How Do Pets Travel In Airplanes?

Have you ever wondered where pets go when you bring them on an airplane? If passengers are not allowed to have pets in the main cabin, where do they go? People are usually concerned about several different things, such as the engine noise, temperature, and other factors, when they bring their furry little friends onto an airplane, but rest assured, pets are completely safe onboard an aircraft.

Pet Travel Requirements

Before bringing a pet onboard a plane, there are several requirements that must be met. But before going through any requirements, the owner must first contact the airline during booking to inform them about bringing a pet. The first requirement for pet travel is that the pet must be at least 8 weeks old and in good health to travel. On international flights, your pets must also have a rabies immunization and valid health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian within 30 days of travel. Airlines will not transport pets that do not meet these requirements. There are also several pet carrier requirements along with the requirements for the pet itself:

  1. The carrier has to be big enough for the animal to stand, turn around and lie down comfortably.
  2. The carrier must be well ventilated and have good airflow.
  3. The carrier must have handles for the convenience of airline employees.
  4. The carrier must contain two empty dishes for food and water, and feeding instructions for employees.
  5. The carrier must be labeled with the pet’s name, contact information, the proper position up, and the words “Live Animal.”

Before boarding the plane, pets should also be fed 4 hours prior and taken on a walk or other form of exercise. With all these requirements met, your pet is finally ready to board the plane.

Shipping - Bethan Beagle
Credit: Bethan Beagle

Where The Pets Go

After checking in, the pet is brought to an inspection and security checkpoint, where the cage is usually scanned with x-ray to detect objects that could pose a threat to the flight. The x-ray radiation is only minor and the pet will not be affected by it. After going through security, the pet is then transported with the rest of the luggage to the cargo loading area of the aircraft. Pets are loaded onto the plane first and taken to a special compartment that is pressurized and temperature-controlled, like the passenger cabins above. This process may be stressful to the pets, but once the plane is in the air, things will improve. Feeling safe in the compartment and with nothing to do, pets will most likely go to sleep.

After 74 deaths in a decade, Delta bans pets from being checked like luggage
Credit: New York Post

Feeding The Pet

What if the pet needs to be fed during the flight? Since the pet can not eat right before the flight, in case they need to use the restroom, what happens if the pet needs food? On short haul flights, it is okay to just let the pet push through the flight without eating. However, at the end of the flight, make sure the pet doesn’t eat too much, so that it won’t get sick. On long haul flights, the owner will be required to attach a zip lock bag of food for the pet on the cage. This is so that when the pet needs to be fed, a crew member will be able to go down to the pet compartment and provide the animal with food in one of the two empty bowls that are required to be in the carrier. The same process is done with water on long-haul flights if the animal needs to drink. On short-haul flights and sometimes on long haul flights, it is recommended to provide the pet with a bowl of ice on the flight, so that the animal will be able to access water without drinking all of it at once. This is also convenient since water won’t splash around in the carrier during takeoff and other events.

Food and Water for Pet Travel - Pet Air Carrier, LLC
Credit: Pet Air Carrier

With all of these pet transport regulations and procedures, a pet is sure to have a nice and comfortable flight. Your pet may even have better flight than yourself! Pets aren’t just thrown into the cargo compartment with the rest of the luggage as many people may think. Instead, your pet is in a safe and comfortable compartment during travel and there is no need to worry.


Sources:

https://www.starwoodanimaltransport.com/blog/should-i-feed-my-dog-before-flying-what-else-should-i-know

https://www.jamescargo.com/pets/pet-travel-questions.php#:~:text=Pets%20are%20placed%20in%20%E2%80%9Chold,will%20make%20sure%20of%20this.

https://www.bringfido.com/travel/us_regulations/

Cover Image credited to Canna-Pet