11 Tips for Flying with Your Dog In-Cabin
Travel can be fun, but it can also be a bit stressful—especially when you have to travel by plane. Navigating the airports, making your connections, and getting to your destination can sometimes be hectic. And flying with your dog can make it even more interesting if you're not prepared. Here are 11 things to keep in mind before you board the plane with your pup.
1. Consider your decision.
Before you start, make sure your dog actually needs to travel with you. Flying is a big event for dogs, and some might be happier at home with a pet sitter. If your dog is easy-going by nature or is a well-seasoned traveler, then flying together might be a good option for you.
2. Understand what “in-cabin" means.
When you fly, your dog will be located in one of two places in the plane: either in the belly as special “cargo" or in-cabin with you as a “carry-on."
3. Do your research.
Airlines may place restrictions on pet travel from time to time. The first thing you should do is check with your airline to make sure your dog can fly with you. If the airline does allow dogs, the next thing you need to do is check out your airline's requirements. They will likely provide detailed rules and instructions relating to your dog's age and the required documentation you need to bring with you. 1 This may include immunizations, so be sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations before you travel. Likewise, the airline will probably want a recent health certificate from your dog's veterinarian, dated within a certain time frame. Check with the airline (website or customer service) for information on their specific guidelines.
You also need to make sure your pup and her carrier fit the airline's guidelines. For instance, if she's traveling in a K&H Lookout Pet Carrier, carefully measure the carrier to make sure it meets the airline's specifications, which can be found on the airline's website. Your dog's carrier must fit under the seat in front of you, so this restricts the physical size of the pet that can fly in-cabin.2
Considering that you may not know the precise shape and size of the area under the aircraft's seat until you're actually on board with your pet, a soft-sided carrier may offer a little extra wiggle-room in the event of a tight squeeze. (This is not the time to discover a protruding edge or folding handle doesn't quite fit!) Also, make sure your pup is crate-trained to make the flight more enjoyable for everyone. For large dog breeds, you may need to explore alternative solutions to get your dog to your destination.
4. Book your flight early.
The airline may have a maximum number of pets it allows on each flight. These pet “seats" may be offered on a first-come, first-served basis, so booking early can help avoid surprises. Want to bring more than one pet? Check with the airline. Some will let you bring more than one pet in-cabin, but you'll probably have to purchase additional (empty) seats to place the pet carriers underneath.
5. Plan for accidents.
6. Follow a pet travel checklist.
Prep your packing with a list to help you remember all the necessities. Make sure things like a leash and a travel-sized water bowl are included in your carry-on and not in your checked luggage.
7. Don't be surprised if there's a fee to fly.
In addition to the cost of your ticket, the airline may charge an additional fee for your pet to fly in-cabin, often around $125 one way. 3
8. Avoid flights with multiple layovers.
Multiple layovers may prolong the travel day and keep your pet in the carrier longer than necessary. Flying non-stop on a particular flight might be more expensive, but it's easier for your dog. Hey, it's not bad for you, either!
9. Don't feed your dog the morning of the flight.
Delaying a meal can help prevent your dog from becoming airsick. You don't want to clean up any messes from airsickness either on the plane or between connecting flights. If your dog tends to get car sick, you may want to check with your veterinarian for any aids to help with airsickness, just in case.
10. Remember the weather.
Consider the climates of your departure and destination locations and how these may affect your pet. Be sure to pack any extra gear, if needed.
11. Plan post-flight transportation.
How will you get around once you arrive at your destination? You might need to pack a car seat for your dog so that she can travel safely to and from the airport and around town.
Flying with your dog might sound intimidating at first, but when you're equipped with tips and knowledge, you can focus on the destination and not stress over traveling with your pup.
1. United. “In-cabin pets," https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/travel/animals/in-cabin.htm
2. Delta. “Pet Travel on Delta," https://www.delta.com/us/en/pet-travel/overview
3. Meltzer, Matt, Lagrave, Katherine, and Kuta, Sarah. Condé Nast Traveler. “Everything to Know About Flying With A Dog," 2 Nov 2020. https://www.cntraveler.com/story/flying-with-a-dog-everything-you-need-to-know