Traveling with pets can be a stressful experience, both for you and for them. While recently, some airlines have become more pet-friendly (with some airlines even exclusively serving pets), most will only allow very small pets to travel in the cabin with you and will even limit the number of those on a single flight. Currently, the most common method of traveling with pets involves shipping them as cargo, where they travel with the luggage. While dozens of airlines offer the possibility of shipping pets as cargo, four major carriers, both U.S. and international, make specific accommodations for your pets.
Delta Airlines has climate-controlled holding areas for animals in its four major travel cities in the U.S. (Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas and Salt Lake City). You must book the travel in advance (and pay for it, as there are extra charges); you can book the flight between 30 and three days in advance for international flights, and between seven days and 24 hours for domestic U.S. flights. The animals fly in cargo and are delivered to Delta Cargo facilities within an hour after arrival. Note that Delta only accepts mammals and birds that are personal pets, and excludes any primates from cargo shipping.
American Airlines has shipped animals for over 50 years and boasts of transporting thousands of animals in the company’s lifetime. Those who plan to travel with their pet can contact the airline's Live Animal Desk in advance of departure and, subsequently, the Passenger Reservations Center to provide specific instructions for handlers, ensuring your animal’s comfort and safety as he travels in cargo. American does have certain restrictions on which animals they will ship and complies with endangered species guidelines.
Continental Airlines has a special copyrighted program called PetSafe. It is designed to set owners’ minds at ease while providing a stress-free journey for animals traveling in cargo. With this in mind, Continental lets owners track their animals online throughout their trip while offering a 24-hour Live Animal Desk and the possibility of shipping your pet as Quickpack. Quickpack allows you to book your pet on a flight with shorter-than-usual notice, as well as allowing you to pick up your pet more quickly after the flight. The airline even lets you earn bonus miles for shipping your pet. If you are taking a connecting flight through a hot area, where temperatures are over 85 degrees Fahrenheit, Continental guarantees personal handlers will transport your animal from one airplane to the other in climate-controlled vehicles.
British Airways does not allow animals of any size inside its cabin, partially due to U.K. animal regulations: animals traveling in the U.K. must always be treated as cargo. British Airways participates in a Pet Travel Scheme, overseen by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, which allows some animals which meet their set of guidelines to bypass the usually mandatory six-month quarantine on entering the U.K. British Airways staff can help you evaluate if your animal qualifies for this program.
Many other airlines offer the opportunity to ship your pet as cargo; Pet Travel is an excellent resource to find out which companies do and do not allow this, and the regulations for those that do.