and the duration of temperatures your pet will be exposed to if flying as cargo.
  • Book a direct non-stop flight when possible. Layovers and multiple stops increase the risk of problems for pets in cargo.
  • Accompany your pet on the flight (even if they need to fly cargo) so that you can better manage the airline and be an advocate for your companion. There is an increased risk of problems occurring if the pet is flying unaccompanied.

Health Certificate:

  • Your pet will require a health certificate from your veterinarian within in 10 days prior to travel.  This is an essential document and may be reviewed during different check points – keep it with you at all times.
  • If your pet accompanies you for a stay at your destination for longer than 10 days – you will need to obtain another health certificate from a veterinarian.  Ensure you locate a veterinarian at your destination location to perform this service.
  • Ensure your pet is microchipped, has collar and tags, and the carrier is appropriately and heavily marked “Live Animal” and include your contact information, including cell phone.

Arriving at the Airport:

  • Arrive early – pets must be checked in at the airline counter – allow extra time especially during peak travel times.
  • Do not feed your pet for at least four hours prior to boarding your flight. This will help reduce airsickness.
  • Do not tranquilize your pet for air travel – tranquilzers can lead to in-flight emergencies. If your pet is a nervous traveler – try high activity exercise within two hours of heading to the airport.

If transporting in the cabin:

  • Bring pictures of you with your pet and your pet’s medical records/medications with you.
  • Pack extra food, collars, leashes, potty pads, collapsible food and water bowls, and pick up a bottle of water for your pet once you are through security.
  • Your pet will need to remain in their carrier stowed under the seat in front of you for the duration of the flight.
  • If you are asked to place your pet in an overhead compartment – speak with the attendant and/or the captain.  If they pressure you to do so, deboard the plane and ask to speak with airline personnel immediately.  You may need to reschedule your flight.  (These incidents are rare, but they do happen.)  Pets should never be placed in an overhead compartment.

If transporting by cargo:

  • Ensure your pet’s travel crate is inspected and has no structural defects.  Ensure the carrier door can be locked or secured with a redundant device. (Doors are commonly breached.  Using a backup device to secure the door helps to mitigate that risk.)
  • Label the crate thoroughly (in both English and Spanish) and include your contact information.  The destination location should also be included in labeling.
  • Request that your pet’s carrier be placed in a conditioned environment until loaded onto the plane. (ie: do not expose the pet to extreme cold or hot sun.)

At your destination:

  • If your pet was transported via cargo and you were able to accompany them:  Ask the pilot to ensure the pet is delivered directly to you at the airport.  Because some pets have anxiety when traveling, do not open the carrier until you are in a secure location.
  • If your pet was transported via cargo and you were NOT able to accompany them: Ensure you arrange with the airline to have  your pet delivered to a friend or family member at the airport.
  • Upon inspection if you are the least bit concerned about the condition of your pet – notify the airline immediately, obtain veterinary care and retain all paperwork and medical records.

More detailed information on Air Travel for Pets:

Our friends at have published a detailed checklist on their website. They provide very specific guidance on air travel for pets after years of advocating for change in the airline pet travel industry.