Last updateFri, 27 Nov 2020 10am

Traveling with your pet: select airline with care & plan your journey well

This second article examines journey planning and airline conditions for pet travel.

Before booking your pet’s veterinary appointment for its Certificate of Health, you need to make your travel arrangements and obtain an IATA compliant kennel.

If your dog or cat is one of the Brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds, consult your veterinarian about the increased risk of heat stroke and breathing problems. Some airlines refuse these breeds as checked baggage and also prohibit carriage of breeds requiring reinforced crates. Check with the airline.

Routes, times

First check the distance(s) and flight time(s) for your particular journey. Decide how long your dog should be enclosed in a crate – under the seat in front of you, or in the pressurized cargo hold, depending on it’s size. (Service and seeing-eye dogs are usually allowed in the cabin.)

If the journey-time is over five hours, without the check-in time, then do consider breaking the journey with an overnight stop. It is kinder to your pet and takes the pressure off you both if there’s a departure delay. Most hotel websites indicate whether or not they take pets, or google “pet friendly hotels” (for example, www.officialpethotels.com/#axzz2y2GpfTrw  or www.petswelcome.com.) Always check that the hotel’s shuttle bus carries pets, or you may need to take a cab.

Travel on a weekday as all staff are working and liaison is easier along the route.  Confirm paperwork requirements of the airline and book your flights. Airlines restrict the number of pets per flight, so tell them you will be traveling with a pet.

Airline selection

Once you’ve picked your route, check out the airlines. Most airlines have “blackout dates” and will not accept pets between May 15 and September 15, and also at other times if the arrival ground temperature is above 85F.

American Airlines does not exclude specific dates, but refuses pets if the destination airport’s forecast temperature will be over 85F. Departure and arrival times are important – early morning and evening departures and arrivals are cooler. My dog and I flew in August. We were lucky, although I went prepared for an extended stay at London Heathrow or Chicago O’Hare if there was a problem.


Avoid any flight on a Boeing 767. Cargo-hold pressure problems have been reported and there have been a large number of fatalities. Delta now prohibits pets as checked baggage or cargo, on 767s – 10 percent of its fleet.  Whichever airline you choose, always confirm at check-in that no last minute substitution to a 767 has occurred.

Vet’s appointment.

Make vet appointments for the Certificate of Health, just prior to departure. Mexican regulations state that the certificate must be issued within ten days of arrival.

The right travel kennel

IATA says that animals must be able to stand up, turn around and lie down in a natural position in the kennel. Pets will be rejected if the kennel doesn’t comply with regulations, so check the airline and IATA websites.  (See www.iata.org/whatwedo/cargo/live-animals/pets/Pages/index.aspx )

You will also need two bowls for food and water, which can be fixed to the door-grill and refilled by airline staff without opening the door.

Kennel essentials

For pets as checked baggage, label the crate with the animal’s name and attach a photocopy of the veterinary Health Certificate. On each side of the crate, attach labels reading “LIVE ANIMAL – THIS SIDE UP” in one-inch-high letters with large red or green arrows indicating the top. Some airlines provide these but be prepared!

The airline needs to know the pet has been offered food, water and a “walk” within the past four hours, with feeding and watering instructions for a 24-hour period. Print on a label and fix it to the top of the kennel, sign and date it as owner.

Put nothing in the crate. Even mature animals may chew things in flight and can choke. My dog’s blanket is packed in my checked luggage and put it in the crate overnight, then repacked for the onward flight.

Next week we’ll look at the journey, from checking in and boarding to the Agricultural Health Inspection Office (OISA) inspection procedures on arrival in Mexico, together with some tips to try to ensure that your pet arrives safely and on the same flight.

This is part two of a three-part series.

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