The high cost of Fido's airfare

Flying with a pet isn't the cheapest way to travel, but knowing the rules up front will save you money and hassle at the airport.

By Stacy Johnson Aug 23, 2012 4:26PM

This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News.

 

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyA poll by Travelhorizons, a research program funded by the U.S. Travel Association, found that 18% of leisure travelers often take their pets with them.

 

The less experienced among them probably aren't aware of how difficult, time-consuming and expensive it is to fly with a pet. There are special regulations, preflight requirements, extra costs and a load of information you'll need to absorb before you can board a plane with your four-legged buddy.  Stacy Johnson explains details in the video below. Then read on for tips about flying with your pet. 

The cost

Image: Dog (© Russell Glenister/image100/Corbis)The cost for flying Fido ranges from $75 to more than $650 and depends on several factors, especially the airline you choose.

 

Then there's how you fly. If you have a small pet, most airlines will allow you to bring it onboard with you. But you'll pay a service fee, and your pet's carrier or kennel counts as a carry-on. If you need to bring another carry-on -- like your laptop -- you'll have to pay an additional fee. Here are a few one-way rate examples:

If your pet carrier isn't small enough to fit under the seat in front of you, you may be able to check your pet as cargo. Don't fret: Fido will ride in a temperature-controlled cargo section of the plane. Here are a few rate examples:

  • American Airlines -- $175.
  • United Airlines -- starting at $169.
  • Delta -- starting at $178.

Many airlines charge based on the weight of your pet and kennel combined. For example, United charges $169 for up to 9 pounds, and up to $659 for 201 to 250 pounds, within the U.S.

 

If your pet is flying alone, you'll likely pay based on weight and distance of the flight. 

 

Restrictions

Many airlines have restrictions on what types of pets and flying situations they'll accept. For example, some airlines have breed restrictions for both in-cabin and cargo-shipped pets. For dogs, because of breathing problems, those typically include snub-nose breeds like pit bulls, mastiffs and pugs.

 

Some cats are also restricted. American Airlines, for example, doesn't allow Burmese, Persian, Himalayan and exotic shorthair cats on their flights. Many airlines also ban kittens and puppies that are less than 8 weeks old.

 

Other airlines may require you to accompany your pet. For example, Southwest Airlines won't let pets travel as cargo or with a minor. Depending on the flight, you might not be able to sit in certain parts of the plane. And Delta doesn't permit in-cabin pets in business class.

 

What you'll need

Booking a flight with Fluffy or Fido is a bit more complicated than buying a ticket for yourself. First, pets require a reservation, so you'll need to contact the airline directly when you book your ticket.

Most airlines require a veterinary certificate showing your pet is healthy and approved for travel. And your vet may require other services -- like flea medication or vaccinations -- before clearing your pet for takeoff.

 

In colder temperatures, you might need to get an "acclimation certificate" from your vet stating that it can handle cold weather.

On the day of your flight, you'll need to bring your pet to the ticket counter in an approved transportation carrier or kennel -- generally, one that's large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around.

 

Flying with your pet sounds complicated and expensive, but it doesn't have to be. Here are a few tips to minimize the cost and the stress:

  • Research flights early. Compare the cost of flights on several airlines, and call the airlines' reservation lines to get a quote for your pet's travel costs.
  • Get a list of requirements from the airline several weeks before you fly to make sure there aren't any surprises at the airport.
  • Schedule an appointment with your vet after you book your flight. Tell the vet you'll need a travel certificate.
  • Make sure you book a pet-friendly hotel. Check out our story for ideas or search on a site like Petswelcome.com.
  • Shop around for a travel carrier, or ask your friends and family if they've flown with a pet before. They may have one you can borrow.
  • Test the travel carrier by having your pet sit inside. Make sure your pet has enough room to move around. Otherwise, you may have to buy an expensive carrier from the airline.
  • Arrive at the airport early. You'll have to visit the ticket counter and go through security with your pet if it's traveling in the cabin. 
More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

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