Airline travel with pets soars to new heights

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on June 11th, 2019

Want to fly with your furry friend?

Turns out you’re not alone. In the past two years, there’s been a 104-per-cent increase in pets taking to the skies. That hasn’t gone unnoticed by VistaJet, a private airline that recently announced the launch of VistaPet, a comprehensive program that advises passengers on the regulations that apply to their flights and destinations when travelling with pets. Those include such details as vaccinations, microchips, certificates and permits.

The Malta-based airline goes even one step further. In partnership with the Dog House, it can also arrange for fear of flying courses for dogs. The four-week course desensitizes pets to the flight environment, including the smell of fuel, sound of jet engines, cabin air pressure and air turbulence.

Once on board, passengers travelling with their pet receive a VistaPet Pochette containing bio-organic pet food, dog training treats, water-free shampoos and soothing wipes. There’s also rope toys to keep Fido entertained during the flight. The airline provides a balanced menu to keep pets hydrated, including natural flower essences that cabin hostesses can offer to mix with pets’ drinking water to aid in relaxation.

When pets must be leashed during take-off and landing, the airline promotes a handmade sleep mat for pets to relax in by their owner’s side.

If you think this is too good to be true, watch the VistaPet promotional video.

Rock-star treatment

While some pets enjoy this rock-star treatment, most travel on regular domestic or international flights. But whatever airline you choose, there’s a lot to consider. Each carrier has different rules, regulations and charges.

Canada-based WestJet, for example, accepts small pets in the cabin and as checked kennel on most international flights. Dogs and cats are not accepted on flights to, from or through Barbados, Hawaii, Ireland, Jamaica or the United Kingdom.

Although the airline accepts pets other than cats or dogs, other animal types may not be permitted or may have additional requirements. Their General Entrance Requirements includes information regarding health certifications and vaccination requirements needed for different countries, and how to contact the agencies responsible for accepting them at your destination.

In general, smaller pets typically travel as carry-on and are kept in an approved carrier (with applicable size and weight restrictions) under the seat in front of their owner. Larger pets travel as checked animals or as cargo when flying alone. Some airlines such as Southwest, however, will not transport animals as cargo. Most airlines will allow service and emotional support animals in the cabin of the aircraft with the disabled person, free of charge, when on duty.

Humane society tips

The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society reminds owners pets may be at risk of heatstroke or hypothermia before the plane leaves the runway if placed inside the cargo hold too early in warm or cold weather since airlines generally don’t turn on the air conditioning or heat in the cargo hold until take off. They suggest animals prone to severe respiratory difficulties in an airplane’s poorly-ventilated cargo hold, including cats, short-nosed dogs (boxers, pugs etc.) and long-nosed dogs (collies, shelties etc.), should be kept in the passenger cabin with their owners if possible.

The Ontario SPCA also recommends the following tips for air travel:

  • Take your pet to the veterinarian to update all vaccinations and obtain any legal documents needed. Very old, very young, pregnant, ill and injured animals should not fly.
  • Purchase a durable travel carrier that is large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around in Always check with the airline regarding size allowances and special requirements, including labelling.
  • Help your pet adjust to the carrier several weeks before your flight. Start by leaving the door open and placing treats, meals or toys inside.
  • Exercise your pet before leaving for the airport and feed a light meal three to four hours before take-off.
  • Give your pet water right up to the time of travel and, if the airline allows, take your pet for a walk and bathroom break shortly before boarding.
  • Ask if it’s possible for you to observe your pet being loaded onto the plane.
  • Inform the flight crew that your pet is travelling in the cargo hold. They may take special precautions or trips to check on your pet and ensure heating/air conditioning is functioning.
  • If you are not on a direct flight, ask to check on your pet during the layover.

While airlines safely move thousands of animals each year, pet owners must know the rules and take whatever precautions necessary to help ensure a safe flight.

Finally, there are various types of pet care coverage with travel insurance that typically consist of pet-related assistance services, such as coordinating the pet’s return home if they are hospitalized. Your veterinarian can help locate those specialized services.

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