Flying With Pets: Cabin Versus Cargo Hold
Mon, April 19, 2021

Flying With Pets: Cabin Versus Cargo Hold


Thinking of flying with your pet? This can be costly and complicated as you need to choose whether you want to put your dog, cat, or any other animal in the cargo or in the cabin, said Delaney Ross of National Geographic, an American pay television network and flagship channel. Some aircrafts have a pressurized cargo hold that has the same conditions as the cabin where you will be sitting. What makes air transport a bit harder is that you will need to book your tickets in advance— consider the limited number of spaces— and paying a fee determined by your airline.

People’s Perceptions of Animals’ Safety and Security During Air Transport

Pet Life Today, a website that offers expert, researched information on pets, surveyed nearly 1,000 respondents about the ethics and etiquettes of flying with pets, revealing that 47.6% of cat owners and 44.3% of dog owners were traveling with their pets on planes because they needed to move/relocate.

The owners also cited “just wanted to bring my pet with me” (23.9% of cat owners and 26.2% of dog owners), “traveling for a long period” (19% and 19.7%), “couldn’t find a sitter at home” (15.9% and 16.4%), “emotional support/service animal” (9.5% and 11.5%), and “shipped from breeder/previous owner” (12.7% and 11.5%).

Among cat and dog owners they would not feel comfortable putting their pet’s carrier below the seat (81.2% and 61%, respectively), in the cargo (27.6% and 27.1%), on the lap (62.9% for both), and sitting on the cabin floor (40.2% and 56.1%).

70.3 % of respondents said they would fly with their pet again while 21.7 had difficulty with their airline when bringing their pet on a plane. Both cat owners (95.1%) and dog owners (97.4%) were satisfied with their pet’s experience in the cabin. However, both groups (51.9% of cat owners and 54.1% of dog owners) were not that satisfied with their pet’s experience in the cargo.

When asked about the flight durations of which pet owners would be comfortable bringing their pets, 285 of cat owners and 28.4% of dog owners said one to two hours while others answered “three to five hours” (43.2% of cat owners and 39.3% of dog owners). However, 13.8% of cat owners and 14.7% of dog owners said they would never be comfortable bringing their pets.

When asked why they would not take their pets on planes, cat and dog owners answered “scared for their safety” (69% and 64.8%, respectively), “they would not behave” (53.4% and 46.5%), cost (22.4% and 32.4%), “they’re too young or old” (20.7% and 19.7%), and other (13.8% and 23.9%). Among pet owners, the concerns about flying with pets were sounds (48% versus 62.2% of non-pet owners), passenger’s safety (44.8% versus 51%), smell (39.2% versus 61.2%), allergies (37% versus 55.1%), and shedding/hair (25.1% and 44.4%).  

The respondents also said they would be comfortable with a service or support dog (92.2%), small dog that fits in a carrier beneath the seat (87.4%), service or support cat (84.5%), cat that fits in a carrier beneath the seat (81.6%) in the cabin. Other answers given by the participants were hypoallergenic breed of dog (77.7%), hypoallergenic breed of cat (75.4%), and large dog that sits on the floor (66.9%).  



What Should I Know Before Flying With My Pet?

How do you think your dog or cat will react when it is enclosed in a pressurized aluminum tube? Take into account the duration of your trip and the facilities that will be available when you arrive at your destination, stated Amy Tokic, editor of, quoted Christopher Elliott of USA Today, an American middle-market newspaper. 

Does your pet get stressed when exposed to new environments during travel? “If your dog loves to go in the car or fly on the plane without causing them to be stressed, then bring them along,” affirmed Sara Ochoa, a small animal and exotic veterinarian and a veterinary consultant for If you think traveling and being in a new location will stress your pet, it is advisable to keep it at home.



Cabin Versus Cargo? Which One Should I Choose?

The Humane Society of the United States, the country’s most effective animal protection organization, recommended choosing the cabin when possible when flying with your pet. Check with your local airlines as most will allow you to take a cat or small dog in the cabin for a fee. If you are bringing your dog with you, ensure that it meets the size requirements.

When contacting the airline, ask the representative if they have a special health and immunization requirements or require a specific type of carrier. Most airlines accept hard-sided carriers or soft-sided carriers; however, only certain brands of the latter are acceptable to some airlines. Ask the representative if the airline has any restrictions on transporting your pet in the cargo hold.

What Are The Risks of Flying My Pet In the Cargo Hold?

Most animals in the cargo hold are fine, but some are killed, injured, or lost on commercial flights ever year. Poor ventilation, rough handling, and excessively hot or cold temperatures are the causes of these incidents. If you really need to fly your pet in the cargo hold, it is recommended to use direct flights so that you will avoid mistakes that occur during airline transfers.  Direct flights also prevent possible delays in getting your pet off the plane. Request the airline if you can watch your pet being loaded and unloaded from the cargo hold.

Avoid feeding your pet four to six hours prior to the trip. It is better to provide it with small amounts of water. If possible, consider placing ice cubes in the water tray attached inside its crate or kennel. It is not recommended to fill your pet’s water bowl as it can spill and cause discomfort. Have a recent photograph of your pet in case it is lost during the flight, making it easier for employees to search the aircraft more efficiently.

Upon arriving at your destination, open the carrier as soon as you are in a safe place. Examine your pet to see if there is anything wrong. If you feel that your pet feels unwell, take it to a veterinarian right away and get the results of the examination in writing, which should also include the date and time.  



Flying with a pet can be a stressful or extraordinary experience. New environments may stress your pet, and there is also the possibility of it being lost during transport. Owners should assess the pros and cons of air transport before booking a flight.