Flying with a pet can be a stressful experience. Fortunately, most airlines go out of their way to make the experience as stress-free as possible. Even though every airline has its pet weight guidelines, most will not penalize you for a small margin of excess weight.
Some airlines will actually weigh the pet while in the transport carrier. Other airlines will ask you to walk the pet through as they x-ray the carrier. In many cases, the airline officials are more concerned about the dimensions of the carrier than the weight of the pet.
There are different weight restrictions depending on whether your pet will be flying in cargo or in the cabin. In both cases, your pet should remain in the carrier during the entire trip. The carrier should be spacious enough for the pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down. This article rounds up some of the most important considerations when traveling with a pet.
How Strict Are Airlines About Pet Weight?
While most airlines are not very strict about pet weight per se, they are very strict about pet carrier dimensions. The carrier dimensions often determine what weight of pet you can carry. The main rules are:
- The carrier should be spacious enough for the pet to stand, sit, turn around, and lie down naturally without touching the sides or top. In general, carriers should be a maximum of 17.5 inches long by 12 inches wide by 7.5 inches high (44cm by 30cm by 19cm)
- For cabin travel, the carrier should be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you.
- Your pet carrier should have adequate ventilation so the pet can easily cope with air compression.
- The pet should be fed at least four hours before booking, but not less than four hours before boarding. This isn’t because of any weight concerns but mostly due to bathroom breaks.
- Only one animal is allowed per carrier. Airlines may make exceptions for a female adult with a litter. Most airlines also have a restriction on the total number of pets they can carry per flight. So, make your reservations early.
- Your pet must be securely held in the carrier within the airport and throughout the flight.
- Pets may be allowed only in some seat types and not others. For instance, some airlines may not allow pets on business class and first-class seats. Other airlines may only permit pets in certain n rows such as those marked as “no stowage”.
- Even where the airline doesn’t measure the pet’s weight, they will insist that pet carriers be within the correct limits. If your pet is bigger than the carrier or if the carrier is bigger than the space under the seat, you might be forced to check your pet as cargo.
Do Airlines Actually Weigh Pets?
Most airlines won’t actually weigh your pet. However, they will weigh the carrier with the pet inside. The check-in officials may also ask you to open the carrier so they can look inside. If the pet is too big, then you’ll have to get a bigger carrier. If the carrier is too big, then your pet has to travel as checked luggage.
Pets are members of our families, and flying with them takes just as much careful preparation as flying with kids. Ensure you have the right carrier dimensions depending on your airline’s policies.
Most airlines will consider your pet as your carry-on luggage, so the same weight restrictions apply. You can’t have a pet and separate carry-on luggage.
For most airlines, your carry-on luggage shouldn’t exceed 22 pounds. Some airlines such as Alitalia will only carry only up to 17.6 pounds of carry-on luggage per passenger. Others such as British Airways will accept up to 51 pounds per passenger.
Airlines that allow pets in first class may permit larger and heavier hand luggage. This could be a better option for people with bigger pets or if you’re traveling with more than one pet.
Do Airlines Weigh Dogs in The Cabin?
Generally, airlines won’t weigh your dog in the cabin. They will weigh the dog while inside the carrier at the security check-in. When you arrive in the cabin, the cabin crew will check whether your carrier fits under the seat in front of you.
The cabin crew might also check that your pet is comfortable inside the carrier and the dimensions fit the specifications for that size of the dog. If all is well, then it means your dog most likely fits within the maximum weight, which is typically about 20 pounds.
If you have a bigger dog, enquire whether your airline of choice allows larger carry-on luggage in business and first-class. The other option would be to check your luggage to fly as cargo in the pressurized, temperature-controlled belly of the plane which is in similar conditions as the cabin.
Flying your dog as checked luggage can be on the same flight as you or unaccompanied on a different flight. Be careful since most airlines won’t allow you to book a pet as cargo less than 14 days before departure.
Is It Safe to Fly Pets In-Cabin?
Airlines have been transporting pets for many years and in most countries, commercial airlines must report any pet deaths, injuries, and losses. In the US in 2019, the Department of Transport reports there were 11 pet deaths, 8 injuries, and zero losses coming to 19 total incidents.
The deaths and losses are against a total of 404,556 animals transported by airlines that year. This tallies up to less than 0.005 percent pet casualties. With such low casualty rates, planes are one of the safest modes of transport for pets.
The weight and carrier restrictions in place are to ensure safety and comfort for your pets. Some of the possible dangers of plane travel for pets may include:
This isn’t fatal but may cause the pet to suffer hysteria. For example, dogs may bark throughout the trip and continuously bang themselves against their carrier.
The cabin environment and the compressed air isn’t suitable for some birds and animals. For example, short-nosed dogs like pugs may have trouble breathing while in flight.
The compressed conditions and differences in atmospheric pressure can confuse the animal.
Engine noises can be disconcerting for most animals. The loud noises combined with strange surroundings may scare the animal.
Fluctuating temperatures can cause discomfort and illness to animals.