This week I took a trip from Seattle to New Mexico with my cat, Roo. She is going to live with my mom before we head off on our adventure, and I thought I had planned everything perfectly:
- Food and water with containers in my backpack
- A checkup and health certificate from Roo’s vet
- The appropriate carryon carrier for a pet
When I got to the airport I went to the desk to pay Roo’s fare. (If you were not aware, you still have to pay for airfare if you take your pet with you as your “carryon” luggage. The last time I paid $75 for a domestic flight, and this time it was $100. I’ve read that it can go as high as $300).
My ticket was booked through Alaska Airlines, though my connection from Dallas to Midland, TX was with American Eagle. Alaska doesn’t fly to Midland. The agent told me that the airlines no longer have reciprocal agreements with each other in the matter of pets and it was likely that I would have to pay another pet fee to American Airlines when I got to Dallas.
The agent told me I was “lucky” that my pet was traveling with me, because if she were in cargo I would have to go to baggage claim in Dallas, retrieve her, and then check her in again to American’s cargo before going through security again and boarding my next flight.
She told me this was a recent move by the airlines to make extra money since the airlines are in such dire straits. She indicated that all of the airlines were doing this, though I have found it hard to find documentation online. I found the policy on Alaska Airline’s website.
In my case, I just threw my jacket over the carrier as I was boarding at my connection and didn’t ask for clarification on the policy. No one stopped me, and Roo and I arrived safely in Midland without spending the extra $100. Of course you can’t try this method if your pet is in cargo.
I found out a few other things while doing research for this article:
- Many airlines only allow 2-4 animals in the cabin per flight
- Some airlines require that in-cabin pets be seated at the window
- Most airlines accept a health certificate from a vet within the last 30 days, but some require it within 10 depending on destination
- When you take your pet through security you will not be allowed to keep a harness or leash on them – you have to carry them through with you. If you are traveling alone with a cat this can be feat of strength, especially if the jerk in front of you who left his computer in his bag goes through extended screening while you wait for the pet carrier to come through.
The main thing to be aware of is that airlines are changing their policies all the time. What worked for you when traveling a year ago may not be the same today, so please be sure to check with your airline before you go.
PS – Roo is doing fine in her new home and adjusting to the resident cat, Squeaky. I did a lot of research to make this a smooth transfer, so if you need advice on putting two cats together just let me know.