Trying to decide the best way to travel with your pet? We provide detailed information about Airline Policies including dogs in checked baggage and cargo travel. This includes specific programs and policies available from each carrier. This airline policy resource will help guide you through the nitty-gritty details for each airline. You can also check out our Airport Guide to see if there are additional travel restrictions placed on pets at your travel destination.
Fewer airlines are offering checked baggage for pet travel, but many passengers flying out of major airports still have both options available to them. With this in mind, we also wanted to offer some general advice for people who are trying to make the best choice between checked baggage and cargo for their dog or other pets.
Pet Safety for Dogs in Checked Baggage
This is the most compelling factor for many pet owners, and traveling in cargo is widely considered a safer option overall. To be clear, pets end up traveling in the cargo hold, regardless of whether they are traveling as cargo or checked baggage. The difference is in the holding and shipping protocols that are used. Pets traveling as checked baggage must be on the same flight as the accompanying passenger. Delays can meet your pet is waiting on the tarmac with the rest of the checked baggage.
So long as you and the airline follow all the relevant procedures, healthy animals should be fine. Nevertheless, some airlines have determined the logistics and risks that come with pets traveling as checked baggage were simply too high. In contrast, the tracking system and pet care services available with cargo travel tend to be more reliable and more flexible to your pet’s needs. It can be difficult for pet owners to drop their animal off at the airport cargo center long before the flight, but this route is a safer bet to guarantee your animal doesn’t suffer unnecessarily.
Pet Travel Costs
This is probably the most common reason to travel with dogs in checked baggage. Checked baggage fees for pets are typically around $200 and is viewed as an add-on service to the passenger ticket. To fly a pet as cargo, the ticket price is more likely to resemble that of a human passenger with dynamic pricing. In fact, you’ll likely be able to travel for less than your pet. Pet travel fares can surpass $1,000.
Again, the upside with cargo travel is pet safety and flexibility. Your pet should receive more direct attention in designated pet care areas. They won’t need to be sent out to the tarmac until the last minute, and if there is a long delay they can be sent back to the cargo pet care center.
Travel and Schedule Planning
The different options can be more or less convenient depending on the passenger’s travel plans. Flying a pet in cargo means the animal can fly when it’s safest for them, not when it’s convenient or mandated by the passenger’s itinerary. On the other hand, this means additional transportation may need to be arranged for the pet to be dropped off and picked up at the airport. In this sense, if it’s just you and your pet, the checked baggage option will likely be a more convenient option for your travel schedule.
Despite the fact that cargo travel is marginally safer, if you have an animal that’s healthy and has done well with travel in the past, if you want a pet to go on this adventure with you, and if you’re working within a tight travel budget, dogs in checked baggage may be the right choice after all.