The Top Five Airlines to Fly With Your Pet
Many of us who treat our dogs as family members don't understand why we simply can't buy Fido a first class or coach seat right next to us on an airplane. We know he's impeccably behaved, will happily eat whatever is served, and will elect to snooze rather than to watch the in-flight movie. But that's not something that is on the radar for anytime soon. The good news is that plane travel for pets has become safer over the past few years. The airlines have responded to an uproar from animal lovers, who were outraged by the number of mishaps that occurred when pets were traveling as their passengers.
The safest way for an animal to fly is to bring your pet on board in a carry-on crate that will fit under your seat. This option is normally limited to dogs and cats under 20 pounds. For larger pets, some airlines will enable you to ship your animal as you would your baggage, although some airlines are now promising pressurized and heated compartments for our four-legged friends. Cargo service is generally more expensive, but is usually a more comfortable experience for your pet; cargo compartments are legally required to be pressurized and heated, and pets are the last on and the first time; they also tend to spend less time on the tarmac.
The best airlines are the ones that in our view have three options for those traveling with their pets; carry on service, checking your pet as baggage, or enabling you to choose a cargo service. They also provide pressurization and heating when you check or you're your pet as cargo. The following airlines meet these criteria:
1. Alaska Airlines: A carrier is permitted with a pet as long as it fits under the seat, and pets can be shipped as cargo. When shipped as baggage, you must travel on the same flight as your pet. Alaska Airlines will decline an animal when there are extreme temperatures, which serves to protect Fido and Fluffy.
2. Delta Airlines – A small pet can travel in the cabin in a travel kennel that fits under the seat, and this will count as one carry-on bag. Pets checked as luggage will be placed in temperature controlled and pressurized compartments. Cargo shipments are available, which have temperature controlled holding areas in four hub cities, including Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas, and Salt Lake City. Upon their arrival, pets will be delivered to a cargo facility for pick up within 60 minutes.
3. United Airlines- Passengers can bring their small dogs aboard in the cabin, or as checked luggage or cargo. Both cargo and baggage compartments are pressurized and heated. Pets will be bumped if temperatures exceed 85 degrees.
4. US Airways – Pet owners are allowed one pet per customer as a carry on bag, and the maximum weight for a pet in a kennel is 100 pounds; if over 100 pounds, the animal must go in cargo. There are no reservations for pets as checked luggage; there is a first come, first served basis.
5. Charter Flights- If Fido has recently come into his inheritance, charter flights are the safest way to travel. Charter airlines typically charge $700-$4,000 per hour, but the pet can ride with the owner in the human section of the plane. Air Webster (www.airwebster.com) offers both nationwide and international pet friendly flights, through participating charter airlines. Who knows, your dog or cat might even have his own individual stewardess if he plays his cards right.
Want to hire a professional organization to safely transport your pet by plane? You can contact the Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association (www.ipata.com). This is an excellent option if you are flying a fragile or valuable pet, as well as a group of pets.
In all cases, check with your airline before you fly for the latest regulations for flying with your pet, which include the kennel size, number of pets permitted, and reservation availability. If you cannot utilize one of our top rated airlines, do your homework to ensure that the airline you choose will ensure that your dog is properly cared for both during the flight, and to and from the gates. We hope to be able to add more pet friendly airlines to our list in the near future.