Traveling with Pets

two small kittes in one carry-on kennel is OK

Stress-less Travel with Pets

Traveling with pets do not have to be stressful. But because of the nature of pets, this can be. This guide will help you on what to do when you are traveling with pets. If you are a veteran in flying with pets, you probably already know what to do.

The first thing you need to do when you decide that Fido is traveling with you is - and this is important - call the airlines 800 number or go to the airline's website, specifically that section about pets. There are general rules to follow when traveling with pets, but there are also differences in the way airlines handle pet travel.

Comfortable Pets Make Happy Pets

When you and I travel, either by airline or by road, we want our pets to be comfortable. We do everything for our pets so that they are experience the same comfort that we experience when we travel. After all, they are also precious members of our family. When we fly anywhere - sometimes even to international destinations, we want our pets to be flying with us, preferably inside the airplane cabin. We feel that we do not worry as much when they are with us inside the airplane than when they travel in the belly of the airplane (when we check them in as cargo). But even when they are inside the airplane with us, some pets are so terrified of flying - or even going to the airport. There are those that are terrified of just going inside that kennel.

Check Airline Rules on Pet Travel

There are many ways to make our pets comfortable when they are flying with us. Some of these ways are actually required by the airlines. The airlines pretty much have almost the same policies regarding airline pet travel, with the exception of some embargo days and pet fees. To be sure that you ready and in compliance with the rules in pet travel, be sure to contact the airlines of your choice a few days before your travel. You may also visit the individual airlines' websites for clarification. There are some websites listed at the bottom of this page.

Carry-on Pets (inside the airplane)? or Checked-in (in cargo hold)?

If the pet will be without inside the cabin, be sure you have a comfortable kennel for the pet. There is a certain weight and size requirement for a pet to be able to be carried on in the airplane. Please make sure that you are not trying to squeeze a medium size pet into a small kennel. Remember that if the pets are uncomfortable, chances are - the pet will be making a lot of noise inside the airplane. Some people do not have any patience with noisy or crying pets and you do not want the crew members to divert the flight because of some arguments that might ensure because of an aggressive crying pet. We all know that no matter how nice and loving our pets are, some environment may make them behave differently.

Kennels: Soft or Hard?

Carry-on pets are those that you are going to carry inside the airplane. The soft-sided kennels are preferred for carry-on pets. Some pet stores will sell the hard-sided but they are only good for rabbits and other pets. For small dogs and cats, they are more comfortable when they are on a soft-sided kennel. The Sherpa brand was the original manufacturer of the soft-sided kennel. When they started to come in the market, they were a little cost prohibitive. Even now at 2014, I went to a discount home store and I saw that the original Sherpa brand was still at $59.00 - discount store price! But nowadays, you can buy similar soft-sided kennels as a fraction of the price of the Sherpa brand. Just make sure to look at the quality. Some have good stitching; some were so badly made that the pets, even a cat, can push its head through its opening and escape. Make sure this does not happen! There were incidents when pets escape while on board an airplane and just imagine what would happen! Avoid being banned by the airline because your pet created such a commotion on board!

Most airlines also carry soft-sided ones. You can also buy designer kennels if you want. When you come to the airport and you need a soft-sided kennel, just ask an airline employee if they selling one. If their answer is no, you may ask the other airlines. usually there is an airline or two that carry those soft-sided kennels. The reason why airline prefer the soft-sided kennels for carry-on pets is it serves as their security blanket. They feel like they are in their own bed (especially if it is the regular kennel that the pet is used to - or the one the pet is using at home. The softness of the kennel conforms to their body contour so they do not feel tightness or feeling of confinement.

Be sure the size fits under the seat in front of you:

I purchased a soft kennel from Walmart - the size told me they were the right size (check with the airline the size of space under the seat infront of you. Believe me - they vary!). When I got home, the small cat could not fit comfortably, so I went to a discount home store and found one...but it smells like kerosene. I didn't want my old cat to be smelling this throughout the flight so I ended up at Pets Smart (usually expensive pet items there). I found one that that large enough to make my old cat comfortable. Perfect, I thought! When I got on board (the agent was nice enough to leave an empty space between me and the aisle passenger) - and put the kennel under the seat - the stiff plastic that is used on the edges of the RIGHT SIZED KENNEL - would not allow the whole kennel to go under the seat! Small detail but it makes a lot of difference. Fortunately, the flight attendant did not notice that the kennel was protruding. Also, the "lock" on top is made of Velcro. That's fine with a pet that is not active, but a Velcro closure is no match to active pets. So, don't buy one that is closed with a Velcro on top. Buy one that has a metal closure at the end of the zipper. That makes it sure that the pet will not escape.

Be at the airport early.

It is important that if you are traveling with pets, you need to be at the airport earlier than usual. There may be some unforeseen events that may cause you to be delayed or may cause you to miss your flight due to the pets. Also, flying with pets will incur pet charges. Some airlines allow for online payment, but YOU STILL HAVE TO SHOW THE PET TO THE "Special Services" agent so that he/she could visually inspect the pet; inspect the kennel (whether it is the right size); and still have to put a "Hand Carry" tag on the bag. Some agents look at the tags during boarding. So, make sure you have it visible or be sure to show your receipt for pet charge. Believe me, after working a lot of flights, there were some instance when a passenger was delayed due to the wrong kennel, no pet charges, etc. Also, when you get to the airport after checking in at the electronic check in, make sure NOT TO GO TO THE ELECTRONIC CHECK IN AGAIN. PROCEED DIRECTLY TO THE LINE FOR SPECIAL SERVICES. Ask someone. There are usually traffic directors who can tell you where to line up for special services.

Pets Fed and Given Water before the Flight.

Before you come to the airport, make sure that the pets have been given food and water. You may also want to have some water and food with you in case that the pet asks for some. But be very neat and tidy if you have to give your pet some snacks on board. It is better that you have some dry pet snacks you can give when he is comfortably inside his soft-sided kennel.
Be sure you carry some newspaper with you to use as lining in case the pet made a "mess" and/or water is spilled inside the kennel.

Checked-in Pets (in the belly of the plane)

(Some airlines do not provide this service anymore due to numerous pets dying when checked to go in the cargo bin. Check with the airline, and if you decide to check them in, be ready for the consequences. You may prevent this by following weather and other policies on your pets' travel).

I personally do not want any of my pets to be traveling inside the cargo bin. I think that the pets can be traumatized seeing other creatures inside the cargo hold, although I know that the kennels are covered. There are so many different kinds of creatures that are shipped by cargo, not only dogs or cats. Even with the same species as your pet, they may still be feeling scared, afraid, or may feel threatened. However, when it is necessary, be sure that the pets have the right size of kennel for their size and weight. Do not put a large dog inside a small kennel. It is not right for the pets, and it is against the department of agriculture. The dogs need to be able to stand, sit and turn around. My personal rule of thumb is: use medium kennel for a small pet; large kennel for a medium pet; and an extra large kennel for an large pet. You will have peace of mind knowing that your pet is comfortable.

Kennel Locks

Make sure that the kennel has adequate strong lock that that pets could not be able to chew when the pet is bored inside the cargo. There was an incident in a cargo hold with a large dog being able to open his kennel, wonder around in the cargo hold, and started chewing on the electrical wire. Just imagine if the dog chews the wire that are critical to the safe flight of the aircraft? Disaster, I am sure! There are many stories that I heard similar to this - and they are all true stories! Better be safe than sorry!

No Pets in Cargo During Summer Months!

PETS DIE INSIDE THE AIRPLANES ESPECIALLY DURING SUMMER MONTHS! Some airlines do not accept checked in pets during Summer months. There have been a number of pet deaths due to severe heat in the cargo hold. Even when the captain and other airline representative are very careful in making sure that the pets are comfortable, they do not have any control over the weather and the temperature in the destination cities and the connecting cities. Sometimes, the aircraft has to wait a long time for a gate to open up (in case of irregular operation, this happens a lot). The pet will be inside the cargo, panting and being exhausted due to heat. Sometimes, the results are fatal. So, be careful -- when the airlines tell you that they are not accepting pets for a certain flight -- there is a very good reason for that!

Some Pets are Quarantined!

Important: DO NOT SEND PETS TO United Kingdom without checking the airlines first! United Kingdom and other countries ***DESTROY*** the pets as soon as they land if necessary shipping is not met. England does not take pets that were carried on the plane. All the pets that come in are sent by cargo and must have the necessary paperwork. They automatically have the pets killed if they came in from a passenger plane. There are some agents who are new, or not familiar with the rules, and may accidentally allow you to carry on your pet. After landing, you will never see your pet again.

The State of Hawaii quarantines all the pets that come in to the island. Be sure you are prepared to wait for the pet. You will not get it until days later.


Again, do not send pets to United Kingdom on commercial flight. They will be destroyed! The United Kingdom has specific policies about pets that some in to their country, and one of them is they do not allow pets that came in on a commercial passenger flight! If you are not a believer, you may call the flag carrier airline (British Air ) of that country.

customisable counter

General Guidelines

As much as possible, we do not want to part with our pets even during our much-needed vacation. If we follow the procedures outlined here when you are traveling with them, there should be no problem. You will be assured that your pets are safe and sound during travel. So, before you proceed to the airport with your dear cats and/or dogs, please check everything out before you go!

  • Depending on where you are traveling to, the airlines may ask for veterinary doctor's certificate that your pet is healthy and is ready for travel. Some airlines will only ask for a health certificate if the pet is traveling to a different country and/or Hawaii. Pets going to Hawaii will be quarantined so check the Hawaiian agriculture department and keep this in mind before you take your pet with you on your next vacation.
  • If your pet is a cat or dog and a small size variety, you may carry the pet inside the airplane (cabin carry-on). This is my preferred way to travel with my pets. If the pet is too large as a carry-on, you may check the pet (like a baggage). Taking the pets in the cabin is stressful enough for the pet, with all the hundreds of people inside the airplane. Just imagine having them checked to go to the cargo hold (same place where the baggage are located). It is usually cold in the cargo hold and they may be in company of other pets checked in by other passengers.

  • Kennel

    The preferred kennel for carry-on pets are the Sherpa-type bags (they look like our own duffel bags). Sherpa is a brand-name but a lot of companies now manufacture and sell carry-on bags for your pets in the cabin. You can even buy designer ones, such as Coach pet carrier. These carry-ons Sherpa-type are soft-sided kennels. This is the best for your pets since you can put it on your lap after take off and before landing and the pet will fell that you are cuddling them. With the soft-sided kennels, you can also pat them from outside the bag, not like the hard-sided kennels. The hard-sided kennels are good for other small hamster-type pets but may be too small for your cats. There is an age requirement before you can travel with your pets. Cats need to be at least 8 weeks old.
  • Kennel keys.
    If you are checking in a pet, it is important that you make sure that the kennel is locked. If you did not provide a lock, make sure that the airline personnel who checked in the pet put a plastic tie or lock outside the kennel. There have been pets who check their locks and traveled inside the baggage bin. There was a cheetah that made his way outside his huge kennel and started chewing on the electrical wires in the cargo bin. You do not want that to happen. There was another incident that when the airline personnel opened the cargo bin to unload the baggage, a large pet greeted her. There were also stories of cat escaping from their kennels and ended up wandering around on the runway. You do not want that to happen. So, make sure that your kennel is locked before the airline personnel takes the pet with him to the baggage area.
  • Pet Health
    < Make sure that your pet is in a good and healthy condition before you travel. Some airline still require health documents from veterinary (mandatory for international travel); some airlines don't. To be safe, be sure to call the airline for its policy on pet travel and health documentation.
  • Tranquilizers
    Do not tranquilize your pets when they travel. Tranquilizers have a negative effect on pet's breathing on the air. If you think your pet needs something to calm down, ask your veterinarian for the best option, but not use tranquilizers. Tranquilizers will cause breathing problems on board the pressurized aircraft and your beloved pet may not make it alive.
  • Age
    Pets need to be at least 8 weeks of age when they travel. Some airlines let the kitten be in the same kennel with the mother cat, or 2 baby kittens together in the same kennel. Ask the airline for specific requirement.
  • Food

    Make sure that the pet has been fed and given water within four (4) hours before your flight. That ensures that the pet is not hungry. For checked-in pets, make sure that a water and food container is included in the kennel. Most airlines, especially Northwest Airlines, take care of the pets during the connection time and when they are transferred between the flights. As the owner of the pet, you may also visit your pet during the connection time if time allows (for example, 2 hour or more). This makes the pet feel that they are not being abandoned, and for you to make sure that they are still in good condition in transit. Be sure to talk to your pets when you visit them in-transit, on lay-over. They will feel better and happier.

    Pet Airways

    When Pet Airways started operating in the East Coast, they were given rave reviews by pet owners. The airline assured you that the pets arrive to their destination, safe and comfortable. They cater purely to pets, i.e., all passengers are pets. They are assigned flight attendants who only cater to the pets. All the pets that travel in this airline Pet Airways travel inside the aircraft (cabin) and not in the belly of the plane. Unfortunately, Pet Airways is experiencing some financial troubles and was ready to close (as of February 2012). Pet Airways .

    Warning! Do not Ship your Pets in Cargo During
    Extreme Heat and Cold Weather

    Summer Embargo - for United Airlines

    United Airlines does not accept the following short-nosed-breeds, or mixed-breed dogs exhibiting the short-nosed characteristics of those breeds, as either checked baggage or cargo, from June 1 to September 30th of each year. This restriction does not apply to pets traveling with you in the cabin.
  • Boston terrier
  • Boxer
  • English or French Bulldogs
  • King Charles Spaniel
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Pug
  • Shar-Pei
  • Shih Tzu

  • All breed summer embargo for travel to/from Kuwait
    Due to extreme heat, United Airlines will not accept any pets as checked baggage for travel to/from Kuwait (KWI) from June 1st through September 30th. Pets can be carried in the cabin only if departing Kuwait. If the pet is in the cabin, the embargo time frame does not apply.

    Health documentation

    Passengers are required to make sure all health and pet travel documents are current and compliant with local, state, federal and international entry requirements and regulations. The passenger will assume full responsibility for penalties assessed by agencies for non-compliance of pet health and entry requirements.

    Summer Embargo - Delta Airlines
    Delta Airlines travel embargo for pets. Delta no longer ships pets during Summer months. Check with Delta Airlines before taking a pet to the airport. Northwest Airlines has merged with Delta and NWA adopted Delta's Pets Policy. See Delta Airlines' Pet Policies.

    Airline Webpages on Pet Travel

  • Continental Airlines Pet Policy

    Traveling with Pets Video

  • Traveling with Pets - United Airlines - General Info

  • Pet Kennels for United Airlines Pet Travel

  • Rules and Guidelines - Traveling with Pets - United Airlines

  • U.S. Airways Policies - Pets in Cabin and Check here as well...

  • Southwest Airlines
    This airline does not accept live animals in cabin or cargo hold.

    Interesting News on Traveling with Pets

    Return from Pet Travel Page to Homepage of>