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Airline Rules for Travel with Your Cat

By: PetPlace Staff

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Getting a plane ticket for yourself is easy but getting one for your pet takes a little more planning. Airlines have always restricted flight during extremely high or low temperatures, but a new federal rule, as well as some pet air travel tragedies, have resulted in more drastic changes within the airline industry. These new guidelines and restrictions may cause you some headaches and frustration but keep in mind that they have been put in place for your pet's safety.

Airline Rules

Each airline has separate rules. Some have pet embargo rules, which result in times during the year that pet travel is not allowed. Some airlines no longer accept pets and rely on special pet carrier or animal transport companies. Make sure you check with the airline well in advance regarding their pet travel rules, as they can change without notice. The following are some of the rules of individual airlines:

  • Continental Airlines

    As with most airlines, Continental allows small pets to travel in the cabin. For those pets traveling alone, Continental has brought in a new program called PetSafe QuickPak Cargo. Under their program, you reserve space for your pet well in advance and reconfirm those reservations 24 hours before flight time. Pets should be checked in as cargo from a special QuickPak Desk near the ticketing counter, one hour prior to flight time. The 24-hour help-desk will create an itinerary for your pet (depending on origin and destination temperatures). If your pet doesn't fly as reserved, you get your money back.

    Continental has no specific pet embargo dates. If the temperature of the destination or arrival airport is over 85 degrees or less than 10 degrees Fahrenheit, your pet will not be allowed to fly cargo that day. For pets over 7 years of age, Continental strongly recommends a heart examination and bloodwork to make sure there is no underlying liver or kidney damage prior to flying.

    If your pet is small enough to fly as carry-on, the charge is $75 each way ($150 round trip).

  • Delta Airlines

    Delta has instituted a pet embargo from May 15 to Sept. 15. This means that no pets are allowed to fly cargo during these dates. Pets are still allowed as carry-on anytime throughout the year, but the kennel must be able to fit under the seat in front of you. If your pet is transported as carry-on or is traveling with you as cargo, the cost is $75 each way. If your pet travels by plane alone, there is a substantial cost difference. You will be able to pre-book a maximum of 7 days in advance and a minimum of 1 day of the desired flight. Upon arrival in the destination city, pets will be delivered to the Delta cargo facility within 60 minutes.

  • United Airlines

    As with other airlines, pets are allowed as carry-on anytime during the year but there are size and number of pets limitations. If your pet travels as carry-on with you, the charge is $75 each way. Pets can also be shipped as cargo. United has no specific pet embargo dates. If the temperature of the destination or arrival airport is over 85 degrees or less than 10 degrees Fahrenheit, your pet will not be allowed to fly cargo that day.

  • American Airlines

    American also has a pet embargo from May 15 to September 15. As with other airlines, small pets can accompany you as carry-on. If traveling with an owner, the cost is $80 each way. Prices vary if your pet is traveling alone. As of Septembeer 2002, the following pets are no longer accepted on flights:

  • American Pit Bull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Bull Terrier
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Rottweiler

    Exceptions will be made for service animals and official bomb- and drug-sniffing dogs (with documentation).

  • US Airways

    US Airways also has no specific embargo dates. Pet travel is prohibited when the outside temperature is over 85 degrees or under 10 degrees Fahrenheit. US Airways does not allow pets to travel in the cargo hold anymore because of extreme temperatures in Phoenix and Las Vegas, where we have two large hubs. The exception is shuttle routes between New York LaGuardia, Boston, and Washington National Airport. They do not allow pets to travel to Hawaii due to state agricultural rules. Pets traveling as carry-on cost $75 each way. For pets flying cargo, costs are based on weight and destination. Complete details are at usairways.com.

  • Northwest Airlines

    Northwest has no specific embargo dates and determines if pet travel is allowed by daily temperature. Pet travel is prohibited when the outside temperature is over 85 degrees or under 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Pets traveling as carry-on cost $80 each way. For pets flying cargo, costs are based on weight and destination.

  • Southwest Airlines

    Southwest does not allow pets to fly at any time.

    Flying Cargo

    Five tips on traveling with your pet by plane:

  • Make reservations well ahead of time and confirm them 24 hours before takeoff.

  • All airlines require a health certificate issued within 10 days of your departure date, whether you're traveling within the United States or abroad. Your veterinarian will have to examine your pet and certify that he is free of disease and healthy enough to travel.
    Note: animals must be at least 8 weeks old to travel by plane.

  • Be at the animal check-in (if you're handing over your pet yourself) at least 2 hours prior to a domestic flight or 4 hours prior to an international one, to allow plenty of time to complete the formalities.

  • Pets must travel in manufactured pet carriers – homemade ones won't do. Label the carrier "Live Animal," and mark "up" arrows on all sides of the crate. Also, write your home address and telephone number clearly on the crate. All kennels must have fixed food and water bowls clipped on the door.

    Flying Cabin Class

    If your pet is flying in the cabin with you, remember:

  • Carry-on pets must be small enough to fit into a carrier that can be stowed under the seat. Animals are not allowed in the overhead compartments, and they must remain in their carriers until the plane lands. You can use any kind of hard carrier, but only certain soft (canvas type) carriers are allowed; find out which ones your airline accepts.

  • When making reservations, make clear whether you expect to carry your pet aboard or send him cargo. Most airlines allow each passenger to transport a maximum of two kennels as cargo or one small pet in the passenger cabin. Note, though, that the number of animals allowed in the cabin varies from airline to airline and that it's perfectly legal for a carrier to turn down your request.

    International Travel

    If you plan to travel internationally with your pet, make sure to check with either the country's embassy or consulate well in advance. Some countries do not allow pets into their country and others require long quarantines. Import licenses and international health certificates may be required. Contact the country of your destination at least 4 weeks prior to travel. Don't arrive in the country unprepared. You may end up leaving your pet at the airport or returning home.

    For More Information

    Regulations vary from airline to airline, so ask your carrier which procedures they follow. Some have brochures available by mail or check the websites below for specific information.
  • www.aa.com (American Airlines)
  • www.nwa.com (Northwest Airlines)
  • www.delta.com (Delta Air Lines)
  • www.continental.com (Continental Airlines)
  • www.usairways.com (USAirways Airlines)
  • www.united.com (United Airlines)
  • www.southwest.com (Southwest Airlines)
  • www.dot.gov/airconsumers/animals.htm. (The Department of Transportation Fact Sheet)
  • thomas.loc.gov (The FAA Reauthorization Bill, HR 1000, Section 710)

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