Airport ‘Petiquette’

  • gayle at airport check-in with her doggiesWhen traveling through the airport it is always best to keep a low profile when accompanying your pet at the airport.  Do not let him or her out of the carrier once you enter the airport terminal.  If they are traveling with you in the passenger cabin, never take him out of their carrier during the flight.
  • Be sure to take your dog outside before walking them through an airport.  Some airports provide dog-walking areas, but to be safe, have plenty of wee-wee pads on hand. Even if you are a responsible pet parent and don’t give your pet food for six hours before a flight or water within two hours of takeoff, sometimes your little friend still has to relieve himself.  If your pooch is sending you signals that this is the case, you can use the wee-wee pads in the airplane rest room, allowing your dog to relieve himself quickly, calmly, and discreetly.  Your dog will be very grateful.
  • If he must travel in the cargo hold, fasten a water bowl filled with frozen water to the door or carrier.  If you are carrying your pet through baggage check, politely and quietly inform the TSA agent at the security checkpoint that a pet is in the carrier so he is not exposed to x-rays.  If you are asked to take your pet out of the carrier as you pass through security on your way to the gate, make sure that he is wearing a collar and a leash or, better yet, a harness .

Cabin vs Cargo 

  • I recommend that you bring your pet with you in the passenger cabin when you fly.  But if your pet exceeds the size or weight limit, then this simply is not possible.  Airlines usually accept a limited number of animals in the cabin, generally one pet per passenger and two to four animals total on the flight.  A member of the airline’s corporate staff can grant permission for two cats or two puppies from the same litter to travel in a single carry-on bag.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows each airline to adopt a policy regarding the acceptance or non-acceptance of pets in the passenger cabin. The FAA does mandate that if a pet is accepted in the passenger cabin, the pet and carrier must fit securely under the seat in front of the passenger and that the complete floor area in the section is accessible in the event of an emergency.  Additionally, passengers with pets are not permitted in the bulkhead or the emergency exit rows.  Check with an airline before purchasing a ticket to see if they accept pets in the cabin.
  • Most pets fly in the cargo hold as checked baggage when traveling with their owners or when they are being shipped unaccompanied.  Some airlines do not ship pets as checked baggage at all, while others will accept them only as air cargo and only from a “known shipper”- licensed pet breeders, commercial shippers, or freight forwarders.  The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) was enacted to ensure that animals traveling as cargo are treated humanely and not subjected to dangerous conditions.

Plane SenseSuNae Loves Her SHERPA BAG

  • In the cargo hold, air space must be calculated for the number of live animals on the flight, so reserve space for your pet as checked baggage well before the flight.  Live animals, whether in the cabin, as checked baggage, or as air cargo will be taken on a first-come first-serve basis.  Once you have obtained a hard-sided container with ventilation on three sides that meets the requirements of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), be sure to make your pet reservation early and then confirm the reservation forty-eight hours before travel.
  • Inquire whether your pet can be hand-carried on and off the plane rather than being loaded on a conveyor belt, which is stressful for the pet and could also lead to accidental release or injury should the container fall off the belt (this is rare, but it does happen).  Ask about “counter-to-counter” shipping, in which the animal is loaded immediately before departure and unloaded immediately after arrival.  Be certain that the ground personnel are aware of your pet in the cargo hold so that actions can be taken if necessary (as in the case of a layover or long delay).  Inform the captain and the flight crew that your pet is aboard.  The flight crew must activate the temperature control for the cargo compartment as soon as the pet is loaded.  If you experience long layovers or delays, do not be shy about asking the flight crew whether your pet has adequate shelter and ventilation.  Tell the flight attendant that your pet is in the cargo hold.  Ask to be told when your pet is safely on board so you can relax (don’t forget to ask again if you change planes).
  • An airline cannot guarantee that it will accept a pet that it has not seen.  Considerations for acceptance of pets include the pet’s health and disposition.  A health certificate from your vet will help address any concerns.  An airline must also determine that all the paperwork is in order and that the crate meets all requirements.  Remember, the pet owner is responsible to ensure that all the proper paperwork is in order.
  • Making sure the travel experience is stress-free for your pet is extremely important, so remember to leave extra time for checking in and paperwork, so that you are not rushing through the airport to make your flight.

Top Ten Petiquette Tips

  1. Familiarize your pet with its carrier before leaving home.
  2. Maintain a low profile. Do not call attention to the pet or disturb fellow passengers. Also in consideration of your fellow passengers, do not take your pet out of the carrier. Your pet must stay in the bag under the seat.
  3. Carry a current health certificate from your veterinarian, dated within 7 to 10 days of departure.
  4. Make sure your pet has a collar with a name tag listing owner’s contact information.
  5. Pack a travel kit with your pet’s food and treats as well as favorite toys, any medicines, and health documents.
  6. When making your reservations, be sure to make one for your pet. Only a small number of pets are allowed in passenger cabins on any give trip. Check reservation and fee policies for individual airlines.
  7. Airlines require that pet carriers have absorbent liners. Be sure you have a spare.
  8. At the security checkpoint request that the agent use the handheld metal detector.
  9. When traveling outside the United States contact the appropriate embassy far in advance of your trip for quarantine or health requirements.
  10. Do not feed your pet within six hours of departure or provide water within two hours of takeoff, and never use tranquilizers unless advised by your veterinarian.


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