Still Think Flying With Your Pet Is Your Best Option? The Cost – And Plethora Of Rules – Might Make You Think Otherwise

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated January 16, 2024

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Until pretty recently, plenty of people were only too happy to consider taking their pets with them on a flight if they were heading off on an extended vacation, or even relocating.

But a whole slew of incidents involving anything from animals being mis-directed, to pets suffering and even dying in crowded, stuffy airplane holds which were never designed to carry live cargo, has thrown the spotlight on how desirable – or otherwise – it might be to transport pets by air.

Now, USA Today has weighed into the debate, pointing out that, in the wake of growing concerns over the suitability of airplanes for carrying live animals long distances, owners have three main factors which they must consider carefully – along with their associated costs – before they decide whether putting their pets on a plane is a wise move.

Author Gregory Karp calls these factors ‘the three Cs’ – cabin vs. cargo, crates and cost.

And whether you’re even in a position to bear these considerations in mind depends on the opinion of your veterinarian. Because it’s always advisable that they’re consulted before you even start making any arrangements, as they could well advise against your pet flying in any circumstances.

The recent announcement by United Airlines that it’s to resume transporting cats and dogs in the hold of its planes comes with considerable strings attached – not least that it won’t accept bookings for five months out of 12 every year to or from some of the most popular summer destinations in the country. So if you summer in Nevada, California or Arizona, you’ll have to find an alternative way of bringing your pets with you.

You could, of course, arrange for your pet to travel in the cabin of your plane, as hand luggage. Many airlines will take such bookings, but even so, still insist that the animal doesn’t weigh more than about 20 pounds. And it must be able to travel in a carrier which will fit under the seat in front of you.

Now, think about it. Even if your cat or dog fits these criteria, how comfortable are they likely to feel in such a cramped environment? For a couple hours, maybe that’s a possible – but if the journey is any longer than that, they’re soon likely to get distressed, and certainly aren’t likely to enjoy the experience.

flying with pets
All pets will react differently to being transported – but if you send them by road, at least they will be more aware of what is around them.

(Not So) Crate News

And even though your pet won’t be taking up a seat which can be filled by another passenger, airlines take the view that any crate or bag in which you transport it has to be generally large enough for it to stand up and turn around inside. That means that the airline will assume that your pet will be taking up a seat which could be allocated to another passenger – and charge accordingly.

The Sting In The Tail

OK, so you’re anxious to avoid your pet being cooped up in a plane’s cargo hold, and would rather they didn’t leave your sight (and why wouldn’t you be?).

But when you decide that your pet must travel with you in the cabin – and given some of the stories of the fates which have befallen pets transported in the hold of a plane, who could blame you? –  it will have to meet strict rules, which also often vary between airlines.

Typically, airlines charge a flat fee of about $125 per journey to allow you the privilege of carrying your pet in the cabin, USA Today noted. It added that, because they also count your canine or feline companion as your hand luggage, you’re likely to have to pay extra to check all the rest of your inanimate items into the hold.

But you also have to weigh this against the cost of putting Fido in the hold. Again, this varies from one airline to the next, but American Airlines imposes a flat $200 fee to carry an animal as checked-in luggage, stowed with most of the rest of the passengers’ cases and holdalls.

You should also consider that your pet will be unaccompanied throughout if they are transported this way – so it really isn’t suitable for nervous or inexperienced flyers, as they’re likely to find it a distressing experience.

Then there’s the added cost of any pre-flight veterinary checks and vaccination boosters which will be insisted upon by many airlines. For example, United, which has been at the centre of a number of cases where animals have been found seriously ill, or even dead, after being placed in its care for long-distance journeys, is only re-starting flights in early July with some pretty strict conditions attached.

“Pets are important members of the family”, notes United, right at the top of the introduction to its latest domestic animal-carrying guidelines.

How important they are to many owners probably depends on whether they are happy to stump up the airline’s $125 service charge for every single journey, plus another potential $125 to tend for an animal during a stopover exceeding four hours within the U.S., or of more than 24 hours for any other destination.

flying with a cat
Your cat can travel in a basket which it’s familiar with if you transport it by road – by air, it will have to fly in a pen which meets the airline’s requirements.

The Picture Isn’t So Clear For Service And Support Animals

You can often obtain special dispensation to travel with an animal if you can show that they perform a job of work for you, e.g. a guide dog or hearing dog.

But this has become notorious as a loophole for people trying to avoid having to stow their animal in the hold – especially as there’s no central register for such pets which airlines can use to cross-check whether an animal is actually used for the purpose which the passenger claims.

The same article quoted above claims that there are 61.5 million Americans who suffer from a mental or emotional disability – roughly 1 in 4 of the population – and comes from one of many sources which claim to be able to produce a letter of proof that you need to have your pet with you for the sake of your welfare while travelling.

With such a thriving business having grown up to meet the needs of such travellers, it should equally be no surprise that airlines are becoming more skeptical when dealing with applications for animals to accompany people in the cabin.

Happier Landings… If They Don’t Take Off In The First Place

Ultimately, USA Today concluded that, while airlines have been transporting pets as cargo for many years, the method isn’t looked on kindly by the Humane Society of the United States.

Of course, if you are including your pets in your travel plans, there’s an altogether easier way of doing so – and that’s by arranging for them to keep all four paws on terra firma, and hitch a lift overland.

The advent of such strict guidelines governing what dog and cat breeds airlines are and aren’t prepared to carry has only increased the need for reputable companies and individuals offering such services on a much broader scale, where there are no such restrictions.

Of course, you might think that this limits your options for travelling with your beloved pets, but that certainly isn’t the case in our view here at Citizenshipper.

We bring together people looking to move just about any form of cargo with a network of companies and individuals willing and qualified to do that work.

But one of our specialties, and most regularly requested services, is the movement of domestic animals overland, so taking the responsibility from people who might be moving house, transferring their jobs, or heading off to their summer or winter residences, and letting someone else take care of it.

Unlike with airlines, you can specify a door-to-door pet shipping service, so you don’t need to travel out of your way to drop off or collect your pet; and also even less like airlines, our registered shippers keep your itinerary in mind, with collections and deliveries arranged at times that suit you.

You place your assignment on our site – with no admin or finder fees to pay – and it’s then posted across our network of checked and recommended drivers, who can contact you directly with a bid.

You can check out the feedback of individual drivers on the site to help you decide which one’s bid you accept, and even open a channel of communication to ask any question about them, and answer any they might have about your job. This means you can easily find out whether the carrying pens they use are the right kind for your pet, and get reassurances about any other similar detail.

Personal Service That’s The Cat’s Whiskers

Whereas an airline can only offer very limited types of service for animal transportation, based around its passenger and cargo-carrying schedules, Citizenshipper makes the whole thing much more personalized. Your pet will receive true V.I.P. treatment – because, in most instances, they’re the only passenger besides the driver and any human companion.

And even then, with more than one person doing the job, it makes it far easier to take rest breaks, and devote time to making sure that an animal is relaxed and all its needs are attended to. Your pup or your kitty (or hamster, or bunny) won’t be left alone, to potentially get anxious and upset, but will have companionship every step of the way.

But what’s most important, bearing in mind what we talked about earlier in this article, is that you and your driver agree on the cost upfront, with no extras.

Citizenshipper is the 21st century way to move your treasured pets – flexible, friendly and putting you and your pets first. If you’ve never used us before, try us. We’re a man’s (and woman’s) best friend, and are waiting to fulfill all your pet shipping needs.

To get free quotes from background verified drivers head over to CitizenShipper and list your pet shipment requirements.

dog transport
Dogs love human companionship, so sending them on a journey by car will be much less stressful for them than putting them in the hold of a plane.