Shipping a pet in cargo can be a heart-wrenching experience. Dropping a furry friend off at a cargo facility several hours before a flight can feel like abandonment—especially if you don’t plan to meet him on the other side. However, thousands of pet owners and shelters safely ship their animals every month, and airlines that offer pet cargo transportation have found ways to increase animal safety and comfort during the entire travel process. To help pet owners understand what’s available, we’ve picked three of the best airlines to ship pets in cargo. Here is what sets them and their pet cargo service apart from the rest of the airline industry.
Best Airlines for Shipping Pets in Cargo
Delta Airlines—Delta Cargo provides services for both pets and their owners. The airline has specially-trained ground handlers to offer pets personalized care during every leg of their journey. This includes the implementation of temperature-controlled vans and holding areas, as well as kenneling services to guarantee animals are exercised and well-fed in the event of an overnight stay. What we really like about Delta Cargo, however, is their GPS On-Demand tracking program. The program allows pet parents to monitor their animals throughout the journey in real-time. The extra layer of reliability provides peace of mind for pet owners worldwide. It is available for an additional $25 and can be applied to shipments originating in select cities (ATL, CVG, DTW, LAX, LGA, MCI, MEM, MSP, SEA, SFO, SLC, STL, and TPA).
Virgin Atlantic—Virgin Atlantic approaches pet cargo travel differently from their competitors. Per the airline’s pet policy, only service animals can fly within the cabin. All other pets must travel in the cargo hold. However, this is the only airline we’ve found to prioritize same-flight cargo shipments. This means that passengers can be on the same flight as their pets in cargo. Nevertheless, as with all cargo and checked baggage options, space is limited. The airline recommends contacting the Virgin Cargo department prior to booking your own ticket. However, this is a safe and easy way to bring a pet along while traveling. Of course, pets can be shipped individually and will receive the best care the airline can provide. As an added bonus, pet parents will also earn additional miles when they fly with their animals.
Alaska Airlines—Alaska Airlines is one of the most celebrated airlines in the pet parent community. Passengers can get a free pet health examination and discounted health certificate at Banfield Pet Hospitals (located in PetSmart retail stores), thus eliminating the additional costs required to ship an animal. The real reason Alaska Air is on our list of best airlines to ship pets is because of their Fur-st Class program. This program educates each member of their team in the basics of animal care—whether your animal is flying in the cabin or in cargo. Shipping a pet with Alaska Airlines guarantees some of the best in-flight care available. To that point, reporting from Quartz identifies Alaska Airlines as the safest option for pet travel. In 2016, they transported the most pets of any airline: 112,281. Of those hundreds of thousands, only two suffered fatalities. This means an average of 0.27 incidents per 10,000 animals—an impressive number when compared to Hawaiian Airlines’ 3.99 incidents per 10,000 pets.