Dogs in the Air! Travelling with your Pooch by Plane
We have moved from our non-simultaneous homes in Canada (1st Nelson, BC and then Montreal) to fairly exotic foreign destinations twice (1st Singapore and, later, the United Arab Emirates), and both times we have taken our two small dogs with us. One is a Shitzu (Diego), the other a Shitzu/Bichon cross (Jasmine). Both weigh between 15 and 20 pounds apiece so getting them on a plane is fairly easy. That is, the last part (boarding) is easy, but the rest is expensive, difficult, complex and time consuming. So think twice before you travel very long distances with your pets. For one thing, they hate it and it can be quite traumatic for them – loud and long, locked in a container either under your seat or in the baggage hold where its dark and even noisier and either too hot or too cold. We were going abroad for very long periods – years in our case – so leaving them behind was out of the question. Besides, we love them too much to take our own advice.
So, if you are going abroad and want to take your pet(s) with you there is much you should know. First, if they are going to accompany you on the flight be aware that some airlines will not take pets. Others will only carry them at certain times of the year when the weather to your destination is not too hot. If your dog or cat is small enough to fit into a small container that is small enough to go under your seat then that is your solution. It's the easiest way to get them there if your airline allows it. However, once stowed under your seat then that's where they have to stay for the entire flight. Just hope, as well, that you have a very docile creature that neither whines, whimpers, or barks. And most vets do not recommend sedating your pet. Also be aware that airlines do not provide anything for free anymore so there will undoubtedly be a fee for transporting your pet in the passenger cabin even if the space it occupies is equal to a piece of under-the-seat hand luggage. This can be anywhere from $125 for a domestic flight to several hundred dollars for international travel.
Our small dogs are too large to go under our seats so they travelled in the baggage hold. We bought a fairly large dog carrier that holds both of them comfortably. Since they are close mates, we figured that they would find the ordeal easier if they were together. Irregardless of the length of the flight, make certain that they have a water bottle attached to the crate, some dry food, a familiar toy and a blanket or towel that contains your scent. If the trip is very long, see if you can book an airline and flight with a decent layover that will allow you to visit your dog and take it for a pee walk. When we returned from Singapore to Canada – a very long flight – we had a stopover of a few hours in China and had been told that we could visit the dogs. But when we tried to do it after landing, the Chinese authorities blocked us and said that it was forbidden to take the dogs out of their crate. We were able to check that their water bottle was full and that they were ok. (You don't argue for very long with the Chinese government!) Lastly, the fee for transporting your dog(s) in a crate is fairly expensive; up to $500. or more per crate.
Stay tuned for Part Two on Canine Air Travel!