You might find yourself having to fly with your pet and this can be a worrying enterprise. Pets can be distressed and traumatised by flying in the hold of an aircraft. Occasionally, despite the best efforts of all concerned, pets have died in transit. You would probably prefer your pet to fly in the passenger cabin where you can keep an eye on them, but do airlines allow this?
Well yes and no! The situation is predictably confusing.
Airlines are a law unto themselves when it comes to pets. The result is that each airline establishes its own rules and these vary dramatically.
Some airlines will allow cats and small dogs in the cabin as long as they are secured in appropriate carriers which will fit under the seat. But the size of pet that is permitted in the cabin is different with each airline! Whilst some companies set a weight limit, others will permit any dog to travel as long as it fits in a carrier of the specified size.
A Question of Size
Other airlines will welcome rodents and birds as well as cats and dogs whilst other won't allow pets in the cabin at all. If you have a medium sized or large dog, then you will almost certainly find yourself out of luck unless that pet is an assistance animal such as a guide dog. Even then you could run into difficulty.
Trouble with Assistance Dogs
EasyJet, for instance, has hit the headlines on several occasions for its poor handling of passengers travelling with assistance dogs. In 2011 staff refused to allow a guide dog on board a flight unless the passenger could provide documentation to prove that it was a guide dog. Even though the passenger concerned was quite clearly blind! On another occasion, Easyjet staff made an error which resulted in a guide dog being forcibly removed from its owner on landing, leaving her unable to negotiate the airport!
Easyjet do seem to have had more than their fair share of pet related scandals but this probably not the case. The press do rather revel in exposing the errors of low cost carriers and so it is likely that British Airways have committed a similar number of sins but without the press crawling all over them.
The long and short of it is that if you are travelling with your pet you will have to carefully examine the rules of the airline you are flying with. You should also make doubly sure that you have every piece of documentation that the airline requires or which is required by law. Then, if the worst happens and your pet is refused, you will at least be able to claim compensation. Not that the money would be any compensation at all if your trip has been ruined.
What Will You Pay?
You won't be surprised to hear that the charges for travelling with your pet differ between airlines. You can't buy a seat for your pet, whatever animal it is, and you may have to sit in a designated row on the plane. Assistance dogs are generally carried free - if the airline accepts that your dog is an assistance dog in the first place.
Paying the Price
If you are a frequent flyer, then travelling with your pets can get very expensive. Take Sharon Osbourne, for instance. Her work commitments mean that she is flying to and from America on a weekly basis and her two Pomeranians travel with her in First Class. This indulgence is costing an estimated £230, 000 per year. It might be cheaper to invest in her own plane!