So you’re planning a trip via airplane and you’re wondering how your pet should accompany you. The cargo hold has more room, but you’d be able to stay with your pet throughout the duration of your travel if she rides in-cabin with you.
As discussed in yesterday’s post, there are limits on which pets are capable of flying in-cabin, so this debate is really only applicable for people who have pets small enough to have the option of riding in-cabin. If your pet is not small enough to comfortably fit in a carrier which can be stowed under the seat of an airplane, she will have to ride as cargo.
Here’s the lowdown on how pets ride in-cabin or as cargo, and some pros and cons of each option.
Because of the size restrictions imposed by airlines, very few pets are capable of riding in-cabin on planes. These pets are typically toy dogs or small cats, who must be small enough to comfortably fit in a carrier that can be stowed under the seat of an airplane. Kennels for in-cabin riding can be either hard-sided crates or soft-sided carriers. Many airlines also place a limit on how many pets can ride in-cabin per flight, and typically only one in-cabin pet per customer is allowed.
- For pets/owners with separation anxiety, staying together throughout travel can reduce stress
- No time spent waiting on the tarmac to be loaded into the cargo hold
- Ideal for small pets, such as rodents and reptiles, who don’t need much space
- All of the stimuli (sights, smells, sounds) of a flight full of humans might overwhelm pets who are already stressed out by travel
- A very small carrier is required, which can be uncomfortable for any pet on the border of needing a larger size
- Smells, sounds, and allergens produced by pets might annoy other passengers
The majority of pets traveling by air will ride as cargo. Most flights which accept pets have cargo holds which are temperature-controlled and pressurized, so the environment your pet experiences in the cargo hold is essentially the same as the one you experience in-cabin. Typically, pets ride in darkness when they travel in the cargo hold, which makes the experience less stressful and encourages pets to sleep during the flight. Riding as cargo requires an airline-approved crate, such as the Petmate Sky Kennel, which has ventilation holes on all sides and which has water bowls attached.
The most stressful part of riding as cargo for most pets is the time spent between the airport and the airplane. Pet-friendly airlines (such as United, KLM, and Lufthansa) have procedures in place to minimize this time, making sure that pets are the last items loaded onto the plane and the first items taken off upon landing. Additionally, these airlines use trained pet handling professionals who know how to keep pets safe and happy during the transition from airport to cargo hold.
- Less stressful for pets and other passengers who might not want to share their flight with pets
- More comfortable for pets, as they are allowed to have larger crates in which they can stretch out and move around
- If flying with a pet-friendly airline, handlers are trained professionals who know what is best for pets. You may love your pet, but that doesn’t make you an expert on her safety!
- Owners might be anxious if they cannot see their pet at all times throughout travel
- Might be stressful for pets/owners with separation anxiety
- If not flying with a pet-friendly airline, time spent waiting to be loaded onto the plane can be stressful or dangerous for certain pets, especially in the summertime
Though each option has its pros and cons, PetRelocation always recommend that pets fly in the cargo hold, even when the option of riding in-cabin exists. The bottom line is that riding as cargo is generally safer and less stressful for pets and people. For more information about this debate, check out these PetRelocation posts about Cabin v. Cargo and dispelling Pet Cargo Myths.
Which option would you choose when traveling with pets? What do you like or dislike about the options presented here? Let us know in the comments below.