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


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By Elinor riede on March 15, 2018 at 1:38 pm

I have a 48pound black lab mix. I need to fly him from Orlando, Florida to St. Louis mo. Can you tell mecwhat airlines I can use that fly non stop

By Kat on February 8, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Hi, thank you for the information. Could you please provide citations or any research on how experts found that cargo travel is more comfortable for pets?I am trying to take my 30lb dog from South Korea to Los Angeles with Korean Airlines, and would appreciate information about quarantine/import procedures and also if you have worked with Korean Airlines before. Thank you!

By Christina at PetRelocation on February 9, 2018 at 11:42 am

Hi Kat,

Thanks for your question! The IPATA website has a great FAQ section that addresses many common pet travel concerns, including the safety and comfort of cargo. You can read references to research on this topic here.

As far as Korean Airlines goes, we do not have enough experience flying pets with them to give you an assessment of their pet program. Some airlines that we do frequently book pet travel on are United, British Airways, Lufthansa, and KLM.

Importing a dog to the US is a pretty straightforward process, and quarantine is not required. You may also want to check the requirements for the state of California, since you are moving to Los Angeles. Some states have additional rules so it is good to check prior to moving. If you would like to speak with a relocation consultant about your move, please fill out our Arrange a Move form and someone on our team will be in touch soon.

Hope this helps!

By Ghenna on October 1, 2017 at 11:09 pm

Hello, Does anyone have any airline recommendations for traveling from Singapore to Japan with a dog? Our dog will be flying without us (Japan has strict import laws) and we have to wait until his 180 days are complete. I believe he has to fly in cargo. I just want to know if anyone has any personal experience with international flights with unaccompained pets.

By on October 2, 2017 at 11:51 am

Hello Ghenna, great question!

Have you looked into Singapore Airlines or Delta at this point? Both are pet-friendly options that can help with your move from Singapore to Japan.

We hope this helps, but if you need further assistance please don't hesitate to reach out to us here and one of our consultants will be happy to speak with you!

By Kiki on September 22, 2017 at 5:15 pm

We are thinking about traveling to Copenhagen next year. We have a miniature schnauzer unfortunately he is 20 lbs and to big for most air lines to fly in the cabin. I ordered an airline approved bag that fit their dimensions but he is to big. I am like most people worried about him flying cargo. What do you know about SAS airlines? I usually fly them because they have a direct flight from DC.

By on September 25, 2017 at 9:50 am

Hello Kiki, thanks for your question!

I am not sure that we've used SAS to move pets so we wouldn't be able to advise one way or another on their policies. When we fly pets to Copenhagen we have either used KLM or Lufthansa in the past, as we work with them frequently and know they have pet-friendly accommodations.

I know cargo seems scary for pets, but we find it is the best way for them to travel. Just make sure your dog has plenty of time to crate train (we have some tips here for that) before the journey so that he is less stressed throughout the flight.

We hope this helps, Kiki! Good luck with everything!

By Dante on August 30, 2017 at 9:28 pm

I have a border collie mix that I plan on moving out to Oakland with me. What would the best option be?

By on August 31, 2017 at 10:11 am

Hello Dante,

Thank you for reaching out to us! Depending on how far Oakland is from your current location, we believe flying pets via cargo on a pet-friendly airline is the safest and most efficient way to move them.

If you have any hesitations about cargo for your dog, I recommend reading this blog covering some of our past clients' experiences. Also, you are more than welcome to contact us if you find that you need further help on your dog's move.

Best of luck with your travels!

By Dorine pedersen on July 15, 2017 at 8:11 am

Hi, We are from holland and we are going to Florida for a year. We want to take our great Dane with us. Any advice with travelling with a great Dane? Thanks a lot. Grt dorine

By on July 17, 2017 at 9:02 am

Hi Dorine, thanks for the question!

To start, please review our tips for flying with large dogs here. If you think you'd like some help with this move, you can fill out our online consultation form here to learn a little more about the services we offer.

Hope this helps! Just let us know if we can be of further assistance and good luck with everything.


By Manuela on June 13, 2017 at 6:13 pm

Hi I would like to travel with a sweet Golden retriever from Boston to San Diego in a cargo with Jet Blue. How should i process and where could i get to correct size crate approved by airlines. Thanks for your help, Manuela

By on June 14, 2017 at 8:38 am

Hi Manuela, thanks for reaching out! We do not typically use Jet Blue and have no firsthand information about flying with them, so for accuracy's sake we recommend reaching out to them directly (and/or checking their website) to find out about their crate size regulations, booking process, etc. If you find yourself interested in learning more about our services, please contact us for a consultation here . Hope that helps, have a great trip!

By Charu on May 10, 2017 at 12:44 am

Flying pets in cargo is truly one of the most stressful thing for the people who are planning to go somewhere with their pets. This article provides an ample information about flying pets in cargo. Thanks for sharing the information.

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