Pets and Cargo Travel: How it Works
It's easy to feel stressed when planning the logistics of an international pet relocation, and every day we talk to pet owners who are worried about how their pets will handle the experience of flying.
Depending on the airline you choose, where you're going, and the size of your furry family member, you may end up discovering that, to make it from Point A to Point B, your pet will need to be placed in the cargo area of the plane. For many pet owners, the thought of flying with their pets out of reach and out of sight sounds a little scary, and in this situation, it's also easy for pet travel misconceptions and unfounded fears to overshadow the facts.
What exactly does it mean to fly pets via "cargo"? Where is the cargo area, and what's it like inside? Here are a few facts that should help clear up the confusion surrounding this issue.
The two parts of the cargo area are highlighted above
The cargo area on most standard narrow body planes (Boeing 737s, etc.) is the large area in the belly of the plane and is essentially divided in half by the engine and wings (so there's a forward "bin" and a rear "bin").
Luggage, assorted cargo and pet crates may be packed in the same bin, and the plane has to be balanced as well as possible.
Pet crates are secured during flight using netting and straps, so in case of turbulence, pets will be kept safe and stationary. While the crates are in the same general area as luggage and other cargo, these items are kept as far from the pets as possible so that pets' air flow will not be compromised.
Basically, good airlines know what they're doing, so though baggage and pets are in the same part of the plane, they certainly aren't treated the same way.
Many experts believe stress is the most taxing part of the travel process for animals, and keeping them away from the hectic vibe of the cabin (think strange smells, crowds of people, various noises, etc.), makes for a better experience overall. This belief drives the thinking of pet friendly airlines like United, who we often use to transport our clients' pets.
So, though you won't have access to them during the flight, when you choose a pet-friendly airline with a good pet safety record (in addition to United, KLM and Lufthansa are a couple of our preferred airlines), flying pets in the cargo area is often the best choice.
Contact us if you have more questions about flying with pets in cargo. Remember, it's normal to feel nervous about pet travel, but the more you know, the more you'll realize how safe it can really be.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in December 2011 and has been updated with new information. (Image courtesy of United Airlines)