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Airline Guidelines for Pets

Article Author: Maria Coder

Everything you need to know about air travel with your pet by Maria Coder

Flying the "friendly" skies is getting more complicated, especially if you're flying with a pampered pup. But knowing the rules could spare you a major headache. In fact, you may even be able to score some miles, without any pain and suffering.

Realistically, wherever you go, you pet is going to face some dog travel requirements. The farther away from home you travel, the heftier those requirements will be. While most airlines share many requirements they all have different policies. One airline may allow three pets per trip in the passenger cabin, while another will only allow two pets and may make exceptions for a guide dog. Other airlines will only allow pets in cargo while some airlines won't take any pets in cargo at all. Then of course, you have to keep up with the changes in policies. Just because pets were allowed in the cabin last year, doesn't mean the same is true this year.

Take Air Canada, for instance. About a month ago, the Montreal-based airline raised its fees for transporting pets as a way to lower its annual fuel costs and make a yearly profit for the first time since 1999. On its overseas flights, the same pet that fit under the seat last year must now travel in cargo. The airline will no longer allow pets in the cabin for international flights. A ticket in cargo will cost you $245.

Where are you going?

First decide where you and Fido are going. From there you can check out the policies of the airlines that'll get you both to your destinations. The easiest and fastest way to get your hands on all the information you need is to visit the individual airline's Web site. Once you narrow down your choices based on your own criteria, call and double-check the rules you've read online are up-to-date. While most airlines keep their Web sites fresh with the most current information, it never hurts to ask. Plus, you'll have to let the airline you choose know that you're traveling with your pet. If you're traveling an airline like JetBlue, you're likely to call right away. The New York-based company gives you double rewards points when you travel with your pet.

General Travel Requirements

JetBlue accepts a total of three small dogs and cats in the passenger cabin of each flight. The travel fee is $50 per pet each way. The airline only allows one pet per customer unless you're traveling with a certified service animal or a documented emotional support animal. Your pet and his or her carrier count as one personal item. Guide dogs are not charged a travel fee and are not included in the pet count.

For safety and timing, if you're traveling with your pooch you won't be assigned to sit in an exit row or bulkhead seats. You'll also be placed in window or aisle seats. JetBlue does not transport animals in cargo because of the lack of oxygen and pressurized air.

"We understand pets are very important parts of our customers' lives and we want to be able to make sure they're well taken care of and that our customers make it to their destinations on time," says Bryan Baldwin, Coordinator of Corporate Communications with JetBlue.

In the cabin, pets must fit in a dog carrier that is smaller than 18" in length, 12.5" in width and 8" in height. Hard carriers slightly smaller than that may be purchased with cash, check or credit card at any JetBlue ticket counter for a nonrefundable fee of $20. In the coming weeks, soft-sided sherpa pet carriers will also be available for a nonrefundable fee of $40. Only one pet is allowed per carrier and the pet must stay inside the carrier for the whole flight. Because of this restriction, the pet must be able to move inside the carrier with ease. The combined weight of the pet and the carrier must not weigh more than 20 pounds. It must also be leak-proof. For more information on pet travel on JetBlue call 1-800-JET-BLUE or visit www.JetBlue.com.

Much like JetBlue, American Airlines also restricts the number of pets per flight. "We recognize if we're carrying in the airplane cabin or as cargo that they're living beings and we treat them as we would human passengers," says Tim Wagner, spokesperson for American Airlines.

AA allows seven carry-on kennels per flight: two in first class and five in coach and/or business class. Guide dogs and search dogs are not included in that count. American Eagle and AmericanConnection only allow two kennels at most, depending on the aircraft. Keep in mind, connecting flights will have their own rules, even if you're flying on American Airlines' connecting flights or flights that are in or outside American Airlines' partnerships with the United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Croix. The airline does not permit carry on pets to/from Hawaii, Trasnatlantic/Transpacific, or Central and South America.

The largest cabin size pet carriers must not exceed 23" in length by 13" in width, by 9" in height. A pet carrier and pet counts as one of the passenger's carry-on bag. The carrier may hold two dogs or two cats as long as they are the same species, the same ages (between 8-weeks and 6-months), and weight less than 20 pounds. Pets must be at least 8 weeks old. The animals must be able to stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably. The carriers must be leak-proof too.

The cost of traveling with your pooch is $100 for cargo and $80 for the passenger cabin payable at the airport, American Airlines Travel Centers, or travel agencies. Payments are accepted by check, cash, credit card, or voucher. Kennels may also be purchased at an additional cost, where available. Last year, American Airlines began to phase out the availability of kennels. Charges also apply for each connecting flight when the voluntary stopover is four hours or more. Only one charge applies if a two-segment connection is less than four hours. Guide dogs and service assistant animals travel free of charge.

Pets traveling in cargo have more rules to adhere to. The maximum combined weight of a pet and kennel cannot weigh more than 100 pounds. If you dog and kennel combined weigh more than 100 pounds AA will send him or her via cargo. AA also ships unescorted pets that way.

The largest size for checked kennels is 40" long by 27" wide by 30" high. However, the maximum size kennel (series 500) is not accepted on Boeing MD-80 (S80) aircraft. Series 700 kennels are not allowed on any AA airplanes. Kennels that fold down flat, a.k.a. collapsible kennels, are also not allowed for safety reasons. AA used to sell regular kennels at its ticket counters but the sales continue to dwindle as the airline began phasing out the option last year. The kennel you provide must be made of wood, metal, plastic, or similar material. It must be leak-proof, escape-proof, and must lock securely. The kennel must have ventilation on two sides, in addition to the door. Your pup must be able to stand, turn, sit, and lie down comfortably. It is your responsibility to secure rigid plastic kennels with releasable cable ties to all four corners. AA will provide the ties to you at no additional cost. It is also your responsibility to provide written certification that your dog has been offered food and water within four hours (with the specific time noted) before delivery to the kennel. This certification must be signed, dated, time stamped, and securely attached to the outside of the kennel. You must also provide feeding and watering instructions for a 24-hour period. A "no food or water" request is not acceptable unless directed by the attending physician. When you check in you are asked to hand over a container for water and one with dog food, just in case.

Like most airlines, AA does not require a health certificate for pets to travel in the cabin or as checked baggage within the 50 United States. That said, individual states may have their own requirements. Check with your vet or state authorities for more information. Keep in mind, all states require proof of current rabies vaccination for dogs over 12 weeks old. For more information on pet travel on American Airlines call 1-800-433-7300 or visit www.aa.com. For additional AA Cargo information call 1-800-CARGOAA or visit www.AACargo.com.

Another example of varying pet travel regulations is U.S. Airways. As of October 1st the airline will no longer accepts pets as checked baggage or cargo because of security reasons. If; however, you bought a ticket for yourself and Fido before August 17, 2005, those arrangements will be honored through November 5, 2005. The policy change will not affect service animals. Customers on domestic flights will be able to travel with their pup, as long as they meet the pet carrier requirements. Only two animals may travel in Coach and only one animal may travel in First Class. The good news: the pet travel fee has been reduced from $100 per pet to $80 each way. Like most other airlines, only one pet per customer again, It's important to note that pets will not be accepted as checked baggage if your itinerary includes a code-share flight operated by United Airlines.

Additionally, a limited number of dog crates is permitted on each aircraft. Some kennels may not be accepted on certain US Airways Express aircrafts.

In-flight carriers must follow the same requirements as JetBlue and American Airlines. The maximum size for a US Airways cabin carrier; however, is 21" x 16" x 8" for a hard-sided carrier and 21" x 16" x 10" for a soft-sided carrier. For more information on pet travel on U.S. Airways call 1-800-428-4322 or visit www.usairways.com.

Pets Traveling to Hawaii

Most airlines that transport people and pets to Hawaii require pets to travel as checked baggage. This rule obviously excludes airlines that won't transport your pooch as checked baggage no matter what.

Hawaii requires a 120-day quarantine for dogs. The quarantine period may be reduced to 5-days or less if specific qualifications are met. All pet arrivals and connections in Hawaii must go via Honolulu since there are no transit or quarantine facilities in any other Hawaiian locations. No pets are accepted on non-stop flights to Maui or Kauai. Pregnant pups past 45 days gestation are not permitted.

For more quarantine information visit http://www.hawaiiag.org/hdoa/ai_aqs_info.htm or call the Animal Quarantine office in Honolulu at 808-483-7171.

Pets traveling to the Dominican Republic

Dogs entering the Dominican Republic must have a health certificate issued within 15 days prior to the arrival date by a vet in the country of origin. It must state that Fido in good health and traveling from an area that during the last three months has been free from serious diseases. You must have your pup's proof of vaccinations from more than 30 days but less than one year prior to the date of arrival in the Dominican Republic. A dog will need an anti-rabies vaccine, triple vaccine (distemper, lectopirosis, hepatitis), and parvo-virus vaccine certificates.

To leave the country, pet parents must obtain a health certificate for their pet at the Office of Animal Health. This certificate is valid for 72 hours and will be needed to enter the next port of call. The Direccion General de Ganadaria (Office of Animal Health) can be reached at 1-809-542-0132.

Pets traveling to the Bahamas

Pups from Canada, the United States and countries not known or suspected to have rabies are admitted but must meet some conditions. Fido must be over six months old, must have a Veterinary Health Certificate issued within 24 hours of embarkation, and must have had a rabies vaccination administered for the duration of one or three years no less than one month prior to arrival.

An import permit is required from the Ministry of Agriculture, Trade and Industry for all animals being brought into the Bahamas. The permit is valid for one year from the date of issue. Applications for these permits, must be made in writing, and cost $10. The fee is waived for service animals. This permit must be obtained prior to arrival in the Bahamas and requires a minimum of 48 hours for processing.

Dogs from countries known or suspected to have rabies (including mainland Europe and most of South and Central America) are not allowed. For more information call the Department of Agriculture at 1-242-325-7502.

Pets traveling to Japan

Japan requires pet parents to contact Animal Quarantine Service at least 40 days prior to arrival and has very strict entry requirements for pets.

Pets on Transatlantic, Transpacific and Central/South American flights

Carry-on pets are not allowed on Transatlantic, Transpacific or Central/South American flights. Pups traveling as checked baggage may be allowed.

Pets traveling in the European Union

A new regulation requires all pups traveling into the European Union to have a tattoo or implanted microchip that matches the identification number on their vaccination card. Pets without a tattoo or microchip will not be allowed to enter the European Union. Domestic pups must also have a veterinary certificate and are required to fill out paperwork for the European Community for Non-Commercial Movement (Regulation (EC) No. 998/2003). . If your travel originates in Aruba, Bermuda, Canada, Japan, Cayman Islands or the USA, parts 1 through 4 must be completed for movement into the European Union and requires 30 days of preparation for your pet. If your travel originates in any other country, parts 1 through 5 must be completed. These regulations require a minimum of four months preparation for your pet.

For more information on these regulations contact the APHIS-VS Area Office in the state from which your pet will be starting the trip.

When are you going?

Most airlines have put temperature restrictions in place to make sure your pet isn't exposed to extreme cold or heat in animal holding areas, terminal facilities, when moving between terminal and aircraft, or while awaiting departure.

The general rule of thumb is that pets won't be accepted when the current of forecasted temperature is higher than 85 degrees Fahrenheit, for most pups. Snub-nosed dogs, like Pugs, won't be accepted if the current or forecasted temperature is higher than 70 degrees. Some airlines will allow a Pug to fly until the temperature hits 75 degrees.

Similarly, pets cannot be accepted when the ground temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit at any location on the itinerary unless the pet has a vet's statement of low temperature acclimation. When temperatures fall below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, pets may not usually be checked, with or without an acclimation statement.

A typical acclimation statement must include the name and address of the passenger, the name of the animal, the name and signature of a licensed vet, the vet's accreditation date and number, and the temperature to which the animal is acclimated.

Pets are usually not accepted to/from Anchorage Alaska when temperatures are forecast below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Use caution

Airports are a tricky place for humans and they cause even more confusion to our four-legged counterparts. It's important pet parents do their homework and find out what Fido needs beforehand. Aside from calling the airline to make sure they know you pup is coming with you, arriving early is the next best thing. Most airlines advise you arrive three hours early if you're traveling with a pup as checked baggage. If your pup is your carry-on, you can get away with waiting around an hour less. A frequent mishap is arriving too early. Most airlines won't check in your pet more than four hours beforehand.

Being a responsible pet parent also means you'll have to do a little digging. You and your pup want to enjoy your flight and arrive safely at your destination. Before you book, take a look at the airline's animal safety record. Not so long ago a federal law was passed requiring airlines to disclose how many pets were injured, killed, or lost on flights each month. Now the Department of Transportation posts the reports on its Web site at: http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/reports/index.htm You'll have to scan the reports month-by-month because the government does not record cumulative totals. Nonetheless, it'll give you a good idea of what can happen to an animal traveling in the cargo area of an airplane on a particular airline, in a certain time period. From there you may decide to fly at a different time and so forth.

In an interview with Cox News Service, Diana Cronan, spokeswoman for the Air Transport Association, a trade group that represents nearly 20 major airlines, said not surprisingly, the numbers are low. "The airlines take the transportation of your pet very seriously."

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