Is Taking Your Pet on an Airplane Worth the Risk?

Pet on an Airplane

Is Taking Your Pet on an Airplane Worth the Risk?

If you are like many if not most people, you’ve seen and heard media reports detailing how pets have been injured and even killed while on commercial airplanes. This may have left you wondering whether taking your pet on a commercial airplane is worth the risk.


Danger in the Cargo Hold

When it comes to pets being injured or killed on commercial aircraft, the vast majority of cases involve incidents that occur in the cargo hold. Indeed, nearly all of incidents involving animals occur in the cargo and not in the passenger compartment of an aircraft or somewhere in an airport.


One of the biggest dangers to animals being transported in the cargo hold are temperature issues. Some airlines are developing policies to limit when and how pets will be permitted into a cargo hold when a temperature issue arises.

Pet on an Airplane

Delta Airlines is a good example. Delta will not permit animals to be placed in any of its North American aircraft cargo holds between May and September, typically the hottest months of the year in that part of the globe. In addition, Delta prohibits animals in the cargo hold if any part of a plane’s trek will be to an area in which the temperature is 10 degrees or above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.


Even if a cargo hold is temperate during a flight, an issue can arise when an aircraft is on the tarmac. Nearly anyone who has spent any amount of time flying understands the possibility of a plane being delayed on the ground at the time of departure or arrival.

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When that occurs, the environment of the cargo hold can become problematic and ultimately dangerous, depending on prevailing weather conditions. If the weather is cold, that can cause the cargo hold to become untenable for an animal. More often, if an aircraft languishes on the tarmac during hotter weather, the temperature in the cargo hold can rise to deadly levels in a fairly short period of time.


Pets can also end up injured and killed when being transported to and from the cargo hold. Rough treatment of a carrier is a recurring issue among baggage handlers. This doesn’t typically happen out of malice. Rather, these employees are under the gun to get a cargo hold loaded and unloaded rapidly.


Danger in the Cabin

Although pet injuries and death occur in the cabin of an aircraft far less often than is the case in the cargo hold, incidents do occur. Media reports about a puppy being stowed in an overhead compartment during a flight illustrate what can happen. In that case, flight crew members told the owner of the puppy she had to place the carrier containing the canine in the overhead compartment. By the conclusion of the flight, the dog had died.


Lost Pets

In addition to incidents involving the injuries and deaths of pets, there are also those in which companion animals are lost when on a journey involving air flights. The risk of loss increases significantly if a pet is stowed in a cargo hold and there is a plane change en route to the final destination.

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To Fly or Not to Fly with Your Pet

In the final analysis, many experts on pet health and welfare take the position that you should not bring your beloved furry family members on board an airplane, whether in the cargo hold or cabin. These experts take a particularly dim view to ever putting a living animal into the cargo hold of an aircraft.


There’s no doubt people consider pets to be nothing less than family members. Having a pet along for a holiday can make travels all the more memorable. However, you want to be certain that those memories are positive and not horrible.


Tips to Make Pet Air Travel Safer

If you are committed to taking your pet on an airplane to travel with you, there are some tips to bear in mind to lower the potential risk to your pet’s welfare. Before you even make a final decision to take your pet alone, visit the vet to ensure that your pet is fit to fly.

When at all possible, avoid having your pet travel in the cargo hold. Arrange for a direct flight, if your pet will be traveling in the cargo hold.

Do not fly with snub-nosed dogs (pugs) or cats (Persians). These animals are prone to serious and even fatal respiratory problems on airplanes.

If you do desire to travel with your pets, consider alternate means of transport beyond an aircraft. Although there are dangers associated with taking a pet in a car or on a train, on balance those risks are considered less than on an aircraft.

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Jessica Kane is a writer for Handicapped Pets, your most trusted source for dog wheelchairs and harnesses.

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