If you’re like most people, you consider your canine pets to be part of the family. So why would you take a family vacation without them? While traveling with dogs just a decade ago was not an easy task, today more travel vendors are bending over backward to make the experience easier and more enjoyable for both of you. Part of those changes can be seen in the emergence of pet friendly airlines.
As recently as 2010, the Humane Society urged dog owners not to fly with their pets. The main reason is because some airlines still treat pets like cargo. They get stored with the rest of the luggage for the duration of the flight and could end up suffering injuries, illnesses, or worse. Some reports of lost pets have also arisen. The good news is you can find pet friendly airlines that let you travel with your dog without those concerns becoming an issue.
Here are a few of the ones you should know about Pet Friendly Airlines
Started in 2009, Pet Airways is the very first airline that only provides service for pets. Humans take their own flights. While this might not sound like a great idea, by keeping humans and pets apart the airline is better able to take care of their canine passengers.
For the pets’ safety, they still need to be kept in airline-approved kennels but they are no longer loaded into the baggage compartment of the plane. Instead, they ride like regular passengers and are checked on every 15 minutes by the staff. Regular stops are made for potty breaks, too.
When your dog arrives, you can pick him up at the pet lounge inside the airport. He will even have another potty break so he’ll be ready to ride to the hotel with you.
Unfortunately, Pet Airways is only found in a handful of U. S. cities: Atlanta, Washington, Chicago, Denver, Fort Launderdale, Los Angeles, New York, Omaha, and Phoenix. According the Pet Airways website, the average one-way fare for a pet is $250. That might be a bit steep for some travelers. However, it may be the only alternative available for travelers with large breed dogs who may not be allowed in the cabin or even in the cargo area on other airlines.
Low-cost airline Jet Blue does not allow pets to travel as cargo at all. Instead, you can bring along some dogs in a soft-sided carrier in the cabin for an additional fee of $100. Having your dog close to you in the cabin is much safer than in the cargo area, but you are going to be restricted in terms of which canine companions can accompany you. The total weight of your dog and the carrier cannot exceed 20 pounds so you’ll really only be able to bring along toy breeds (and, of course, cats).
You do have a few other rules as well. Your pet will count as your one piece of permitted carry-on luggage, and he has to stay inside the carrier underneath your seat at all times. Plus, only four pets are permitted on each flight so if you are making flight arrangements for you and your dog then do so early.
On the plus side, you’ll get 300 True Blue travel points for bringing along your canine companion. Also, if your pet becomes ill during the flight, Jet Blue’s staff will try to find a veterinarian for you on board the plane.
Continental does allow pets to travel in the cargo area of the plan, as well as in the cabin. However, they do have safety precautions in place to keep the pets in cargo safe and protected. For starters, you can track your pet through the airline’s website to make sure he hasn’t gotten lost with other luggage. Weather conditions are tracked, too, to make sure your dog won’t get too hold or too cold in cargo. Plus, if you need to change flights, your pet will be transported in a climate-controlled vehicle in certain situations.
On most domestic flights, you can bring your small dog in the cabin in an appropriately sized hard or soft-sided kennel. As with Jet Blue, he must remain in the kennel under the seat at all times during the flight.
In Houston, Continental also offers a kennel at the airport that includes dog runs, exercise pens, and grooming facilities for travelers who want their dogs pampered while they are traveling.
Other Pet Friendly Airlines
In addition to the three airlines mentioned here, many of the others available in the United States and Canada permit small dogs to travel in kennels inside the cabin with you. However, some destinations, such as Hawaii and the UK, do not allow passengers to bring their pets with them in this way. You should check with the airline and/or your travel agent before finalizing any plans for your dog.
Keep in mind that a few airlines ONLY allow pets to travel in the cargo area, such as Qantas, British Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic. The latter does offer a climate controlled cargo area which does reduce some of the risks for your dog. Virgin Atlantic also offers gifts to flying pets and developed the Flying Paws Club just for them.
When you are bringing along your dog on a flight, always try to choose pet friendly airlines first to show your support for the services they offer. If that’s not possible, always ask about the travel accommodations that your pet will be experiencing.