Saturday, October 25, 2008

Air Travel with Dogs and Cats

I used to travel by air with my four-legged companions. I prefer carrying a dog or cat on board, tucking the little one under the seat in a safe carrier, rather than having my hairy companion in the cargo hold. It's one of the advantages of a smaller dog or cat. There has always been a fly in the ointment, however. The airlines do not charge for a carry-on unless there's a dog or cat in it. In other words, if you take your laptop computer aboard in a case, it costs you nothing. If you take your dog or cat in a carry-on case, it used to cost approximately $100. each way. You would pay for the privilege of losing leg room.

When asked, the airlines would cite "allergy" if pushed. No one had a real answer because there is no regulation regarding this. It was simply a matter of charging extra because they could. Seldom did you hear a sound out of the carrier. In fact, in all my years of flying, I've never heard from a dog or cat onboard. I cannot say the same for the infants whose parents didn't have the common sense to put a bottle into a baby's mouth on take-off and landing to counteract the change in air pressure. What I did hear was a lifetime of loudly screaming infants on planes. Then there have been the children who have pulled hair, kicked my seat repeatedly, screamed, yelled, whined. Well, you get the idea.

As for the allergy excuse, and it is my understanding that one airline in Canada has banned pets because some person got a doctor to complain, the excuse simply isn't valid. If dogs and cats are to be banned because of allergy, what about the women reeking as if they were standing next to the perfume counter when it exploded? Or the men who are doused in strong after shave? Anyone with asthma can tell you what that is like. Or a migraineur whose migraine is triggered by strong odors. Or the people who smell of cigarettes and cigars? What of those people who cause discomfort to other passengers and can, in some cases, make them downright ill? I was on a flight from NY to London a few years ago when a horrible stench was suddenly filling the cabin. It was pretty scary since many of us thought there was something wrong with the plane. It turned out to be coming from a woman a couple of rows ahead of me who was using nail polish remover and giving herself a manicure inflight! Often it's the flight attendants who are wearing an unearthly amount of perfume or aftershave.

I have sat next to a woman who threw up all the way across the Atlantic. People with colds and flu passing their germs through the cabin. Never once have I been disturbed by a dog or cat. But those respectful pet owners who care enough to carry their well-mannered dogs and cats with them have been punished by the airlines with exhorbitant charges.

The airlines are losing business thanks to the cost of fuel. They are belt-tightening, which is prudent. However, going after dog and cat owners is not likely to be very prudent. A friend who travels a good deal with her dogs made arrangements for two trips. The news of the new carry-on price for pets was nothing short of sticker shock. Her flight from JFK to Cleveland is $167. for her seat and $300. for her tiny dog to fly under the seat! Yes, you read that correctly: THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS! And she is the only one losing leg room! Her dog, by the way, has hair not fur, so if they're pleading allergy (and I don't think she has heard why they are charging so much), it won't fly. Any pun intended. For her flight from JFK to Long Beach, CA she is paying $299. for her seat and $200. for her dog to fly under the seat.

It is patently unfair.

People carrying dogs and cats to dog or cat shows have found air travel convenient but how many of them will now find it better to drive? It may take a little longer but the fuel costs for driving may well be less than those of flying with a dog or cat when outrageous costs are tacked on by the airlines for a carry-on. That's business lost to the airlines. Maybe they think they can afford it. Maybe they don't know exactly how many people travel for dog shows, cat shows, canine musical freestyle competitions, etc. They may be about to find out.


Charlotte Wagner said...

Very nice Darlene!

This actually scares me a bit, because I was hoping to bring my Toy Manchester Terrier with me from London to Washington during Christmas, but at those rates, I may just leave her with a friend.

I was astonished at the prices to even put a dog in the cargo hold. I will be transporting my Retriever to London from DC after a 6 month quarantine wait, and it turns out I will be charged $13 per pound of dog, in addition to a $500 traveling fee and some other charges. Without the veterinary documentations it is running me at about $1400 for the flight only! And another $300 for the necessary veterinary documents and procedures, and $100 to transport from Heathrow to my home. So all together we are looking around $2000 all to get the dog over seas.

IT's ridiculous. I was lucky enough to take the Retriever to Frankfurt from DC last winter, and I only paid $85 round trip, and he got to be with me inside the plane because he is a therapy dog. He silently slept the way, and was quite comfterable with his Kong and a bit of rescue remedy, but yes, a baby was screaming throughout the whole trip.

I think you make some good arguments, especially the whole "allergy" deal. Thanks for writing this!

Darlene said...

Thanks for posting, Charlotte. The prices you mention are astronomical! And if you look back further (June, I think), you'll find my post about flying an animal into the U.K., following all of the instructions and still having the animal rejected by petty bureaucrats.

Something has to be done. This is patently unfair. I see no sense in it.

My question for you: if you were able to take your Toy Manchester to Washington, how would you get the dog back into the U.K.? Would the documentation still be valid?

Again, thank you for posting.



Chris S. said...

Hi Darlene,
What a great post! As the founder of the Dogtravel Company we spent a lot of time talking to people who worked for the commercial airlines and heard many reason why they "prefer" not to have pets in the passenger cabin. Allergies of course, asthma, people who had fear of animals, we even heard about flight crew who had be bitten by either the pet or by fleas, and other stories about the stink from pets that used their carriers to go potty.

With all of these excuses we decided to take matters into our own hands and offer our members dog-friendly flights, train service, and even cruises (Europe), in addition to our dog-friendly vacations and relocation services. All of our travel, including flights, is 100% dog friendly. Dogs must be well behaved, house trained, and polite of course. We consider each dog it's own passenger, and each will travel in style, getting his or her own seat, and we allow dogs of all sizes in the passenger cabin. As our travel is first class, each pup on board also enjoys their own snack, meal, and beverage service, and in many cases they also get their own on-board entertainment. We do limit humans to only 2 dogs per person, the reason being you only have 2 hands and owners are 100% responsible for the behavior and actions of their dogs and we want those dogs under the control of their people at all times - with luggage, dogs, etc...

Now here's where you may get a kick out of this! The DogTravel company is a travel club for dog lovers. The only people on our flights, trains, cruises are dog lovers.. with their dogs, yet we still get calls from people complaining about not wanting to fly, take the train, cruise with with us because there will be dogs on board and they have allergies!

If we are a travel club for dog lovers, only providing dog friendly travel services to our members, and we get calls like this, I can only imagine what the commercial airlines have to listen to when they have a a furry friend on board!

The Dogtravel Company is a pioneer in the world of pet travel, and we hope to one day soon, revoluntionize the concept of dogtravel and traveling with your pets, and have it be common place to be able to go to a restaurant with your dog, or take them on a flight, or train. In some european cities you can find people doing their grocery shopping with their dogs in tow! We have a little ways to catch up here in the United States, but we're working on it. There has been a big movement towards pet-friendly hotels, there are cities in Florida where ordinances were passed to allow dogs in restaurants, and more and more tourist sites are allowing dogs to come visit. This past summer I had my dogs with me while I was touring Mount Vernon, George Washington's estate. The dogs couldn't go inside the main mansion, but the were allowed in the museum, and on the grounds and in the outbuildings.

Our pets are a very important part of our family and we, at the Dogtravel Company, believe they should be treated like family.

A cargo hold is no place for anyone. There is a reason humans are not allowed in there during travel. It's just not safe. For those of you who are thinking of putting your pet in the cargo hold, I know you've heard that the cargo hold is pressurized. This is true, all cargo holds are pressurized, and when you ask the airline if it is, they will always answer "Yes it is pressurized". The REAL question you should be asking though is "Does the pressure in the cargo hold stay the same as the air pressure in the passenger cabin throughout the flight?" The answer to this question is ALWAYS NO!!! There are a few chambers on each aircraft that the pilot uses to adjust the air pressure in order to make the aircraft go up and down. The cargo hold is one of these chambers. Without changing the pressure in these chambers the large, heavy steel airplane will not go up in the air, or land smoothly. The best example given to me about what can happen to you with the change in air pressure was told to me by a pilot for a commercial airline. He asked if I had ever packed lotion or shampoo in my luggage and if it ever exploded while in flight. Of course I had had that experience. He told me that is what can happen to your pet if you check it in cargo.

A few years ago the DOT and FAA passed a regulation requiring all commercial airlines to start reporting the number of dealths, injuries and losses of pets each month. This was when we started to see some airlines stop flying pets all together, others not flying pets when it was too cold, or too warm, or not fly them if there was a layover or if it was too late in the day, and some airlines stopped flying specific breeds that were more prone to respiratory or cardiac distress. These numbers are reported and burried at the bottom of each of the DOT's consumer reports for each month. You can also find links to these reports on the Dogtravel website at

Darlene said...

Thanks so much for posting, Chris. I'm happy to hear about your company and I'll bet my readers are, too! It's wonderful to have another option.

Puppy website said...

Thanks for your input guys... I've certainly got some serious thinking to do.

puppy website

Anonymous said...

Hello Darlene. This is interesting conversation as my Father was in Aviation (Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame) and we frequently flew our Yorkshire on flights from England to various locations in Canada and the USA and my father would always put him in the "cockpit"
Needless to say, that dog loved to travel!
Well," smart" is contagious as" Sir Hannibal" , our Affie from Wendy Boorer, did the same thing from London to Cannes. Then, we all went Business Class from Paris to Toronto and "Voila"! That cutie was better mannered than any cosmopolitan kid dressed in "Gear", "Ralph Lauren" or "Saks".(he snored all the way , demanding nothing!)
I think the moral of the story is: "Leave your
Kids at home and pack the Dog". They never ask how much longer you are going to read that book; talk to Dad or drink your Bloody Mary.

Michelle Young Cuenant

patie ventre said...

Hi all, I am the lady that is taking my dogs to Cleveland and Michgan, and Long Beach CA!
I fly my dogs and lots of other dogs because I have Patie's WCFO Canine Freestyle demo teams. I do this so that the public charity I founded, WCFO, INC The World Canine Freestyle Organization can benefit. I receive sponsorship money for "puttin' on the show!"
That money,after expenses are deducted for travel, hotel and food (no team member is paid) goes to WCFO, INC to support its events. With the increase in fares, there will be little if any money left. How sad is this!
What really gets me is that I have appeared in Delta Sky Magazine and American Way, with my BC Dancer, and they love the stories but do not want to give us a break. At least let the dog's get frequent flyer miles, I say.
I checked out dogtravel company but we cannot afford it, could be up to $8000 to fly a dog!
So we need to unite and get some kind of relief!
We just flew a lady from Ontario, Canada and 2 Golden Retrievers to Amsterdam along with a son, his Mum and his BC. Mum/Son/BC=$1980!
Patie Ventre

MJ Smink said...

Thanks for letting people know how bad the situation is getting for those of us that fly our pets. I flew many times with my sheltie under my seat, and never once did the person next to me even know he was there! I agree that it's totally absurd that I have to pay MORE to fly my dog under the seat (giving up all my leg room) than I pay for myself. But what's the answer? I personally will write to the airlines and let them know that they are losing business by making it more economical for me to drive to many locations when I would prefer to fly, because it simply is too expensive now to fly with my dog. This is the case for many people I know that used to fly to agility and freestyle events, and now choose to drive instead. The Dogtravel company looks interesting, but I agree with's simply not a solution for those of us that need economical travel options.

Darlene said...

Thanks so much, everyone, for sharing your thoughts. I hope many people will write to the airlines. I really don't see that we have anything to lose. We can't afford to travel with the airlines under the current conditions. Perhaps if they hear from enough people they will rethink their policy concerning pets.

Heather said...

For anyone traveling with pets, I have to let you all know--DO NOT TRAVEL ON AMERICAN AIRLINES. American Airlines LOST my puppy on a cross-country trip. When I finally got my puppy back, she was dehydrated and extremely stressed. I was nearly beside myself. American Airlines offered no excuse--they simply said they'd left her kennel on the tarmac and forgotten to bring her to baggage claim. There was no apology. Of course I called and e-mailed Customer Service but they merely said it was too bad I didn't get my dog back "right away" (we're talking over four hours after the plane landed--not four minutes) and they could not fail their personnel for anything but they hoped I'd travel again with them. What?! Of course I won't travel again with them. Many of my friends with dogs have told me similar terrible stories about American Airlines. If you love your pet and you're traveling with a pet that is too large to go as carry-on, do not, under any circumstances, fly American Airlines.

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