The ins and outs of Flying with Dogs

flying with dogs

I have to confess, flying on commercial airlines is not my favorite thing to do. I have flown a couple of times in my life and even though everything turned out fine, I was still glad the whole trip was over and I had my paws on the ground.

My first international flight was from New York to Hong Kong and my owners used a relocation pet mover company to assist us on this international flight. Everything was fine and I was delivered right to my new home. The only thing was that I was a bit jet-lagged and kept waking up in the middle of the night, ready to eat!

The last time I flew was about two years ago, this time from Hong Kong to Paris; my owners did all the arrangements themselves, which included having all the proper paperwork so that I could end up in London without a problem.

For most dogs over 8 kg, you end up in cargo, in a crate, with some water,  paper lining your cage and a smelly t-shirt from your owner. Both times I flew, my owners fed me about 4 hours before I was ready to board. Gave me a good walk and let me stretch my legs before I boarded the flight.

Some airlines allow dogs to travel in the passenger cabin, however, you need to be tiny! You and your carrier need to fit under the airline seat and it has to comfortable enough for you to stay in it for the whole journey and you do not get an in-flight meal either.  Your owner will also have to get you an approved air carrier bag. the Gucci handbag will not cut it.

Here are some airlines that I know that let little dogs fly in the cabin:

KLM Lufthansa German Wings Aegean
Air Canada Air Berlin Air France Virgin American
US Airways WestJet United Airlines Taca Airlines
Swiss Airlines South West Airlines SAS Jet Blue
Alitalia Alaska Airlines American Airlines Delta

However for the rest of us full-sized dogs, here are some tips to make it a safe and healthy journey.

trog inna kennel © by chris.corwin

I would recommend these steps when starting to book your dog a flight:

  • Make an appointment with your dog’s veterinarian,  for a checkup, and make sure all vaccinations are up-to-date. Obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian dated within 10 days of departure.
  • Make sure your dog has a microchip for identification and is wearing a collar and ID tag. The collar should also include destination information in case your dog makes a mad dash and escapes.
  • Book a direct flight whenever possible. This will decrease the chances that your dog is left on the tarmac during extreme weather conditions or mishandled by baggage personnel.  Also, try to get either an early morning flight or end of day flight.
  • If you have to change planes or travelling internationally. Research pet-friendly airports that have “pet services”. For example, KLM in Amsterdam offers dog walking, refreshing water, and checks to see if your dog is okay between flights. Frankfurt has a pet lounge that offers a similar service.
  • Book early, due to some airlines put a limit on the number of pets that they allow on a flight.
  • You must use an approved shipping kennel that a dog can stand up in and lie down as well. A good rule of thumb is to get a kennel one size larger than required.
  • If this is my first trip with a new kennel, it is a good idea to buy it a week or two before I travel so that I can get familiar with it and then I will not be as stressed out when the time comes to travel in my kennel. Start by putting a yummy treat or my favorite chew in the kennel, so I will feel comfortable going into the kennel.

Flight Day!

  • Most airlines have temperature restrictions, if it is too hot or too cold they will not allow dogs to travel. The reason is that these extreme temperatures can put a dog at risk.
  • Throw in your sweaty t-shirt, it will remind me of you and I will feel more content.
  • On the day of the flight, keep me as calm as possible. Walk me around the airport grounds before departure.
  • Please do not leave my lead in the kennel, it’s best if you hold on to it. Also please do not muzzle me, or put a choke collar on me, it can dangerous for me and it is not necessary.
  • Make sure my kennel is marked with all the vital information, My name, your name, address at home and where I am going, telephone numbers to reach you.
  • Write the words “Live Animal” in letters at least one inch tall on top of and at least one side of the crate. Use arrows to prominently indicate the upright position of the crate.
  • Affix a current photograph of your dog to the top of the crate for identification purposes. Should your dog escape from the carrier, this could be a lifesaver. You should also carry a photograph of your pet with you as well.
  • The night before you leave, make sure you freeze a small dish or tray of water for your dog. This way, it will not spill during loading and will melt by the time your dog gets thirsty.
  • Tell every airline employee you encounter, on the ground and in the air, that you are traveling with a pet in the cargo hold. Also, know exactly where you can pick up your dog when you land at your destination. Tell the captain you are traveling with a pet and say, ‘Please be sensitive about pressurizing and heating the cargo hold.
  • If the plane is delayed, or if you have any concerns about the welfare of your pet, insist that airline personnel check the animal whenever feasible. In certain situations, removing the animal from the cargo hold and de-planeing may be warranted.
  • make sure that you have the required documents that I will need to enter if we are going to a different country.