AR-News: AR NEWS: When Your Baggage Has a Pulse: Traveling with
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Wed Sep 10 13:17:42 EDT 2003
http://www.frommers.com/activities/siAuthor: Sascha Segan
Pets don't like to fly. They don't like to be crammed into tiny kennels; they
don't like the changes in air pressure, smell, and air quality that take
place on a plane; and they certainly don't like to be tossed into a miserable,
dark cargo hold. Many veterinarians advise that, especially on short trips, you
should leave your pet home with a pet-sitter or a veterinarian's boarding
But if you insist upon flying with Fido, the safest way is to bring your pet
as a carry-on item in a suitable carrier. Domesticated animals (see below for
types and airlines) are allowed on flights within the United States, provided
that you make an advance reservation for them. Be sure to ask the deadline
when you book. In order to qualify for the cabin, animals must be at least 8
weeks old, fully weaned, under 20 pounds, and healthy. The airline will usually
ask you to furnish a clean bill of health from a veterinarian, prepared within
10 days of your departure. On some airlines, you may be asked to present
certification that your pet is vaccinated against rabies.
Airline Pet Policies
Dogs and cats: All major airlines
Rabbits: Alaska, Delta
Birds: All major airlines
Hamsters and Guinea Pigs: Delta
Note: Southwest Airlines does not allow pets on board.
The airlines also ask you to feed your animal a small amount of food and
water 4 hours before flight time. (A full stomach, however, isn't good for a
traveling pet.) You are also expected to exercise and provide water for the pet
before you stow it in the carrier. Book nonstop flights, if possible, to minimize
the pet's discomfort. If your pet is traveling in the baggage compartment,
book midday flights during the winter and early morning or late evening flights
during the summer.
Regulations for taking pets on international flights vary widely both by
airline and by destination. Many overseas destinations, including Italy, Germany,
Hawaii, Japan, and China don't accept "tourist animals" at all. Check with
your airline. Britain just relaxed conditions for cats and dogs coming from the
States and Canada. Go to www.britainusa.com or www.defra.gov.uk for rules and
Pets in the Cabin
A small pet can ride in a carrier under the seat in front of you. Buy your
carrier at a pet-supply store (or, if you're traveling on Continental, you can
rent one for $30 per flight). The pet must remain under the seat at all times
and never let out of the carrier mid-flight. (If this idea breaks your heart,
leave your pet at home.) Most airlines charge $75 each way for a carry-on pet,
although Continental charges $80 each way and US Airways, $100 each way.
You can even cram 2 puppies or kittens into one kennel, provided they're
under 6 months old and the same kind of animal.
While soft carriers will usually fit under the seat more easily, the American
Humane Society recommends hard-sided kennels for safety, as they offer your
animal greater protection. The ASPCA recommends that you line the bottom of the
crate with shredded paper or towels to absorb accidents.
Passengers with disabilities have the right to bring service animals (such as
Seeing Eye dogs) on board on their standard leash or harness, provided they
do not block aisles and emergency exits or otherwise hinder the safe and
efficient passage of other travelers.
Pets will count as your one carry-on item (except on Continental and
Northwest), and you must reserve a spot for your animal when you book your own flight.
Along with your reservation comes the right to take precedence over allergic
seatmates--nobody can force you to move your pet.
Ah-choo! What if You're Allergic?
If you've ever thought that airlines treat you worse than a dog, well, you're
right, in a way. While passengers with peanut allergies are attended to
meticulously, no such accommodation is made for passengers allergic to someone's
precious little furball.
Alas, you can't get a pet kicked out of the cabin, even if you're gasping in
asthmatic horror from the treacherous dander. The best you can ask for is to
be moved to another seat, or put on another flight, which airlines will do
(especially if they see you suffering; nobody wants a lawsuit). Be sniffly, be
pathetic, and play upon flight attendants' or gate agents' sympathies.
If you're severely allergic to dogs or cats, tell the airline at the time you
reserve your flight, and check again at the airport to make sure nobody's
bringing one into the cabin. Bring your medication and inhaler, just in case.
Your other alternative: fly Southwest, which does not allow animals (other
than service animals) on board.
Pets as Cargo
Larger pets must be checked as baggage or travel as cargo. Pets checked as
baggage received the same treatment as any other bag--placed on the trolley,
handled by the usual baggage handlers, and put in compartments with other bags.
Airlines will assure you that these baggage compartments are pressurized and
heated, but if the airline screws up you can't sue them: your pet qualifies only
as damaged baggage. Using an airline's cargo service is more expensive, but
generally provides a plusher experience for the pet. The cargo area is legally
required to be pressurized and heated, and the pets are last on and first off
the plane, so they spend less time on the tarmac then pets checked as baggage.
Continental and United require that animals be shipped as cargo rather than
checked; America West doesn't allow either option. Rates vary by the size and
weight of the pet.
Unfortunately, many airlines no longer accept cargo from individual
travelers--policies were changing as this book went to press, and you should check with
the airline. If that's the case, you'll have to use a professional pet
shipper, trusted by the airlines to get animals from Point A to Point B. Using a
professional shipper is also the best way to transport a passel of poodles, a
bevy of Burmese, or any large group of pets. Reliable pet shippers can be found
though the Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association International
(IPATA) (tel. 903/769-2267; www.ipata.com).
In all cases, your pet will ride in a compartment in the belly of the plane.
You should use a USDA-approved, hard-sided kennel in this case. The crate
should be large enough that your pet can stand, sit, and change position
comfortably. You can purchase these from many pet-supply stores and sometimes from the
Baggage compartments are climate-controlled, but airlines don't want to take
their chances in extreme weather--and neither should you. American and Delta
don't accept pets as checked baggage between May 15 and September 15, and no
airline will (or should) take your pet on days where the mercury tops 85°. If
it's below 45° on the ground, you'll have to get a certificate from your
veterinarian certifying that the poor thing won't freeze to death while it sits on
the tarmac waiting to be loaded on the plane.
Short-nosed dogs and cats breeds require special care. Flatter facial
structures mean these breeds take shorter breaths, and often have difficulty
breathing in the lower pressures common at high altitudes. Alaska won't take these
breeds at all; Continental requires special kennels; and Northwest bans them from
any flight where the temperature will exceed 75°.
The ASPCA recommends that you write the words live animal in letters at least
1 inch high, on top of the crate and on at least one side of the enclosure.
Show the upright side of the kennel with prominent arrow indicators.
You should also write the name, address, and telephone number of the your
pet's destination on the crate--even if you're on board the same flight. This
information should be easy to read and secured on top of the carrier. Your pet
should also be wearing identification tags on a collar. Cat collars should be
The ASPCA also recommends that checked pet crates be rigged with separate
compartments for food and water. Some airlines require this. Some airlines also re
quire that airline personnel have access to these compartments without having
to open the kennel where the pet is stowed. The ASPCA recommends that you
freeze the pet's water so that it doesn't splash out during loading but will melt
by the time your pet is thirsty.
For trips that last longer than 12 hours, you should attach a plastic bag
with dry food on top of the carrier with feeding instructions for airline staff.
The ASPCA also suggests that you acquaint your pet with the crate the day
before the trip. You may want to place food and water inside, for instance, so
your pet gets used to eating in there.
Be sure that the crate is securely closed, but do not lock it. Airline staff
should to be able to open the crate in case of an emergency.
In the unlikely event that your pet is lost--a rare misfortune, but one that
does occur from time to time--airlines will usually remunerate you according
to the same rates used for lost luggage compensation. This may be a problem;
you'll have to show the financial value of your pet.
Airlines, the ASPCA, pet shippers, and veterinarians all warn against
tranquilizing pets in flight, especially if the animal is traveling as baggage or
cargo. Dogs in particular control their body temperature by panting, not
sweating. When tranquilized, dogs may be unable to pant, which leaves them no defense
against temperature irregularities in the cargo hold, which obviously is not
monitored like the airplane cabin on the same flight.
Animal Rights: The ASPCA Speaks
According to Peter Paris, the ASPCA's vice president of public affairs, pet
owners should think twice about checking their pets as baggage, even if they're
traveling on the same flight. Conditions in the baggage compartments are far
from ideal: Temperatures may vary, or the pilot may forget to turn on the air
exchange. Paris says it's not uncommon for pets to die or suffer injury in the
belly of the plane. Unfortunately, these mishaps are recorded as incidents of
lost or mishandled luggage, and bereaved owners are due no more than the
maximum compensation for a lost suitcase.
Paris says, "If your animal is worth more than $2,500 to you, think twice
about sending it by air. If you can easily transport the animal by car, leave it
with a friend or relatives, or place it in a kennel while you're away, don't
risk putting it on a plane for your own convenience."
If you must transport your pet by air, Paris says you should make your best
effort to travel on the same flight. Publicize the fact that you are traveling
with an animal. Paris says that concerned pet owners should go so far as to
poke their heads in the cockpit when boarding to let the pilot know there's an
animal in cargo, so he's sure to turn on the air exchange.
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