Facts About Pet Transport Safety

henry with his travel crateLearn More About Cargo Pet Travel

Cargo or cabin? Ground transportation or excess baggage? One of the most common and emotionally charged questions we receive is about how pets travel.

Many people are surprised to find out that PetRelocation recommends cargo travel for pets, but in our experience the more you learn about how air cargo transportation works, the clearer it becomes that this really is the best option for your most precious passengers.

As you research the safest pet travel options, here's a look at the facts about pet air travel and the pros and cons of the various methods of transit available.

Facts About Pet Air Travel Via Cargo

  • Some airlines are more pet friendly than others, so do some research as you plan your pet's trip and check with a pet travel expert to see which carrier they recommend based on your origin and destination.

  • An airline that is “pet safe” signals that employees are specifically trained to handle animals and they follow a last on, first off policy. This means pets are given priority, they are transported in temperature controlled vehicles, and they are never left to sit on the tarmac.

  • Check-in occurs at the airlines' cargo facility and pets are tracked during each stage of their their journey.

  • The cargo area is pressure and temperature controlled.

  • Pets do not need to travel on the same flight as the pet owner and they're not attached to the ticket of their pet owner, which makes it easier for people to plan their own travel routes.

  • This method tends to be more expensive because of the higher standards of care involved. Also, the larger your pet is, the more the ticket will be because the freight prices is based on the combined weight of the pet and their kennel.

  • PetRelocation books all pets' travel via manifest cargo (barring very special circumstances).


Myths About Cargo Travel

Though you may have come across various news stories that make cargo travel sound remarkably unsafe for pets, when you examine the numbers, this simply isn't the case. According to the last Department of Transportation report released on this matter, about 2 million pets flew in 2014 and there was a negative incident rate of about .0022%.

Pet authorities like the Humane Society have said that pet air travel via cargo should be avoided at all costs, but this stance seems to be based on outdated or inaccurate information. Contrary to what many people believe, the cargo area where pets are placed is pressure and temperature controlled just like the cabin, and pet safe airlines are dedicated to making sure pets have a safe experience and aren't just treated as luggage. (See above and read more about flying pets safely here.)

Facts About Pet Air Travel Via Excess Baggage

  • Check-in occurs at the main terminal and pets must be accompanied by their owner and fly on the same flight.

  • Airline requirements vary, so check the carrier's website carefully or give them a call to find out exactly what to expect.

  • Airline employees will handle pets and haven't necessarily received special training about how to do so.

  • Pets may be moved with general cargo and may spend more time waiting on the tarmac.

  • This option is cheaper—usually about $100 - $200 in addition to the passenger's ticket.

  • Temperature restrictions usually apply (since there is no “pet safe” system in place, which includes having temperature controlled vehicles on hand, pets can't travel if it's too hot or too cold).

cat travel crate

Reasons Excess Baggage Travel Isn't Ideal for Pets

Many people think it's better to have a pet attached to their own ticket, but if a pet is bumped from the flight (which happens more than you might think), this creates serious complications that can be difficult to deal with on your own. International pet travel is stressful enough without adding in additional unknown variables—just ask Biko, the subject of a recent NPR story.

Also, this option simply isn't as safe because pets are not given the attention and priority they receive when traveling with a pet safe cargo operator. The airlines that do not offer excess baggage for pets are doing it for good reason, and they tend to be the carriers who are the most devoted to safe pet travel.

For example, in a step to be more pet friendly and transparent, Delta recently discontinued their pets-as-excess-baggage policy. Though the media sometimes paint this as a negative decision because it limits pet owners' options, we think it's a positive move that will ultimately lead to more pets having better experiences when they fly.

Gabo and Family

Pet Air Travel in the Cabin

To be accepted, pets must fit underneath the airline seat in an airline-approved travel kennel, so this option is only available for small pets. Also, not all routes allow cabin travel (no matter how small your pet is), including many international routes.

Many pet owners understandably think that keeping their pet in sight is always the best option, but the noise and chaos of the cabin can often be more stress-inducing to a pet than the more predictable cargo area.

A Note About Ground Transportation

We receive quite a few domestic travel inquiries from pet owners hoping to book ground transportation. We currently don't offer this as an option and consider it less than ideal for a few reasons:

  • Ground travel almost always takes much longer than air travel and can be more stressful for the pet.

  • Finding reputable agents available and willing to drive from your origin to your destination can be tricky (this is probably not a situation where you want to settle for a non-vetted driver discovered on Craigslist).

  • Ground travel tends to be very expensive because you're paying one or more people for several hours or days of their time, and you'll also need to factor in gas and possible hotel costs.

  • Sometimes ground transport is the only option (perhaps you have a snub-nosed breed that simply can't fly, for example). In this case, we recommend using IPATA.org to locate a trustworthy ground transportation agent.

bob the cat in his travel crate

PetRelocation's Recommendation

For our clients and for pets in general who are flying, we recommend cargo travel on a pet safe airline. This method provides the safest and least stressful experience for pets, which is our number one priority (and probably yours, too).

We have flown thousands of pets safely via cargo during the last 10+ years—read some of their stories here and find out more about U.S. DOT reporting statistics here.

Still have questions? Contact us to discuss how to help your pet move safely!


PetRelocation Team


Air Travel, Airlines, Airports, News


Cats, Dogs


United States, UK, Australia, EU, South America


Add a Comment

By Michael on May 27, 2017 at 12:17 am

We thinking to relocate to California from the uk Could you please give an estimate for 2 cats Looking for to here from you soon M

By caitlin@petrelocation.com on May 30, 2017 at 9:02 am

Hi Michael, Thank you for your inquiry! Every pet move is a little different, so we'll just need a few more details before offering an accurate estimate. Please fill out our online consultation form (https://www.petrelocation.com/arrange) to connect to one of our Specialists. In the meantime, you can learn more about the US import process here (https://www.petrelocation.com/country/importing-pets-to-usa). Hope this helps and we hope to hear from you soon!

By Nancy Romano on May 22, 2017 at 8:20 pm

Can you give me a ballpark figure on having my 3 pets sent from RDU to BKK in Thailand. One dog weighs 11.9 lbs and her crate weighs 10lbs, the 2nd dog weighs 10.2lbs ad her crate weighs 10lbs The cat weighs 10.9lbs and her crate weighs 6 lbs.

By caitlin@petrelocation.com on May 23, 2017 at 9:16 am

Hi Nancy, thanks for your comment! Since every pet move is a little different, it's best if we're able to talk with you about your plans before offering a price estimate. One of our Asia experts will be happy to assist you when you're ready -- you can either fill out our online consultation form here: https://www.petrelocation.com/arrange or you can give us a call at 1-877-PET-MOVE. Finally here are the pet import requirements for Thailand to give you an idea of what to expect of the process: https://www.petrelocation.com/country/thailand. Hope this helps and we hope to hear from your soon!

By Lu on May 22, 2017 at 2:55 pm

I need to send an unattended cat from mass to Florida. How much and how to do???

By dhelfman@petrelocation.com on May 22, 2017 at 3:40 pm

Dear Lu:Thank you for writing to PetRelocation! Unfortunately it's difficult to answer this question right away due to the complex nature of pet travel. Every move is different, and depending on where you're going, who you're bringing, and when your move is, prices range significantly.Specifically, here are a few factors that affect the price of a pet move:- Pet size (weight, height and length)- Origin- Destination- Proximity to a major airport- Time of year- Whether or not you have a travel crate- Whether or not your pet is up to date on their rabies and other vaccines- Whether or not your pet is microchippedThe best thing to do is to complete the Arrange a Move page on our website (https://www.petrelocation.com/arrange) and one of our consultants will get in touch with you immediately with a move plan and quote.Best,Daniel

By Nancy Lackner on May 18, 2017 at 8:50 pm

I will be flying to Nigeria in July possible the 12th or 13th. it depends on flight i can get with shortest travel/layover time. Will be flying into Lagos Nigeria with HOPEFULLY a connecting flight to Asaba Nigeria. If unable to get connecting flight will have to drive - about 5-6 hours. How do we work around this situation?

By Krista on May 2, 2017 at 6:53 pm

I'm moving from the US to the UK and want to bring my dog. My dog is microchipped however the microchip is not ISO compliant. Am I permitted to bring my own reader with me so UK Customs can scan the microchip OR do I have to rechip my dog (and then redo rabies vaccination)?

By caitlin@petrelocation.com on May 3, 2017 at 8:39 am

Hi Krista, according to the official UK website, you can bring your own chip reader: https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/microchip. Additionally, here is a little more information about microchips and bringing pets to Europe: https://www.petrelocation.com/blog/post/iso-compatible-microchips-for-pet-travel-to-the-european-union. Hope this helps! Let us know if you're interested in learning about our services, and either way we hope you have a great move.

By Carol Harman on April 30, 2017 at 10:00 pm

Relocating from Kauai to Lexington, KY. United appeared to be the best option, but we were going to go to Chicago, and drive the rest of the way4-5 hours, vs putting our pet on a connecting flight to Lexington. Our pet is a mixed breed, 45 lbs. are we being overly concerned? The first leg is LAX, then ORD. Your recommendation?

By caitlin@petrelocation.com on May 1, 2017 at 10:30 am

Hi Carol, thanks for the question! It sounds like this is really a matter of personal preference. We typically avoid too much ground transportation when pet friendly flights are available (arranging ground transport can be more expensive and more taxing for the pet sometimes). If you are able to do the drive yourself and your dog is a good car traveler, however, this might be a good option for you. Let us know if you'd like to discuss this further with one of our Specialists or even help to arrange your move, and either way, good luck with everything!

By Aura Avila on April 29, 2017 at 7:28 pm

Hi I wanted to know if you guys can transport dogs from bogota,colombia to the United States? is my first time bring my pet from Colombia I will really appreciate if you reply to my message

By caitlin@petrelocation.com on May 1, 2017 at 10:14 am

Yes, we'd be happy to discuss your move options with you! You can either fill our online consultation form here: https://www.petrelocation.com/arrange or you can call our office at 1-877-PET-MOVE. For reference, here are the US import requirements: https://www.petrelocation.com/country/importing-pets-to-usa. Thanks and we look forward to talking with you!

By Andrew Seropian on April 18, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Hello,I've been trying and trying to find a company to help relocate my 4 month old puppy from Yerevan Armenia to Boston Massachusetts USA Any assist help or a company that can who be extremely helpful.. I've contacted 4 companies that say they ship anywhere in the world yet they can't help

By caitlin@petrelocation.com on April 19, 2017 at 8:38 am

Hi Andrew, you're welcome to contact us if you'd like to talk with one of our Specialists, otherwise we recommend using IPATA.org to find a local agent to assist you. For reference, here are the pet import requirements for the United States: https://www.petrelocation.com/country/importing-pets-to-usa. Hope this helps! Just let us know if we can be of assistance.

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