How to Fly on Planes Carefree with Bailey, Your Favorite Pet - Livingto100.Club

Pets are like family.  Here at the Living to 100 Club, it’s important to elevate the importance that pets bring to their owners, especially to those over age 50.  According to the Pet Food Industry, 32% of all U.S. pet owners are over age 65. We know that pets offer companionship and are treated just as any family member would be treated. Beyond this, though, pet owners know that their pets are essential to their own mental and physical health, and have a positive impact on their own well being.

Since travel is one of the ingredients to successful aging, this article describes the steps for carefree air travel with pets.

Air Travel with Pets

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, over two million pets and other live animals are transported by air every year in the United States.  Each airline, as well as federal and state governments, establish regulations to ensure the proper handling of these pets that are transported. The Animal Welfare Act is enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and has posted its regulations impacting travel with animals at  The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal, and Plant Inspection Service can be reached at 800-545-8732, option 2, for regulations that vary by individual states within the U.S.  Airlines also have their own policies and should be contacted prior to booking any travel. Airline policies differ according to size and age of the of the pet, travel in the cabin or cargo, health certificates required, and fees. A very useful reference to look up the policy of each airline is located at 

traveling with your pet -

Here are some general requirements for air travel with pets:

  1. Advance arrangements – call your airline directly to make the reservation and confirm space is available; re-confirm 24-48 hours before flight; advance notices are no guarantees the pet can travel on a particular flight since refusal may occur because of the pet’s illness, an improper carrier, extreme ground temperatures, or aggressive behavior if observed in the pet.  Also, get them accustomed to the travel carrier for weeks before travel in the home and in a car.
  2. Food and water should be offered four hours before check-in, but avoid your pet traveling with full stomach.  If checking your pet for cargo travel, leave dishes in pet’s carrier so personnel can provide water in the event of extended wait before or after.  Arrive at check-in no more than 4 hours before flight, and if using medications prescribed by your vet, administer these drugs 2 hours before flight time.  It is also advised to administer a test dose before the trip to observe how your pet handles the drug. Also, travelers must check in at the airlines counter, not at curbside or self-service kiosks;
  3. The pet’s carrier must be big enough for animal to stand and turn around, with ventilation holes, but no part of the animal can protrude from carrier (e.g., wire carrier not allowed). If the carrier is not big enough, it will be refused by the airline.  The carrier must have a solid, leak-proof floor covered with absorbent lining, towel or litter, and must have handles so no one has to put fingers inside carrier. It should contain food and water dishes, with instructions and a certificate signed by the owner that pet was offered food and water 4 hours before flight, and must also be marked with the pet’s and owner’s name, home address, phone and someone who can be reached at destination. Be sure to mark “Live Animal” on the top and side of carrier, and mark with directional arrows showing proper positioning of carrier. There should be no leash or muzzle in or outside of carrier. Maximum capacity is generally 1 carrier per dog or cat, unless two puppies are no more than 6 months old and weigh no more than 20 lbs. Recommended carry-on cabin carriers include this airline approved hideaway duffle by Prefer Pets:
traveling with your pets -

Stash a week’s worth of essentials in a handy roller tote by Overland Dog Gear:

Travel tools for pets -
  1. If your air travel will take you across state borders within the U.S., pets must have a rabies immunization and a valid health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian within 30 days of travel (some airlines require that it is issued within 10 days of travel), unless the pet is traveling in cargo, in which case the certificate must be issued no more than 10 days before travel. The certificate verifies that the pet is free of infectious diseases.  International travel often requires USDA endorsement of the health certificate (see American Veterinary Medical Association for more details on their website here >>).
  2. Per the American Veterinary Medical Association, sedatives should not be used for dogs due to problems with balance and equilibrium when under sedation (making it more dangerous for pets when their kennel is moved) and exposure to increased altitude pressure, creating respiratory and cardiovascular problems, especially affecting certain breeds, such as snub-nosed dogs. Should your vet decide to use sedation, be sure to list the name of drug, dosage, and how drug was administered on the outside of the carrier.
  3. Extreme weather is problematic for air travel with pets.  Avoid mid-day travel in hot weather and avoid early morning or late afternoon flights in winter, try to book non-stop flights to your  destination whenever possible, and avoid weekend and holiday travel. If your destination is below 45 F or >85 F, a letter may be required, and signed by your vet, that the pet is acclimated to extreme weather conditions.  However, if the ground temperature at your destination is below 20 degrees F. or above 95 degrees F., the pet is not likely allowed in cargo container even with letter of acclimation. Some airlines will not allow snub-noses dogs at all during summer months;
  4. To avoid occasions where your pet gets lost during travel, it is advised that the pet has a microchip implanted, virtually ensuring that your pet, if lost, is found and returned to you.  One highly recommended device is a GPS tracker  available from Amazon, providing GPS Activity and Location Tracking.  Most microchip registrations will include the owner’s cell phone number and other owner contact information.  Short of attaching a GPS locator, it is advised that the pet have a collar with a tag providing the owner’s home address as well as a temporary travel tag with the owner’s cellphone, destination phone number and other relevant contact information.

Common Sense Air Travel with Pets

  1. If your travel takes you to a stay with friends or family, be sure to inform your host that you are bringing your pet to make sure the pet is welcome. If staying at a hotel or motel, be sure to book your stay at a “pet friendly” lodging.  Some hotels and motels only accept pets of a certain size or weight. It is also advisable to minimize the time that your pet is alone in your room, but at those times that it is necessary, inform the front desk that your pet is alone in the room and use the “Do Not Disturb” sign.  As an extra precaution, give the hotel clerk your contact information if needed. Make food and water delivery as carefree as possible with spill proof food and water containers.

travel essentials for pet travel -


  1. For travel outside of the United States, contact the Foreign Consulate or Regulatory Agency of the destination country at least 4 weeks in advance.
  2. When traveling within the U.S., it is advisable to bring your veterinarian’s contact information, a list of veterinarians and a list of 24-hour emergency hospitals along the way (American Animal Hospital Association Search, click here >>)  .  The National Animal Poison Control Center can be reached at 888-426-4435 or visit their website by clicking here>> .
  3. Extra Identification: Your pet’s ID tag should include the owner’s name and contact information and an extra travel ID tag include the owner’s contact information and name and address of your destination.  Extra precautionary steps would include traveling with copies of your pet’s medical records or brief summary of its medical conditions, a certificate of Veterinary Health Inspection, an acclimation certificate for travel, and assorted items for your pet (medications, collar, leash, bed/blanket, toys, food and fresh water, and food and water dishes).

Here's another great resource for traveling with pets from Dog Desires >>>

Traveling by air with pets can be enjoyable and taking extra steps to meet all necessary regulations will bring peace of mind for all parties involved.  Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on safe travel with your pets by car.

Safe travels, and keep up that membership in the Living to 100 Club.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published