As we hit the peak holiday travel season, and with more and more fliers taking their pets along whenever they travel, frustration mounts with navigating airline policies.
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Veterinarians are generally not enthusiastic about pets on airplanes. Nor are professional trainers.
“Traveling with your pet seems like a dream come true,” said Sabrina Kong, a veterinarian and contributor to the site WeLoveDoodles. “But often, it’s more of a human dream – and a pet nightmare.”
She said, “Dogs and cats are creatures of habit, and travel disrupts their routines. Many pets are not fit to fly. They’re either too big, too old, or ill-tempered. Adding to the stress, many destinations don’t welcome pets, limiting where you can take them.”
Kong is not the only expert recommending that animals stay home. Blythe Neer, a professional dog trainer, told highly regarded “Elliott Confidential,” a travel industry newsletter, that “many dogs are terrified to fly in cargo and have to be sedated. And some small dogs who can fit underneath a seat are traumatized by the experience.”
“If you are flying by plane and your dog has any kind of anxiety in a car or in new or crowded places, I encourage you to leave them home,” Neer added.
In a survey conducted by Hilton Hotels in 2022, more than half of Americans (55 percent) said they planned to travel with their pet. Delta Airlines alone reports that approximately half a million pets travel onboard every year.
“In general, I recommend not flying with a pet unless absolutely necessary,” says Justine Lee, veterinary expert for Pumpkin Pet Insurance. “Ideally, pets should not fly unless an owner is moving permanently or taking a long trip – two to four weeks minimum.”
Opinions aside, if you want to travel with your pet from Redmond, here’s what you need to know. Declare your pet ahead of time – do not show up at the airport with your pet even if it’s in an approved carrier. Book your pet when you book your flight. Your pet requires a reservation.
Some breeds are banned on some airlines. Dogs, like pugs, with short noses may encounter breathing difficulties in pressurized cabins. Half of all canine deaths onboard have occurred with such breeds.
Don’t assume that as long as your pet qualifies and that the airline will accept the pet that there is room for the pet. Airlines restrict the number of seats for passengers with pets.
Airlines are cracking down heavily on emotional support animals due to widespread passenger abuse. Pigs will no longer be allowed to fly inside the cabin on U.S. airlines as emotional support animals, under a 2020 rule from the Department of Transportation. Neither will peacocks nor alligators nor monkeys.
The new rule defines a service animal to include only canines trained to assist a person with a disability. Customers traveling with a support animal that isn’t a service dog would be required to pay an airline’s pet fee to bring the animal aboard. In addition, passengers are limited to two service dogs.
Despite what you might have seen in Instagram Reels or TikTok videos, you cannot buy a seat for your dog or cat. Not in Redmond (RDM) anyway. And your pet must remain in its approved carrier for the entire flight – no getting out to meet the other passengers and stroll the aisle.
Some airplanes are configured for pets. So your carrier from Redmond to Seattle may accept pets, but not necessarily on the flight you prefer. You may have to take a later or earlier flight.
Airlines typically require a veterinary health certificate stating your dog is healthy and up-to-date on its vaccinations. The certificate is only good for 30 days, and you’ll need it for both your departure and return.
Expect to pay $95 to $125 each way for a pet in the cabin and as much as $200 for one in cargo.
What to expect at RDM
• All pets should be brought to the security checkpoint in a hand-held travel carrier. Remove the pet from the carrier just prior to the beginning of the screening process. Place the empty travel carrier so it can be x-rayed.
• Never place a pet in the X-ray tunnel.
• If possible, carry the pet during the screening process. Alternately, a pet can walk through the screening process if the owner has the pet on a leash.
• A TSA officer will give the pet owner’s hands an explosive trace detection swab to ensure there is no explosive residue on the owner’s hands.
• Once the screening process is complete, owners should return the pet to the travel carrier at the re-composure area away from the security checkpoint. This location helps ensure the safety of the pet as well as other passengers.
Editor’s note: Bill Bartlett is owner of Optum Travel in Sisters, a travel agency.