Whatever you do never think you can roll up to an airport and buy a ticket for yourself and the dog. Before anything else allow plenty of time to arrange the flights and everything else involved- and then double it. There are dog friendly airlines out there and helpful people but all airlines have their own rules and, of course, governments and countries have rules as well.
With your pet in mind and especially if the animal has never flown before it is best to take some time to accustom them to a crate and to noise. Of course lots of dogs are used to being in crates and often travel in the car in one but airlines need particular crates with specifications that usually include solid sides and maybe the dog is not used to being locked in a solid cage. Secure the crate with proper screws- steel ones if possible and some airlines are now insisting on this. Do not tie the crate with string or plastic ties.
There is always a danger of the dog becoming loose in a strange and dangerous place. A portable fan that can be secured to the cage is a good idea.
Label the crate well with ‘live animal’ notices and notices that say the crate should only be opened by the owner, their agent or a vet. Make sure your name and contact numbers are available easily as well. Labels should say where the animal is travelling to and from. Whenever possible you should use a direct flight but if a change is necessary then try and ensure you have time to locate your pet and take it for a short walk to relieve itself. There are usually safe exercise areas available.
So take some time to buy the crate in advance and let him get used to going in, having a treat, lying on his favorite blanket and so on. Close the door for fifteen minutes and go away. Bring a treat when you come back and let him go out and in as he pleases. Then when the time comes to travel it is one less thing to be nervous about. For the noise at airports, it might be wise to take a couple of trips to the nearest one and give him a short walk. He will soon realize the noise is not a threat.
Arrive at the airport early. It is not something that can be rushed.
Another point that may not be obvious is to always take the dog out to relieve himself before you crate him and if at all possible make sure he has a good walk and has used up some energy before being required to stay in one small place for any length of time.
In the cage do not leave loose leads and things that could become entangled and a danger. In the cage a dog could be strangled or at least made very uncomfortable and unhappy. In most cases of airline travel your dog and his cage will be in the cargo area and you will be a passenger. A favorite comfy blanket and access to some water is the best solution and the safest. Most of the purpose made crates have a fitting for a water container and there are spill proof bowls in the shops.
Whichever way you look at pet travel by airline, there are risks and if it is possible another system may be better. Between 2005 and 2009 US airlines lost, killed or injured 224 dogs. There are sites on the internet to tell you which companies have the worst record. It is worth some research.
Lots of people think that it will make things easier for the dog if he can sleep the time away and not be stressed but vets would usually recommend that sedation might put even more stress on the animal and unless there are exceptional circumstances it is better to make the dog comfortable without resorting to drugs. Obviously be guided by your vet with this aspect.
What else should you to do adequately prepare for flying with your dog? Take a look at our article discussing all the preparations and precautions you should take when traveling with your dog on a plane.
Airline pet policies — differ widely
There are three ways that your pet can travel by airline. Some companies allow small dogs in containers to be in the cabin with you and usually require that the container will fit underneath the seat in front of you. Some airlines offer a checked baggage system but with most airlines nowadays and for larger animals, the pet has to travel in cargo. You can, of course, opt for private charter but this is expensive.
There are restrictions and rules for both traveling with your dog in-cabin and as checked baggage. You can read our in-depth article about flying with your dog so that you can be more adequately prepared for your journey.
Cargo travel means obtaining a crate of the right size and sort required by the company. The animal has to be able to sit, to stand up and turn around in the container and there are many companies online and in your local pet store that sell these crates. Before you book anything check out the airlines that you are thinking about using and look up their pet policy.
Most companies are helpful about this if you phone to check that all is in order but there are some firms that will not take animals on board at all. All animal bookings have to be done by telephone. There are no online bookings for pet travel.
Before travel the paperwork from the vet requires that the dog actually visit the surgery and be examined in order for the certificate and appropriate per travel treatments given- worming and flea treatments are normal and rabies safeguards for international travel.
Heat and cold — something that you may not have heard about
Some airlines have temperature restrictions and will not take animals when the holding area of the airport is either very hot or very cold. With the heat restrictions it is possible to fly during night time hours when the heat is not great. With the cold restrictions it is difficult to get a flight when the temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit at any airport in the journey. This can be overturned with a veterinary certificate of temperature acclimatization.
International flights are not quite so strict in this way but, for instance, leaving the United States from a very cold airport might be difficult, even when flying to a warmer clime. For certain snub nosed dogs or cats the restriction is more stringent. Make sure you find out exactly what is required and be prepared.
Although cabins and cargo holds are pressurized and heated when in flight, this is not the case when on the ground and if the aircraft is held on the runway for some time before takeoff temperature can be a problem. You can check www.pettravel.com — they have a A to Z list of airlines and countries with the information.
Airlines that allow dogs — most are very obliging
The number of airlines worldwide is phenomenal and if you are travelling within Europe, within the United States any other area then find a list of airlines flying those routes. In Europe, for instance, there are several dog friendly companies but in the United Kingdom there is only British Airways. Only certain airports have facilities to receive dogs. The rules have changed regards which airports will receive or have departures for animals. In fact it is often so difficult to work your way through all the regulations that it may be easier to work with an agent or pet travel firm.
The airports seem much more willing to deal with official companies than individuals. It is often the airport and not the airline that causes the trouble. Animals have to go through a special designated area at the airport when they arrive at their destination and not all of them are able to accept dogs. It is usually the major airports that have the facilities and your journey might be extended by having to go to a destination for the dog and then travel by other transport after that.
At www.bringfido.com there is a list of airlines that take pets worldwide. The fees for a cabin transport range from nothing to 500 dollars and most companies only take two animals per flight so it pays to book well in advance.
There is a website called www.dogfriendly.com and it lists both international and American airlines which show whether or not dogs are allowed in cabins, as checked in luggage or as cargo. Air France, Swissair, Lufthansa, KLM, British Air and Japan Air are all listed as offering most services and the cost per crate per animal.
It also shows if the animal is allowed on the airlines coach either free or charged. The page for American Airlines lists Alaskan, Horizon, US Airways, United, American/American Eagle, Delta and Air Canada as obliging carriers and again gives charges and sizes.
Be aware that the charges that the airlines quote are for themselves only and when the animal is passed through animal reception at airports like Edinburgh there is a quite considerable charge before the dog is released. The UK has stringent rules and flying into Great Britain is quite difficult. Many people find it easier to fly to France or Germany and drive through the Channel Tunnel.
The best airlines for pets — the choice is yours
There is no easy answer to which airlines are the best and it really is determined by where you are flying to and from. If the trip is a one off move and you are not a regular traveler then it is probably wiser to go through an agent animal courier who can navigate through the red tape and tell you what is required. If you go often on more or less the same journey then you will soon find out what is needed and how to make it the safest and easiest time for your dog.
Again depending on the countries you are flying to and from different health regimes apply. Hawaii, for instance, because it is rabies free has a very strict policy over animals coming in and differs from the rest of The USA. It has quarantine laws. Other countries that are rabies free are The UK, New Zealand, Australia and Guam. www.dogfriendly.com have lists of what is needed to enter each country and they do differ widely.
For instance only people with resident passports are allowed to take dogs into China. Great Britain began a new scheme at the beginning of 2012 and the requirements are different depending from which country you are travelling. Almost all air travel requires the dog to be vet checked and treated for worms before travelling. If changing country then rabies vaccinations are involved. These are complicated and can take several months to put into place.
Things you should always take are:
- Health certificates, paperwork and if in Europe, a pet passport;
- Any medication the dog needs;
- Pet wipes, towel, plastic bags for rubbish and poop;
- Spare collar, lead and tag;
- Dog food and treats;
- Bottled water to stop tummy upsets;
- Dishesfor food and water;
- Favorite toyand blanket.
Your own hotel or accommodation
One of the things you may want to check out is hotels that take both you and your pet. www.bringfido.com has a list of pet friendly lodgings all over the world. Twenty five thousand of them.
There are camp sites, bed and breakfasts and apartments in over fifty countries worldwide. Again it all takes time to organize and is not something easily done on the spur of the moment.
There are many firms offering services worldwide and they can make sure your paperwork, bookings and veterinary checks are all in order. They can usually provide crates if needed and often offer pick up and deliver at either end of a journey. Of course these services do not come cheap but they do give you peace of mind and they know exactly what arrangements should be made.
However there are scammers about and you should be very aware of those possibilities:
- www.animalcouriers.com is based in the UK but arrange services worldwide. Their website offers a lot of advice on how to spot a scam.
- First of all the company should be a member of IATA which has arrangements with all the airlines that provide animal transport worldwide.
- Then you should be vigilant. If you are asked to pay by money order from companies like Western Union, Paysafecard or MoneyGram. A legitimate company would take debit/credit card payments. If you offered an animal very cheap or even free but asked to pay transport costs. If domains and email do not match and if there is no contact telephone number. The scammers apparently use legitimate company names to fool people into thinking they are genuine and if in doubt you should ring the firm in question to check if the dog is actually booked with them.
World Care Pet Transport is based in New York, China, Japan, Brazil and London and they offer a comprehensive service that includes paperwork, veterinary certificates, boarding if needed, checking in and destination details, quarantine if necessary and even grooming if it is required anywhere in the world. This firm too warns against scams and tricksters with the same details as Animal Couriers and they also warn that if you are offered a puppy for sale beware. If it seems too good to be true- it is too good to be true. Genuine courier firms do not sell pets.
Both of the companies above can direct you to insurance cover for your pet on the journey and this might be a wise precaution. In fact the World Care Company include free insurance with their service. They are members of all the relevant bodies that look after these services. Both companies, and there are many other reputable firms like them, keep the customer in touch with progress as the journey progresses and reassure you that all is well.
What you should do?
It is impossible to give a direct answer to the question about the best airline because it does depend on the dog, its size and requirements and the destination. People who travel regularly with their animals know exactly what is needed and very rarely have problems but initially there is a lot of research to be done. When you have decided which airline you think is suitable, ring them and talk through the details. If they are not helpful go somewhere else.