Air travel for pets can be difficult. Unless absolutely necessary, try not to ship pets by air as there are many risks. Most pets must travel in the cargo hold. That means they can face risks such as extreme temperatures (too hot or too cold), improper handling, or ventilation issues.
Instead of flying your pet, consider driving to your destination. Pet-sitting and boarding services are other alternatives. For people who are relocating, try using a pet transport company that specializes in moving pets. If you must fly your pet:
Call the airline for pet policies.
Ask if your small pet can fly in the passenger cabin with you. Find out the types of carrier you can use to transport your pet; any restrictions they have on pets they'll transport; and any documentation they will require from you. A couple of weeks before your flight, re-check with the airline to make sure that all is in order.
Check with your vet.
Some animals should not fly due to health or physical reasons. For example, flat-faced breeds such as Pekingese or Pugs can have respiratory issues that may be aggravated by flying.
Do not tranquilize your pet unless advised to do so by your veterinarian.
Fly direct and travel on the same flight as your pet.
Choose direct flights to your destination to minimize the amount of time your pet has to travel on the plane.
Always travel on the same flight as your pet as well. Although you can't visit him in the cargo hold, at least you may be able to monitor him being loaded, and immediately pick him up after the flight. If the flight is delayed, ask that your pet be unloaded but don't leave him unprotected outside.
Finally, ask a flight attendant to notify the pilot(s) that there is a pet on board.
Try to avoid busy travel times.
When times are busy, "cargo", including pets, may be more likely to be mishandled. Note that some airlines do not permit pets during peak travel times such as the Christmas holidays.
Avoid flights during the hottest or coldest parts of the day.
In the summer, avoid mid-afternoon flights and try to book early morning or late evening flights. In the winter, look for afternoon flights.
Use airline approved kennels.
Print the words LIVE ANIMAL in large letters on the tops and sides of the crate. Attach a food and water dish inside the crate so that they can be filled without opening the door (you might want to freeze the container of water before arrival so that it doesn't spill when the airline personnel loads your pet). Attach a label to the kennel with your contact information.
Prepare your pet for the flight.
Be sure your pet is comfortable using a crate and is okay with loud noises. Clip his nails to prevent them from catching on the kennel if he scratches at it. Feed your pet a small meal 3 or 4 hours before the flight. Make sure he wears a collar with tags and up-to-date contact information. Include temporary contact information where you can be reached while you're traveling (or leave a friend's contact information).
Find out what documentation you need for your pet at your destination. Bring along your pet's vaccination records and health certificate (your vet can issue you one - normally they have to be within 10 days of travel). Carry a recent photo of your pet and a first aid kit as well.
Upon arrival, immediately pick up your pet and check him over.
Examine your pet carefully when you arrive. If you notice that he is feeling ill or has been injured, get him to a veterinarian immediately.