Pet Cargo Myths and Facts

dogPets Flying in Cargo: Myths and Facts

Many myths exist about shipping pets as cargo, so we thought we'd review some of them and offer solutions for easing pre-travel worries about moving with your four-legged family members.

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

 

Reality:  

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. It is this wait on the tarmac that causes the Weather Embargos and can be the most dangerous to pets.

PetRelocation Solution:

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

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 on 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.

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

Myth: The pet cargo hold is not pressurized.

 

Reality:

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

PetRelocation Solution:

Just like we only use pet friendly airlines that keep pets in climate control, 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:

Unless you are planning on driving your pet or having a friend drive your pet, it is safer and faster to send 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 also more potentially complex and even dangerous due to the amount of time it takes and the stopping/starting/bathroom breaks involved.

Myth: Pets should be tranquilized/sedated prior to the flight because this will help them feel less stressed.

 

Reality:

It is unsafe to fly tranquilized/sedated pets.

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

  • A pet may react differently to the same drug, in the same dose, depending on his state of excitement and the altitude at which he is flying. No studies have been done to determine the effect of tranquilizers on pets at high altitudes.

PetRelocation Solution:

Crate training, crate training, crate training!

A pet that has been acclimated in advance to their pet travel crate will have much less stress when flying. Here area few tips for crate training dogs for travel and tips for crate training cats for travel

Ready to start planning your pet's safe move? Contact us to set up a consultation. 

 

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in October 2009 and has been updated with new information.

Author:

PetRelocation Team

Topic:

Air Travel, Airlines, Ask the Experts

Pet:

Cats, Dogs

Country:

Comments

Add a Comment

By Pete Smart on December 17, 2017 at 2:44 am

I need to get 2 bunnies from Michigan to New York, what airline is best ,I'm assuming a half day travel! Any help is appreciated. Thanks Pete
Reply

By cquezada@petrelocation.com on December 18, 2017 at 11:06 am

Hello, Pete,

Thanks for your question! As long as they aren’t Continental Giant Rabbits, we suggest looking into United Airlines routes from Michigan to New York. This guide will help get you started with booking United pet travel. United airlines allows rabbits in-cabin, so this could be an option for you. Depending on your own schedule and ability to accompany them on the same flight, you can also move your rabbits by booking them as manifest cargo with United’s PetSafe program, which follows many guidelines that ensure the safety and comfort of your pet throughout the entire process. Hope this helps!
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By Mike P. on December 8, 2017 at 10:48 pm

To all those asking about what it is like underneath for your pet. Every Boeing and Airbus aircraft only has baggage holds that are pressurized. Unpressurized is still seen on smaller "turboprop" aircraft in places like the nose of a Dash 8. No airline will put an animal in an unpressurized compartment.As for temperature, some planes are better and more equipped than others. Newer models (777, 787, A330, A350, A380) are able to to have the cargo area exactly like the passenger deck. Other aircraft will be able to keep the deck at closer to 15 Celsius (59 F). This is safe for most animals, though smaller breeds and hairless may be uncomfortable. As such, some airlines have breed restrictions for each type (snub nose animals are also likely to be restricted).Is it dark? Yes, just about all of the aircraft only have lights on when the door is open, but some can be overridden and crews will do this on live animal flights. Th ere is no guarantee though. I recommend getting some glow sticks and attaching them to the inside of the crate. It is a functional night light for your pet and not anything that will cause security or hazard concerns.Is it loud? Not any louder than where you sit. Landing gear "thumps might be a bit more pronounced due to proximity, but aren't very loud and only happen twice in the flight.Oxygen. The aircraft is pressurized, but there aren't masks that will come down for your pet. Sorry. One pressure is released, the pilot will start a quick dive for 10,000 feet or below. Your mask is to keep you from passing out during this time. Honestly, your pet may pass out, but the time to get to a safe altitude is quick and your pet will likely be fine once they get to the thicker air. Cabin depressurizations are EXTREMELY RARE! There are far more important things to worry about...like how to not get gouged on your latte before your flight.
Reply

By bethany@petrelocation.com on December 11, 2017 at 9:13 am

Hello Mike,

Thanks for providing further insight into what the cargo hold is like. You're right that many airlines have restrictions for pets based on their ability to offer care and most restrict snub-nosed breeds due to health concerns.

While the glow sticks are a fantastic idea, we do want to let clients know that they may not be TSA compliant, which means they will be removed prior to boarding on the flight. Also, airlines are very strict about what can go in the kennel with your pet and do not want anything that could end up being a possible safety (choking) hazard.

Thanks again for the insight, Mike!
Reply

By Anne on November 11, 2017 at 11:35 am

Just want to say a big thank you for your article and all the friendly answers you provide to everyone's questions.
Reply

By bethany@petrelocation.com on November 13, 2017 at 10:11 am

Hello Anne,

We're glad we can help! We know pet travel and moving are stressful events and want to do what we can to alleviate this stress for owners.

Thank you for noticing and thank you for taking the time to comment. Please let us know if there is anything we can specifically help you with.
Reply

By belle on November 4, 2017 at 10:16 am

Hi! Thanks for the article it has been very helpful to know these information. I am traveling with a 1 year old west highland terrior who is crate trained in her traveling crate. We will be flying from los angeles to taipei (13 hour flight). Im wondering if a dog her size (~10 pounds) and breed typically do okay on flights as long as these. It will also be quite cold since we are flying in january, but she does better in the cold and i'll prep lots of blankets. Im just afraid of her panicking during the flight, do they normally calm down after a while? If she is perfectly healthy is there anyway she could still experience trouble on the flight? do they get traumatized for life?
Reply

By bethany@petrelocation.com on November 6, 2017 at 5:12 pm

Hi Belle, we certainly understand your worries!

Pet travel is no small undertaking, and we know that your dog is part of your family. First, we do recommend crate training your dog in the weeks before you travel. The more she can get used to her crate, the better off she'll be during the journey.

With the right preparation, she will just sleep throughout the flight and will adjust to the new location after a few days of jet lag. If you need more reassurance, please browse through some of our recent stories to hear how other pets handled long trips like this.

Hope this helps! Just let us know if you have any questions and good luck with everything.
Reply

By claudio azevedo on October 7, 2017 at 9:16 am

On the blog I did read: "climate-controlled just like the passenger cabin above". What airplane is that? I am an airline captain, flew B727 737 767 MD11 DC10 A330 A350 and only some of them have THE OPTION to buy with full A/C just like the pax cabin. Most of them have only HEATERS, that is all, if it is hot it is gonna stay hot for a long time.
Reply

By bethany@petrelocation.com on October 9, 2017 at 7:31 am

Hello Claudio, thanks for reaching out!

We only work with pet-friendly airlines, like Lufthansa or KLM, to move pets. The pilots on these flights are informed when pets are on-board to switch on the A/C as necessary. Many airlines will not fly pets on planes that do not have this option (and thus do not have pet programs like the airlines we work with), as it risks the safety of the pets on board.

I hope this clears things up for you!
Reply

By Silvia on October 3, 2017 at 11:41 am

Hello, how many times a year at most do you recommend to fly your dog overseas? How about smaller distances? Also, how can I know that my dog won't be scared or feel anxious during his first flights, even after having him gotten used to the crate? Moreover, is there a "right" age for the dog to start flying? Thank you in andvance!
Reply

By bethany@petrelocation.com on October 3, 2017 at 3:16 pm

Hello Silvia, thanks for your questions!

How often your dog will be able to travel is really up to how your dog handles traveling and what you and your vet believe is in his best interest. Not every pet handles travel the same way - some are completely unfazed, while others need more time to adjust after travels. We would recommend seeing how your dog reacts to a first move overseas before planning to move him again, especially if the move is coming up sooner rather than later.

As you mentioned, crate training is an important aspect of helping your dog feel less anxious throughout his journey. Many of our clients choose to take their dog (in the travel kennel) for a car ride through multiple scenarios (car washes, railroad tracks etc.) to simulate the sounds and bumps of a flight. This is something we would recommend trying if you feel confident your dog is already comfortable with his travel crate.

Finally, we as a company would not recommend flying pets below the age of 16 weeks for health and safety reasons. Beyond this, there is no specific age requirement.

We hope this helps, Silvia! If you need help planning your dog's move, please do not hesitate to reach out to us here and we'd be happy to speak with you.
Reply

By Cecilia on September 29, 2017 at 10:49 am

Hello, We are planning a move to Kenya. You have answered most of my questions but what about a 24 hour travel time. Do the animals get out to pee? Can we go see our animal at our three hour layover in Europe? Also, are there any liners that absorb urine and turn it into gel (Like the panties for incontinence)? I'm afraid my dog won't get out enough and I don't want him lying in his urine for 10 hours. Thanks in advance!
Reply

By bethany@petrelocation.com on October 2, 2017 at 8:44 am

Hello Cecilia, thanks for reaching out!

Most airlines will not allow pets to travel for more than 18 hours without some sort of break. It sounds like your dog has a layover in Europe, which if he is traveling with KLM or Lufthansa this means he will get let out of his kennel, taken for a walk, and provided with water. We recommend reaching out to the specific airline you're using for his travels to ask specifically about his care during his stop.

As for absorbent material inside the kennel, we recommend puppy pads under some sort of bedding (kennel pad or t-shirt) to help with this. The airlines will clean this out if messy during his stop and provide new absorbent material to help.

We hope this helps, Cecilia! Please let us know if you need anything else and we hope your dog has a safe journey ahead!
Reply

By Lauren on August 29, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Could you please tell me what airlines you recommend are pet friendly? I used British Airways to travel my pet before but I am not going back to the UK and would prefer a direct flight to the new destination but obviously only with a pet friendly airline. Thanks, Lauren
Reply

By bethany@petrelocation.com on August 30, 2017 at 2:25 pm

Hello Lauren,

We work with airlines like United, Lufthansa, and KLM. Keep in mind that most of these pet-friendly airlines do not offer direct routing for pets. For example, all pet bookings with Lufthansa have a stop at the Frankfurt Animal Lounge in order for the airline to ensure the pet is handling the trip well.

I hope this helps! If you need further guidance on routing options, please feel free to contact us. Best of luck with your travels ahead!
Reply

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