Air travel is already stressful enough, but bringing your pet along for the ride can up the anxiety to untold levels. From check-in to take off, there’s plenty that can go wrong, but you stand a much better chance if you know the rules and plan ahead. The cost to travel with pets can range from anywhere between $95 to a whopping $1,600, depending on the breed and the airline, so check out some helpful travel tips before you book your flight.
The FAA has a few specific rules regarding pet travel in the passenger cabin. The pet container has to be small enough to fit under your seat without blocking foot traffic (much like your carry-on bag that doesn’t go in the overhead compartment), and the carrier must be stowed properly before the flight takes off. The container has to stay properly stowed for the entire duration of the flight, and you have to obey flight attendants’ instructions for its storage. Most airlines have more detailed procedures regarding pet travel, and some don’t allow pets at all, so it’s vital to check their policies before you book. Other airlines specifically don’t allow snub-nosed animals such as bulldogs and shih tzus, because their unique noses can cause breathing problems during flights.
If you’re traveling to Europe, your pet has to have a microchip, along with its rabies vaccinations. In general, it’s a great idea to have all your pet’s vaccinations up to date before you fly. Check with your veterinarian to learn what shots your pet needs before you travel, and also be sure to check the vaccination requirements of the countries you’re visiting to make sure your pet is in compliance.
Unless your vet specifically recommends a sedative, skip out on the doggy Xanax. Sedatives can disrupt your pet’s equilibrium and even cause breathing problems due to increased altitude. Better ways to keep your pet at ease include bringing a favorite toy and ensuring that the pet carrier is both familiar and comfortable. Air travel can be a hassle for both pets and their owners. Airports have always offered spots for humans to unwind, but New York’s JFK airport is now offering the same to animals, with an upscale lounge devoted entirely to pets.
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