Pet Travel Decisions: Questions About Flying Pets in Cargo

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.

cargo plane
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)


PetRelocation Team


Air Travel, Airlines


Cats, Dogs


United States


Add a Comment

By Karen Hall on April 10, 2017 at 9:33 am

I have 3 large dogs that I'm trying to take to Rhode Island to visit my husband.

By on April 10, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Hi Karen, thanks for your question! If you're flying domestically, you'll need to follow the rules the airline sets forth (this probably means having a certificate from your vet saying your dogs are healthy and fit to fly). Since you mention that you have large dogs, they'll be flying in the cargo area of the plane so we recommend choosing a carrier with pet friendly procedures (we often use United). If you'd like some help arranging this trip, we'd be happy to assist! Just contact us here and we'll be in touch soon: Hope this helps and we look forward to hearing from you!

By on April 10, 2017 at 1:09 pm

And here's one more link with some helpful info about shipping pets across country:

Add a Comment

Name is required

Email is required and must be in the format

Comment is required

Back to top