Traveling with your pet is sometimes necessary, but the process of transporting an animal in an airplane can be taxing and slightly risky. Your pet must be healthy and up-to-date on all required vaccinations. Moreover, the task of finding a flight with an airline that takes animals on board is challenging.

Small animals may be permitted to ride in the cabin of the airplane, as long as their container fits under the seat. However, most pets travel in crates loaded into the luggage compartment. While generally safe, traveling in the cargo hold of an airplane can be dangerous for your pet, if you fail to take the proper precautions.

Luggage Compartment Conditions

According to, luggage compartments are usually pressurized and heated on most major airlines that take pets as cargo. This climate-control makes the trip more comfortable for animals flying at high altitudes. The flight itself is typically secure for animals. According to Dog Law, most problems actually occur while the plane is on the ground.

Dangers on the Ground

Unfortunately, a lot can go wrong for your pet from the time you check it in with baggage handlers to the time that your flight touches down at its final destination. The animal may be sent to the wrong place due to a routing error. And being separated from your pet may be problematic, depending on its food and water supply as well as the climate conditions of its holding facility.

According to Dog Law, weather conditions also pose a significant threat to pets traveling as cargo. Animals may be left in extreme heat, cold or rain while handlers transport and load them into airplanes form the tarmac. Even after loading, pets may sit in sweltering or frigid conditions until the airplane takes off and the climate control kicks in. Finally, there's also the chance that your pet's kennel may get tipped, crushed or opened accidentally during transport, loading or unloading.

Dangers in the Sky

According to, the flight itself is generally the least dangerous part of the trip for your pet. In most cases, the animals simply ride in their crates, waiting to land. However, two major risks exist during this stage of the journey. First, an unexpected change or malfunction in the temperature and pressure control may subject your pet to harsh and even deadly conditions. Secondly, the animal may escape from its kennel. There's a small chance that the transport container might be damaged during loading or as the contents of the airplane cargo bay shift, leading to the accidental breaking or opening of the container.

Booking Considerations

Book a nonstop flight, if at all possible, to minimize the amount of time your pet spends on the tarmac and in loading areas. If you must take a connection, book your trip with ample time between flights to make sure that baggage handlers can get your pet to the next plane and check on its well-being. Avoid traveling with you pet during peak seasons, such as holidays and during extremely hot or cold weather. Consider getting pet travel insurance from the airline or a third-party provider just in case something happens.

Additional Precautions

Purchase a quality travel kennel for your pet. Airlines require that the crate be International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved. It needs to be big enough for the animal to stand up, lie down and turn around comfortably. It must also have multiple ventilation slots and a clip-on water and food tray. Securely attach a highly-visible note on the outside of the cage listing your pet's name, your name, your flight itinerary and contact information.

Outfit the animal with a collar and identifications tags. Display "Live Animals" and "This End Up" stickers on the kennel. Most airlines provide these. Check with airline personnel and flight attendants prior to boarding and take-off to inform them that you have a pet traveling in the luggage compartment. Politely ask them to confirm with baggage handlers and pilots that your pet is on board and secure before taking your seat.