Pets Flying in Cargo: Myths and Facts

dog travels as via manifest cargo Many myths exist about shipping pets as cargo, so we thought we'd review and debunk the most common myths here! We hope this eases any pre-travel worries about moving with your four-legged family members this way. 

PetRelocation arranges hundreds—if not thousands—of pet flights in cargo every year. So let's dive right into the common myths about flying cats and dogs as cargo, and we'll share the reality based on almost 20 years of experience. 

Myth: The pet cargo hold is dangerously hot or cold.

Reality: Cargo is climate controlled on most airplanes.

On most flights that accept pets, the cargo area itself is climate-controlled just like the passenger cabin above. So why do airlines have temperature restrictions? While many airlines have "Weather Embargoes" during the summer/winter months, it is not because of the cargo hold temperatures.

Airlines that are not "pet friendly" take all of their cargo to the plane at one time. Animals often end up waiting on the tarmac while the cargo is loaded or unloaded. This wait on the tarmac is the reason for Weather Embargos and can be the most dangerous to pets—not the flight itself.

We only work with pet friendly airlines that keep pets in climate controlled environments throughout their entire trip. This means that we are able to move pets year-round without any temperature embargoes.

Working with these select airlines, all pets are kept in a climate-controlled area of the airline's cargo offices until all of the people and luggage have been loaded onto the plane. Pets are then driven out in climate-controlled vehicles and boarded on the plane, which means they are never sitting out on the tarmac waiting.

Then, when the plane lands, the pets are the first ones off the plane and are driven back to the climate-controlled area at the pet cargo offices.  


Myth: The pet cargo hold is not pressurized.

Reality: cabin and cargo pressure are the same on most flights.

In most large, "wide-bodied" aircrafts, the pressure is the same in cargo as it is in the cabin above. 

Just like PetRelocation only works with pet friendly airlines that keep pets in climate controlled environments throughout their journey, we only book pressurized flights for all live animal transportation. The air the humans breathe in cabin is the same air that is circulated through the bottom of the plane. 


Myth: Isn't it safer just to drive my pet?

Reality: Driving a pet is Not necessarily safer than flying.

Unless you are planning on driving your pet personally or having a friend drive your pet, it is safer and faster to relocate your pet by air than it is to have a ground transportation company drive them. Long distance ground transportation can be more distressing for a pet than flying, and potentially more dangerous due to the amount of time it takes, variance in ground transport companies, and the number of stops/starts/bathroom breaks involved.

We have a network of vetted ground transport partners who we hire whenever a pet needs to be transported this way—because there are instances when pets can't fly due to breed restrictions, weather, or a lack of flight availability, and we wouldn't trust just any driver with your most precious cargo.


Myth: Pets should be sedated before a flight to reduce stress.

Reality: sedating your pet before a flight is not safe!

It is unsafe to fly tranquilized/sedated pets.

  • Tranquilizers suppress the respiratory system, which makes it hard for a pet to cope with changes in altitude and temperature. This is particularly true for "snub nosed" breeds such as bulldogs and pugs.

  • A pet may react differently to the same drug, in the same dose, depending on their state of excitement and the altitude. No studies have been done to determine the effect of tranquilizers on pets at high altitudes, so we do not recommend sedating your pet before a flight.

What do we recommend instead? Crate training, crate training, crate training! A pet that has been acclimated to their pet travel crate well in advance will have much less stress when flying. Here are a few tips for crate training dogs for travel and tips for crate training cats for travel

If you're interested in learning about the different types of pet cargo reservations, you can compare manifest cargo vs. excess baggage here

Ready to start planning your pet's safe move? Check out our pricing information and how we move pets


PetRelocation Team


Air Travel, Airlines, Ask the Experts


Cats, Dogs


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