How to Navigate the Airport with a Dog

The holiday season is fast-approaching, which means most of us will be jetting off to visit family in far-flung parts of the country. This can be a stressful time for air travel regardless of where you’re going, but it can also be stressful to leave a loving dog at home. While you might not think of it, Fido can easily accompany you. All it takes is a bit of planning, research, and understanding your dog’s limits.

Below, we’ve outlined a few expert tips on navigating the airport with your dog. From finding pet relief stations to understanding your airline’s pet policies, you’ll want to research every aspect of travel. This article is a great place to start your search.

Know Your Airport

Getting around airports with a dog is far less stressful when you know what to expect. If you know your departing and arrival airports, spend some time looking at their maps. Traveling with Fido require knowing where they can use the bathroom and stretch, but some airports are not as pet-friendly as others. For example, Phoenix Sky Harbor has nine pet relief stations – one inside each terminal and several scattered around the airport building. This allows pet parents the ability to let animals out of their cages for a few moments, regardless of where their boarding gate is. Other airports, like LaGuardia in New York City, have no indoor pet relief stations, which can be very stressful if security lines are long.

While you might not consider it, checking your arrival airport’s map will be important. It can take a long time to get from the airplane to your outer-airport transportation, and you’ll want to give Fido a break along the way.

Know Your Airline

While not technically part of “navigating the airport with a dog,” knowing your airline’s pet policy is critical to a safe and smooth trip. Airline pet travel policies don’t vary much from one to the other, but it helps to check your preferred carrier before buying your ticket. Some airlines, for example, only allow for in-cabin pet transport, while others have more robust systems with several options. If you have a larger dog, you’ll want to research airlines that have great cargo options. If you have a smaller dog, you’ll likely want to research who has the lowest pet fee.

In all cases, your dog will not be able to leave its carrier or crate while in transit. Unless you are traveling with a service animal, they will need fit inside a carrier that can easily slide under the seat in front of you. This makes knowing your airport very important – you’ll want to let Fido stretch and use the bathroom before boarding.

The exact seat height will depend on your aircraft and airline, so you’ll need to plan your pet carrier purchase accordingly. If your pet is larger than the maximum pound and height measurements, they will fly in the cargo hold of the airplane as either checked baggage (on the same flight as you) or as cargo (shipped separately). Research your airline options to find which works best for you and your furry friend.

Know Your Dog

The most important part of flying with your dog is understanding the animal’s limits. This doesn’t necessarily factor in your dog’s size and weight, though those are important considerations. Instead, you should think long and hard about how your dog will respond to the stress of flying. Air travel can be stressful for humans, but for dogs who can’t understand what’s happening, it can warrant full panic.

If you think your dog is mentally and physically fit to fly, you’ll also want to make sure their physical traits are conducive to air travel. Snub-nosed dogs, like pugs and bulldogs, are not typically allowed to fly, as their shortened noses can pose a threat to safety. Additionally, smaller dogs (typically < 20 lbs) can fly with you in the cabin, but larger animals will need to travel in the plane’s cargo hold. Look for airlines whose pet policies allow for multiple types of pet travel.