Dog Air Travel: Cargo or Checked Baggage?

dog with travel cratePet Cargo Air Travel vs. Checked Baggage


Hi PetRelocation,

Which transportation method is better when shipping my dog Kala—cargo or as checked baggage? I would fly either into Boston/Logan airport or Bradley/Hartford airport—my preference is Hartford, as it's closer to our home and smaller and less crowded. However, I'm concerned about the layover and plane switch if I check her as baggage.

If she's shipped cargo, it should be a direct flight, correct?

Thank you,



Hi Janet,

Thanks for your questions/concerns about the safest method of travel for your dog! Many other pet owners have pondered the same question and we're happy to provide some guidance.

Unequivocally, you should always have your pet travel via cargo as opposed to checked baggage. When pets fly via cargo they are not attached to your ticket, which means they can fly separately from you and be more easily tracked and monitored. Here is more information about how cargo travel works for pets and why it's our preferred method. 

Here at PetRelocation we use a few preferred airlines when it comes to transporting our clients' pets across the country or around the world. Our preferred domestic airline is United, which has an established PetSafe program in place. 

What does this program entail, exactly? For one, your pet will not be exposed to the elements (left to sit on the tarmac, for example) while waiting for a connecting flight. Additionally, the cargo area inside the plane is both pressurized and temperature controlled and pets are the last to be loaded and the first to be removed from the plane. 

It's worth it to do a little investigating into United's routing options to find the best flight for Kala—you may even end up flying her on a separate flight from your own.

If you're interested in hiring some assistance with these travel arrangements, you're welcome to contact us for a consultation. We've helped many pets move safely via cargo and would be happy to assist with planning a safe move for Kala, too. 
Either way, thanks for reaching out and good luck with everything! 
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in August 2010 and has been updated with new information.


PetRelocation Team




United States


Add a Comment

By desere willemse on May 4, 2018 at 8:56 am

hi we are moving from south africa to vietnam middle june and i want to take my small dog with me. i dont know where to start can you please advice me.kind regards

By Maegan at PetRelocation on May 4, 2018 at 8:55 pm

Hi Desere! We'd be happy to help! In order to put you in contact with a dedicated consultant, please fill out our Arrange A Move Form here. Looking forward to speaking with you soon!

By claire burnham on April 25, 2018 at 4:07 pm

Hi I just have a quick question about shipping a pet as checked baggage on a domestic flight, is there a size restriction? in other words can I ship a St, Bernard as baggage

By Christina at PetRelocation on April 26, 2018 at 11:31 am

Hi Claire!

The rules for booking pet flights vary from airline to airline, so we suggest contacting them directly. If you're not sure where to start, we have a blog post that lists all of our booking guides for several airlines. Hope this helps!

By Ty Adams on November 4, 2017 at 12:21 am

Hello,I am possibly going to be moving a 30 lb. Bichon Poodle from Chicago to Florida just after the new year, and would be interested in your assistance wth this. WOuld love to hear back from you with the details.Thanks.

By on November 6, 2017 at 5:06 pm

Hello Ty!

We'd love to help with moving your Bichon Poodle to Florida. To get started, here is some great information about moving dogs across country.

Beyond this, we can put you in touch with one of our Domestic Consultants to help guide you through the process.

Please fill out our free consultation form here and we'll be in touch!

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