Flying With Fido? Warnings on Pet Air Travel

Taking your pet on a plane can be costly and sometimes dangerous.

ByABC News
August 12, 2008, 4:40 PM

Aug. 13, 2008 — -- I have a friend who's just crazy about his beagle Bobo. Talk about "best friends" -- he literally won't go anywhere without that pup. Except on a plane.

"I could never do that to my dog," he said. "I'd be scared to death for him."

He's right to be at least a little worried: According to Dept. of Transportation statistics, in the first six months of this year, 17 pets died while being transported as cargo.

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OK, it's not a vast number when you consider that these statistics are gleaned from 20 domestic airlines flying tens of thousands of miles each day, but if it's your pet that's the statistic well, I can see why my friend is so cautious with Bobo.

Then there's the financial angle. Do you know what it costs to fly a pet? Let's break it down into cabin and cargo.

Cabin pets are the pampered pooches: they sit where you sit. Well, sort of -- they have to fit (along with their carrying case) under the seat in front of you. So, cabin pets typically must weigh 15 pounds or less. Prices range from $25 one way on Go! Airlines to $150 one way on Delta. And you have to make a reservation; airlines only allow a certain number of pets in a cabin. Oh, and trying to hide little Fifi in your purse is not an option.

Transporting a pet as cargo (or as the airlines prefer to put it, as "checked baggage") can take a ferocious bite out of your budget. At the moment, the biggest dog in the biggest carrier will cost you $359 one way on Northwest for a total of $718 roundtrip.Think about it -- that could be much more than your own ticket.

Note that some airlines are "pet free": Southwest, for instance, won't carry animals at all (with the exception of assistance animals). And the "pet transport" rules of other airlines often have exceptions. Carriers like Delta, for example, won't carry pets as cargo during the hot summer months. And other airlines, like United, will carry pets as cargo in the summer, but not short-nosed dogs like pugs or boxers or Boston Terriers.