Should you fly with your pet? No, and here’s why

should you pet fly?

On a recent flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, Dave Terry almost tripped over a 70-pound Labrador Retriever every time he stepped into the aisle to use the bathroom. After six hours of sitting next to the otherwise well-behaved canine passenger, he wondered why on earth people fly with dogs.

It turns out that question – should I fly with my pet? – sharply divides pet owners and other passengers.

A “free trip” for your pet?

Terry, who works for an aluminum railing manufacturer in Pomona, Calif., says the dog’s owner claimed the white lab was an emotional support animal. But for him, and the other passengers on the plane, it felt more like a safety hazard, he says.

“I love dogs and understand some people have special needs,” he says. “But after watching it, I’m not sure what support it provided the owner. It looked more like a free trip for the dog.”

Some travelers complain that their fellow passengers claim their dogs are emotional support animals just to fly them for free.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation tightened some of its rules about service animals. Among some of the policy changes, it gave the green light for airlines to ask passengers traveling with a service animal to provide documentation related to vaccination, training or behavior.

The policy shift has made air travelers pay more attention to the issue than at any other time. They’re asking tough questions about the benefits of air travel to animals. For them, the answer to: “Should I fly with my pet” is “no.”

Is air travel good for animals?

The new policies come at an interesting time. A recent survey by Trupanion, a medical insurance company for pets, found that 1 in 5 pet owners travel with their animal companions. Most of them (37%) travel by car, but a significant number (18%) fly with their pets. An unknown subset of those passengers falsely claim their pets are “service” animals, although Tupanion didn’t ask about them. (No wonder we receive more than our fair share of complaints about service animals on our consumer advocacy site.)

Even so, there’s a more fundamental question pet owners should ask, say experts.

While there are several benefits to human passengers – companionship being the most obvious – the animal experts we consulted couldn’t name one benefit to the animal.

“Travel can be stressful for pets,” says Jo Gale, a manager for scientific advocacy at Mars Petcare. “So, before you plan your next trip, it’s important to ask: Will both my pet and I have a good time if we travel?”

I interviewed dozens of experts about air travel with pets. And while there are several benefits to human passengers – companionship being the most obvious – they couldn’t name one benefit to the animal. I couldn’t find any veterinarians who recommended traveling with animals. Also, there’s no credible record of a cat, dog, or miniature horse, ever asking to fly.

Time to stop flying with pets?

But there’s another side to this story. What about the millions of allergy sufferers? For them, flying in a confined space with an animal could trigger a potentially deadly allergic reaction.

When the Department of Transportation solicited comments about animals on planes last year, the allergy sufferers made their presence known. And they raised a valid question: Whose rights are more important? The allergy sufferer’s – or the pet owner’s?

Even the experts admit the idea may have some merit. Jeff Franklin, a dog expert who owns Cobra Canine, a dog training business, says he’s decided to keep his dog, Abigail, at home when he flies. Franklin says too many people have abused the airline’s permissive rules about service animals and are not thinking about their pet’s welfare.

“In the end, I made the decision to do what I think is best for Abigail, especially as she has aged, and not for myself which would be to have her with me all the time,” he says.

If you put the animal’s welfare first, you already know the answer to the question, “Should I fly with my pet?” Once you consider your pet’s best interests, it’s almost impossible to board a plane with your animal companion.

“If your dog or cat is likely to suffer no matter the mode of travel, they are probably best left at home,” says Aimee Gilbreath, executive director at Michelson Found Animals, which created a free national microchip registry. “If you suspect that your pet will be uncomfortable while flying, have a trusted friend or family member look after them instead or choose a pet boarding facility that suits your pet’s needs and personality.”

How to know if you should fly with your pet

Here are a few questions you should ask before bringing your dog or cat on your next flight:

How much will it cost?

Clayton Lopez and his wife, Janelle paid $150 for each of their cats to accompany them on a trip to Costa Rica. That didn’t include the price of vaccinations. It was an eventful trip for the couple, which writes an adventure travel blog. “Both cats lost at least five pounds and overall, they gained more anxiety and were less happy,” says Lopez. “We’ll never travel with our cats again.”

Do you know your pet?

You should have some idea of how your pet will react by being enclosed in a pressurized aluminum tube. Also, consider how long the trip will take and the facilities available to you, says Amy Tokic, editor of PetGuide.com. If you’re traveling for more than two weeks to somewhere that’s pet-friendly, “by all means, bring your pet,” she adds.

Does doggie get stressed?

“If your dog loves to go in the car or fly on the plane without causing them to be stressed, then bring them along,” says Sara Ochoa, a small animal and exotic veterinarian and a veterinary consultant for doglab.com. But bear in mind that it’s not just flying, but also hotels and a new location. If that freaks out your dog, then keep him home.

Posted in On Travel Tagged , , ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

%d bloggers like this: