If you can afford private air or a shared charter flight, such as K9 Jets, your pampered pet can stretch out by your feet. Dogs of all sizes and snout lengths are invited aboard.

On commercial air, owners can carry on small pets enclosed in carriers that fit under the cabin seat. Larger animals fly in a special pressurized and temperature-controlled compartment in the plane. They can travel as checked luggage on their owner’s aircraft or as cargo, either with their humans or on a different flight. In both scenarios, the owners will not see their pets until the final destination.

Airlines really have no way to accommodate many animals as anything other than luggage,” said Matt Rossell, campaigns manager with the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “You’d never consider putting your child in cargo and shipping them internationally, right? But you’re restricted with your pets.”

Meet the pets flying on private jets

When Rossell accompanies rescue dogs on flights, the animals travel as excess luggage, his preferred arrangement. The process is straightforward: At the check-in counter, the airline agent will take possession of your crated pet, along with any luggage. Upon arrival, you will retrieve your pet in baggage claim. Then, you proceed to customs with your documents.

“Having that animal on your flight adds a sense of security,” he said. “The animal’s guardian can make sure that the pilot and flight attendants know there’s an animal on board.

All animals, with the exception of service dogs, must travel in a carrier or kennel. For pups too big for the cabin, the airlines are very specific about the crate dimensions and construction, down to the type of closures and the location of the ventilation holes. They also dictate the amenities allowed inside. American Airlines, for example, permits blankets, towels and beds that don’t exceed three inches in thickness; hay, straw and wood shavings are not permitted.

For kennel specifications and prep tips, consult your airline. The International Air Transport Association’s Traveler’s Pet Corner also has valuable information about crates. Once you have acquired an enclosure, start acclimating your pet to it.

Over the years, several carriers, such as United and Delta, have eliminated the excess luggage option and require travelers to use a cargo shipping company. Some airlines have their own in-house service, or you can hire a pet transport specialist independent of the airline. To find a company that operates from your outbound airport, check the database run by the International Pet and Animal Transport Association.

Pet transporters take care of all aspects of the journey. “We help with the paperwork and the crate and customs clearance — the total package,” Passman said. “It’s pretty much airport to door.” But, she admitted, “it’s more cost prohibitive.”

As an example, Passman quoted $4,000 to $6,000 to fly a goldendoodle one way from Dallas to Germany or $2,500 to $3,000 for a smaller breed like a cocker spaniel. Depending on the route, Air France charges about $110 to $440 one-way for a pet in cargo hold, regardless of the dog’s size.


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