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10 Facts About Pet Air Travel

Published on: October 13, 2023  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

window view of clouds from airplane

Pet air travel is a common occurrence in our modern world. From fancy show pets to beloved household companions, pets are taking to the skies for various reasons. Whether it's for a vacation or a big move, many pet owners find themselves facing the prospect of their pet's first airplane trip. Naturally, they want to know what this experience entails and how to ensure their furry friend's safety and well-being.

To shed some light on the matter, here are some important facts that every caring Fur Mom or Fur Dad should be aware of:






1. Pet air travel is safe

According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association, over 4 million pets and other live animals are transported by air each year worldwide. The remarkable fact is that less than 0.01 percent of pets that travel by air experience any incidents. To put this into perspective, it's worth considering that more than 100,000 dogs tragically lose their lives annually due to falling or being ejected from pickup truck beds.

That being said - pets traveling by air as cargo, accompanied baggage,  or in-cabin is quite safe. Pets traveling as accompanied baggage or cargo fly beneath the pilot in a space that is temperature-controlled, pressurized, and oxygenated. If these controls aren't working on the day of departure, then airlines will not allow pets to travel, since safety is a top priority. 

2. In-cabin pet travel isn't always possible (or a good idea)

While it may seem like a convenient option, traveling with your cat or small dog in a shoulder bag carrier as your carry-on is not as simple as it sounds. While some airlines do allow this, there are still a few things to consider:

- You will need to purchase a ticket for your pet.

- You will have to acquire all the necessary health documentation required by your destination.

- You'll need to bring along a water dish, a snack, a leash, a toy, and clean-up items.

- Your pet will have to remain in their carrier under the seat in front of you for the entire duration of the flight, with no opportunity for lap time.

- Some airlines or destination countries do not allow pets to travel in-cabin.

While this may work for a short and direct flight, it can quickly become a hassle for longer or multiple flights. Additionally, if your pet becomes restless or, heaven forbid, has an accident during the flight, it may not be the most pleasant experience for you or your fellow passengers.

3. International pet travel requires a significant amount of paperwork

Just like when you need a passport to travel abroad, your furry friend needs their own travel documents to prove their identity and ensure they are in good health before entering another country. While obtaining all the necessary paperwork can be time-consuming, these rules are in place to protect the well-being of everyone involved.

It's important to note that each country has its own specific set of rules when it comes to pet travel, and they all expect full compliance. To make sure you have everything you need when it's time for your pet to depart, it's crucial to find out the requirements for your destination as early as possible and start the process. This way, you can ensure a smooth and hassle-free journey for your beloved companion.

4. Ground travel isn't always better

While ground travel for pets is generally safe and convenient, it's important to acknowledge that it isn't always better. Although flying with pets may require more preparation and paperwork, it offers certain advantages such as faster travel times and the ability to reach destinations that are not easily accessible by road. Additionally, airlines are increasingly prioritizing the well-being and safety of pets during air travel, with some going above and beyond to create a pet-friendly environment.

It's essential to consider the downsides of ground travel for your pet. Not only does it take longer than air travel, which means your furry friend will be separated from you for an extended period, but some pets also become stressed when in a vehicle, and this stress can escalate during a longer journey. Furthermore, poor road conditions can lead to delays and potentially dangerous situations during your pet's ground transport. Additionally, ground travel can sometimes be more expensive than air travel, as you need to factor in mileage, time, and accommodations for the staff responsible for transporting your pet from one location to another.

5. Pets should not be sedated for travel

One important point to note is that pets should not be sedated for travel. Sedation can have adverse effects on pets, such as respiratory and cardiovascular issues, and it can also impact their ability to regulate body temperature. It is important for pets to be alert and responsive during travel, as it allows them to adjust to changes in their environment and minimize stress. Instead of relying on sedation, pet owners can take proactive measures to reduce travel stress, such as familiarizing their pets with carriers and providing a comfortable and familiar space for them. 

Additionally, airlines will not allow pets to fly if they appear to be sedated. Reputable pet transport companies, like Starwood, will also not transport any animal that has been sedated or tranquilized. 

6. Not all airlines are pet-friendly

In today's pet-centric world, where our furry friends are considered cherished family members, airlines are facing increasing pressure to prioritize the well-being and safety of pets and other animals during air travel. With pet owners, animal rights groups, and the general public keeping a close eye on their practices, airlines are taking unprecedented steps to ensure that pets are treated with the utmost care and compassion.

Some airlines have gone the extra mile to provide exceptional care for their furry passengers. They understand that pets have unique needs and strive to create a pet-friendly environment throughout the entire travel experience. From providing spacious and comfortable animal holding facilities to offering personalized attention and assistance, these airlines aim to make the journey a positive and stress-free one for both pets and their owners.

Do keep in mind that not all airlines are created equal. Just because an airline might allow your pet to travel, does not mean they are always in the best hands. Professional pet transport companies know the best airlines to work with to ensure your pet travels safely.

7. Weather can impact your pet's travel plans

Unfortunately, pets don't have the same flexibility as humans when it comes to flying in any weather condition. Airlines have strict guidelines and will not accept animals if they determine that the temperature is too hot or too cold at any of the stops on the itinerary. While this is done to protect the well-being of our furry friends during their journey, it's important to be aware that it could potentially lead to a last-minute change in your pet's travel plans. Flights may be canceled due to inclement weather. Although this is something beyond your control, it's crucial to keep it in mind as you plan your pet's trip.

8. Reducing pet travel stress is absolutely possible

By taking certain measures to prepare your pet for their journey, you can significantly decrease anxiety and stress when the big travel day arrives. One important step is to familiarize your pet with their travel carrier well in advance. Start by placing the carrier in their living space and gradually introduce them to it by leaving treats and toys inside. This will help them associate the carrier with positive experiences and make it a comfortable and familiar space for them.

Before reaching your destination, it's crucial to research and prepare for your pet's needs in the new environment. Find pet-friendly accommodations and make sure they have all the necessary amenities, such as food, water, and a secure outdoor space for exercise. It's also a good idea to locate the nearest veterinary clinic in case of any emergencies.

Once you arrive at your destination, give your pet some time to adjust and settle into their new surroundings. Maintain their usual routine as much as possible and provide plenty of love, attention, and reassurance during this transition period. Gradually introduce them to new people, places, and other animals to help them socialize and feel more at ease.

9. Pet owners do not have to be on the same flight

Contrary to common belief, it is not necessary for pet owners to be on the same flight as their furry companions. If you choose to travel with your pet in the cabin or as accompanied baggage, they will be on your own flight. However, if circumstances don't allow for this or if your preferred flight doesn't allow pets, your pet may travel as cargo. When pets travel as cargo, they are not accompanied by a person, so there is no need for someone to fly with them. In some cases, it may not be feasible for you to be on the same flight as your pet, and that's perfectly fine! Sometimes it makes more sense for you to travel ahead of or behind your pet, and make arrangements for someone else to be present for their pick up and delivery.

10. It's a good idea to hire a professional

Engaging the services of a professional pet transport company can provide you with peace of mind and alleviate the stress that often comes with pet travel. Whether you're embarking on a vacation or a permanent move, there are already countless things on your mind. By entrusting your furry friend to a reputable and experienced company, you can eliminate the burden, frustration, fear, and worry that are typically associated with preparing for your pet's journey. Opting for a highly-rated company affiliated with the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) ensures that your pet will have a safe and comfortable travel experience.


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