Research airline rules for travel with pets

Many commercial airlines will allow pets as frequent fliers, but there are some restrictions and requirements before the cuddly pet is allowed on the plane.

It is important to check with the airline when planning to make flight arrangements.

“Before I took my dog Coco with me to California, I spoke with a Delta representative and she explained to me the preparations that I needed before I arrived for my flight,” said Erika Thomas, 20, a sophomore health management student from Atlanta. “Thanks to that representative, Coco and I had an easy flight.”

Pets can fly on a commercial airline as a carry on, air cargo or as checked baggage. Carry-on pets must be at least eight weeks old. The pet needs to be small enough to fit in a kennel under the seat in front of the pet owner.

Don’t plan to bring any bags on board; the pet counts as one carried-on item.

Celebrities have popularized the look of traveling with dogs in designer purses, but that is definitely unacceptable on commercial airlines.

In order for the pet to travel as air cargo, it has to be booked in advance. Only warm-blooded birds and mammals can be accepted. In addition to that, the pet owner must pick up the animal at the cargo center in the regional airport.

“For a pet to travel as checked baggage we only allow mammals and birds, and they need to not be aggressive,” said Continental Airline representative Michael Harris. “Please feed your pet four hours before departure and give yourself enough time to catch your flight.”

Prior to departure, the state requires certain standards be met. Florida requires a health certificate for the pet to be air cargo or to be a carried on item. Although this is required for the state, it may not be required by an airline.

“We do not require the certificate if the pet is going on the plane with you. We do require the certificate and a letter of acclimation if the pet is to be air cargo,” said Delta representative Pamela Saunders. “Both of them are to be done in about 10 days before departure.”

After getting the pet prepared for travel, the next step is going through Transport Security Administration screening.

The standard procedure through TSA is for the owner to walk the pet through the metal detector. If this is not possible, then the animal will have to go through another screening, which consists of a physical inspection with the TSA members.

Some students have had a smooth ride in the skies with their pets.

“I have traveled with my maltese on United Airways as a carry-on item,” said Sarah Foster, 18, a freshman English student from Miami. “It was a pleasant experience. I didn’t have any trouble going through TSA.”

Foster said she would definitely travel with her dog again.

No matter which pet option or commercial airline is chosen, be prepared. When traveling with a pet, plan to have plenty of time to catch a flight.

Also check with the airline’s pet requirements because each airline may be different.