How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Pet in Cargo?

Paige Strickland Paige Strickland · Updated April 13, 2024

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Air shipping your pet via plane cargo is a speedy solution to getting your furry friend from one play to the next. Still, this type of pet transportation has several pros and cons. Airlines that allow dogs in cargo will charge varying prices based on different factors.

Plus, with the summer months approaching, many airlines have a heat embargo that restricts you from shipping your pet in cargo. If the ground temperature is more than 85 degrees Fahrenheit or less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit, you won’t be able to transport a large pet in cargo.

This poses a huge problem, but one that is easily solvable. By choosing ground transportation, you can avoid those problems. Plus, it’s safer and more humane to transport your pet on the ground than via a plane in the cargo hold. It’s also more reliable because you won’t be dependent on weather conditions to transport your pet.

This is a guide to help you decide the best way to transport your pet so that you can weigh the costs of your options.

Can you Fly Your Pet in Cargo?

Each type of animal you wish to transport as plane cargo will have different requirements based on their breed, size, and health.

The USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website is an excellent reputable resource to research legal requirements for transporting your specific pet on a state-by-state basis. The following is a guide to get you started!

Health Requirements  

Your pet will need to be old enough and in good health to fly in cargo. Cats and dogs, for example, must be at least 8 weeks.

All airlines require a valid health certificate issued within 30 days of flying in cargo. The cost of health certificates can vary. According to Veterinary Practice News, the average cost of a veterinary consultation can be between $25-$150, and the average cost of vaccines is between $20-$150. So you can plan on a range of $45-$300.

What are the Airlines that Allow Dogs and Cats in Cargo?

Delta, American, and Alaska airlines allow dogs and cats in the cargo area.

United no longer accepts reservations for their PetSafe program, which allowed pets to be shipped in the cargo area, except for U.S. military personnel and foreign services under specific conditions.

Other popular commercial airlines such as Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit, Allegiant, and Frontier do not allow pets to travel as cargo.

Do Any Airlines Allow Other Pets in Cargo?

If you plan to transport an exotic animal that is not a dog or cat, you’ll need to contact your airline of choice ahead of time. Check if your animal species is permitted aboard the plane, and ask what specific requirements there are for transportation equipment.

Aside from dogs and cats, Alaskan Airlines also permits a variety of exotic pets to fly in the cargo area, including:

  • Ferrets
  • Guinea pigs
  • Hamsters
  • Household birds
  • Non-poisonous reptiles
  • Pot-bellied pigs
  • Rabbits
  • Tropical fish

How Much Does Each Airline Charge to Fly a Pet in Cargo?

So, how much does it cost to ship a pet in cargo? The answer is not one-size-fits-all. The cost is calculated by the distance between arrival and departure locations and the size and weight of your animal (plus their crate).

As a general rule, you can expect to pay a cargo fee plus the flight ticket price. For example, Alaska charges a $100 pet cargo fee, whereas American and Delta charge a $125 pet cargo fee.

Keep in mind there is also a layover fee. Each layover of 4 hours or more will be an additional $100-$125.

Downsides of Air Travel for Pets

Unexpected Delays or Cancellations

To meet USDA standards, dogs and cats in the cargo area must not be exposed to air temperatures above 85 °F (29.5 °C) or below 45 °F (7.2 °C) for more than 4 hours. This means if your pet is traveling during the summer or winter months, its flight may be canceled due to extreme temperatures.

Restricted Breeds

All airlines that allow dogs and cats in cargo have a restricted breed list. For example, “snub-nosed” dog breeds (such as pugs, boxers, French bulldogs, etc.) and cats (such as Persian, Himalayan, or Burmese) are prohibited from flying in the cargo area of all airlines due to respiratory risk.

Unpredictable Environment

Flying can already be stressful and unfamiliar to most pets. While your pet is in the cargo hold of the plane for several hours, the following may affect their well-being:

  • Fluctuating temperature and pressure
  • Loud noises
  • Very little light
  • Cluttered or overcrowded space
  • Possible mishandling by the crew

Advantages of Using CitizenShipper for Ground Transport

There are several benefits of choosing ground transportation with a driver hired through CitizenShipper:

It’s Cost-Effective 

The process is simple and free to get an accurate pet transport estimate with CitizenShipper. Just follow these steps:

  • Post a listing. Creating a listing for your pet’s transport needs is always free. Qualified, background-checked and USDA-registered drivers will send you quotes about your pet transportation within minutes.
  • Compare offers from prospective drivers. Since CitizenShipper uses a unique bidding system, drivers compete for your business. You can save up to 60-70% compared to traditional shipping companies!
  • Book your pet’s trip.CitizenShipper charges a modest fee based on mileage.

It’s Safe

As much as cost is a key factor in choosing the right transport service for your pet, safety is a top priority.

All drivers hired through CitizenShipper have access to a 24/7 Televet platform called FirstVet.Through this service, they can connect with a licensed veterinarian to receive medical advice, treatment recommendations and referrals to clinics nearby should an emergency arise on the road.

CitizenShipper also issues a pet protection policy to cover some or all expenses related to pet injuries, illnesses, and other unexpected issues that may occur during transport.

It’s Stress-Free

Should you have any questions or concerns regarding your pet’s journey, you won’t be left in the dark. CitizenShipper’s dedicated customer support team is here to help, and the response time is 324% higher than the industry average.

Additionally, you’re safeguarded by the Booking Assurance Guarantee, which protects you from fraudulent transactions and last-minute driver cancellations.

Product Recommendations for Pet Cargo Transport

IATA-approved crate

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) forms airline industry policies, including those that pertain to shipping animals. Most airlines, if not all, use the IATA’s crate safety requirements to establish their own rules for cargo crates. You may need to purchase a new crate to fit these guidelines, which can range from $50-$200, depending on the size of your animal.

Chew Toys

To give your pet some entertainment during their travels, consider purchasing new toys that will last and keep them occupied.

Travel bag 

Packing an airline-approved travel bag is essential. This will hold all the supplies your animal needs for their trip, including food and water, collapsible bowls, medications, and more.

It’s Adventure Time!

CitizenShipper handles the stressful parts of pet transport so you can plan the fun parts of your next adventure with your furry friend. Create your free listing today and get quotes in minutes!