Traveling with a dog becomes less troubling if you learn airline policies

Posted October 20, 2015


Traveling with a dog can be overwhelming and an uneasy task if you don’t know the rules.

Three days’ prior my first flight with Jimmy, I had no idea what to do. I noticed I was missing a few requirements and had to rush to get them done. It was stressful at first, but luckily I got everything done in time. Once you’ve mastered the rules and steps, traveling with a pet becomes a pleasant experience to live alongside your four-legged furry friend.

This is my dog, Jimmy, and the kennel I bought 3 hours prior to our first flight.

This is my dog, Jimmy, and the kennel I bought three hours prior to our first flight (Photo by Maria Hernandez).

When you know all the regulations and travel with your dog a few times, it becomes easier and hassle free. I remember my first flight with my little cavachon, Jimmy.

I called American Airlines a thousand times, read a bunch of articles online and introduced the carrier to Jimmy prior to the trip. It was stressful, I felt I was traveling with a child. But now, after almost seven flights, it became a routine and as stress-free as one, two, three.

They say if you obey all the rules you miss all the fun, not regarding traveling with a pet. On the contrary, if you obey all the rules, the flight will be a fun adventure. The rules are simple to follow and understand. If you don’t skip any, you’ll arrive to your final destination at ease with your travel companion by your side.

Not all dogs can travel on airlines. Some breeds have small pushed-in noses that could harm the puppy if traveling by airplane due to the air pressure.

Adriana Saltz traveling with her husband, Diego, and Lexi

Adriana Saltz traveling with her husband, Diego, and Lexi (Photo by Adriana Saltz).

The first thing that has to be done is check the airline pet policies regarding traveling.

Most airlines follow the same guideline but the destinations, process and fees may vary. The pet policies are simple, it’s like your dog’s passport to hop onboard.

The pet has to be at least eight weeks or older and have a validate health certificate.

“Make sure all the vaccines and papers are up to date and check the vaccines required at your final destination” said Vivian Braga, a student who frequently travels with her dog, Mia. The health certificate has to explain that the pet has all vaccines and dated 10 days or less prior to the date of travel. Some countries required specific vaccines and some don’t. Check the policies of your destination and make sure your pet complies with all the vaccines.

Once you have clearly understood the regulations, call the reservation desk of the airline at least 48 hours prior to the trip and inform them you will be traveling with a four-legged friend. American Airlines and U.S. Airways only allow seven dogs per flight and United Airways limits to four.

They are two ways of transporting a dog via aircraft: cargo or carry-on. If it is as a carry-on, the dog must remain inside the kennel through the whole flight and weight less than 20 pounds.

“Make sure the dog fits comfortably and if it’s too heavy get a bag with wheels” said Tania Ganapolsky a Puerto Rican resident who travels often with Iggy, a gorgeous miniature goldendoodle. The kennel must be big enough to fit the dog and be clean. The price per pet as a carry-on for American Airlines, United Airways and Delta is $125 and for Jet Blue it is $100.

Iggy ready to board. Photo by Jamie Shub

Iggy ready to board (Photo by Jamie Shub).

Cargo means the pet will travel safely on the lower part of the plane and the kennel must be made of rigid plastic. The price of cargo pet is $200. All the pet fees are paid at the airport while you’re checking in.

So now your pet is all checked in and ready to fly. But the journey hasn’t ended just yet. If you decided to take your pet as a carry-on, it’s pretty much like traveling with a baby. You have to prepare prior to the departure to avoid an uncomfortable situation.

I remember the first time I traveled with my dog, Jimmy. I called the lady I bought him from, Crystal Neuman of Florida Pups, nervously asking what to do and how to prepare. She nicely gave me a few tips and recommended me a few articles to read as well. Every time I travel with Jimmy, I follow all her recommendations as it was a to do list and I haven’t had any problems.

Jimmy and I arriving to Miami

Jimmy and I arriving to Miami (Photo by Maria Hernandez).

If you own a Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal, they will travel free of charge in any airline. But they most submit the form prior to the trip to the Special Services Office with a certificate of the dog and they will validate the letter for a year. You should get in contact directly with the airline to see if your dog qualifies.

The Traveler Puppy To-Do Tips

  • Check all the policies prior to traveling with the direct airline you’re flying. They change frequently and prices vary from $100-$200.
  • No feeding 4-6 hours prior to flight.
  • Give your dog a long walk to burn extra energy. That way he will rest on the plane. (Trust me, once I didn’t do this and when I was waiting for my bags after immigration, Jimmy wouldn’t stop barking because he wanted to get out his carrier and run around. Everyone was starring at me and I felt so embarrassed.)
  • Make sure he feels safe inside his carrier and provide them with toys or blanket the dog is familiar with.
  • Taking Jimmy out for a walk prior to our flight

    Taking Jimmy out for a walk prior to our flight (Photo by Maria Hernandez).

    Check earlier than usual at the airport to make sure everything is in place. Three hours offers enough time for all steps.

  • Once you boarded the plane, if your pet is traveling in cargo let the pilot know. That way he could give a recommendation or special order for your dog’s safety.
  • When the plane is landing, place a few ice cubes inside the dog’s carrier for them to swallow a bit of water in case their ears get irritated
  • Once you’re out of the airport take your dog out for a walk and provide them with food and water and let them play and run around.

Breeds Not Allowed to Travel by Plane

  • Affenpinscher
  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Bulldog
  • Cane Corso
  • Douge de Bordeaux
  • English Toy Spaniel
  • Japanese Chin
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Mastiff
  • Pekingese
  • Pit Bull
  • Presa Canario
  • Pug
  • Shar Pei
  • Shih Tzu
  • Tibetan Spaniel