Travel Dog Blog, Air Travel

If I leave Maggie for more than a few days she gets ill.  On one occasion she almost died—I’m not exaggerating.  So Maggie has a friend that stays with her in Perfect for long weekends, but any longer than three days, she comes with us.

Maggie first flew when she was just 6 weeks old and then didn’t get on an airplane again until she was 5.  In between that period, Maggie was never in a carrier.  I knew that we were headed for an adventure to Colorado in about six months so had time to slowly get her used to her new carrier.  After much research I bought the Sherpa bag from PetSmart.  I slowly introduced her to it by just leaving it in the family room, unzipping it after a few weeks, leaving treats around it and then in it and we were ready to fly!

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Maggie’s first trip in 2004

Maggie’s now 13 and has flown all over the country but has never flown as a “checked bag” since she is small enough to be my “carry on”.    Plus we have never flown International.  And I want to emphasize that these are my experiences and might not be representative of the typical flight.  With that disclaimer, here’s what I have learned from numerous flights.

It’s not cheap. Maggie is small enough that she can fly under the seat as my carry on baggage.  But I still have to pay for her.  Our most recent trip was on United and it was $125 each way.  Expensive but compared to the cost of boarding and the subsequent vet bills–economical.  Here’s a list of airlines that allow pets from

Get a roller board dog bag.  I started with the Sherpa bag but now use a roller bag that I got at Target for $39.  What a deal—but, it’s no longer available.  The Sherpa bag is sturdier but carrying my 13 pound pooch in the big airports wears me out.  The roller bag is also a little unbalanced and might just fall over–which might really upset Maggie.  Above all, the carrier has to fit under the airline seat. 

Do you really need that Health Certificate?   There is conflicting info on needing a health certificate.  United’s in-cabin website does not mention needing a health certificate but lists United as requiring a 30-day health certificate. 

I paid the $40 or more for that precious certificate for the first few years of travel with Maggie.  It’s only good for two weeks so a three week trip would require a health certificate on each end.  I have NEVER been asked for this certificate.  NEVER.  The last time I got one was last year because we were flying a different airline and I didn’t want to take a chance.  Again, they did not ask. 

I’m not advising you either way on getting a health certificate; I’m just relating my experience.  I’d hate to have you miss a flight because of my bad guidance.  If I was flying on an airline that I was not familiar with, I might get the health certificate.

Get an Aisle Seat. When you book your travel, try to get an aisle seat.  Your carrier is going to take up the floor space under the seat in front of you.  This will give you very little room for your legs.  On one flight I couldn’t get the carrier stowed under the aisle seat due to a little box attached to each aisle seat for the TV so I had to switch seats with a window person.  That only happened one time and recently the airline advised us of the possibility.

You can NOT sit in an exit row.  I had flown with Maggie in the exit rows many times because there is more leg room and then one of the flight attendants on a particular flight made us move.  Fortunately, we traded with Terry.  And he was in first class!  Yippee for Maggie and me! 

If you do fly first class, do not get a bulk head seat.  No place to put the carrier.

Things to carry:  Previously I carried a collapsible water bowl but they leak during a long flight.  Now I carry a small Tupperware bowl and lid along with medication, paper towels and wet ones, a bag of treats, short leash, collar with ID, harness, and a small fleece blanket.  Also take health records and immunization certificates, dog license, and rabies tag. 

Buy a bottle of water. I always buy a bottle of water when I get through security.  While the flight attendants will give me a cup of water for Maggie, I’ve been stuck on the runway waiting, waiting, waiting….  Just buy the over-priced bottle.

You will get busted. Airports do not let your precious pooch walk freely.  You will see people walking their dog but that’s just because they haven’t been busted yet.  They are supposed to be in their carrier, zipped up, at all times—both on the plane and in the airport.   In all of our travels, Houston airport has been the strictest.  I had a police officer threaten to give me a ticket. 

So, having said all that, yes, I do let her out.  And put her back in if I get busted.  Flights are long.  And if an airport has a place to walk the dog, it’s outside of security.  We usually don’t have time to get out there and back before our next flight.  Maggie is great about not needing to use the facilities.  She’s never had an accident and our flights to ND take eight hours.   Again, that’s my own personal opinion.  You should probably follow the airport and airlines rules. 

I do not open the carrier on the plane unless I am giving her water or to stick my hand in to calm her down.  That’s it.  Gotta respect some rules!

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This was from our last flight. We’re at the Bismark Airport. Didn’t get busted there but a TSA agent did stop us in Houston. Smaller airports are always friendlier!

Going through security is easy.  Take your pet out of the carrier, put the carrier on the belt, and carry her through the scanner.  I’ve not had to go through the full-body scanner machine when carrying Maggie.  But they do swab my hands and do a little test just in case Maggie is actually a small bomb. 

Calmness. I give Maggie a wee bit of Xanax before going to the airport.  She doesn’t seem to mind flying but she gets impatient on the runway.  And she will try to dig out of the bag–which startles the person sitting in the seat above her. 

I’ve also read that you should not feed or water your dog before flights.  But we just follow our regular routine. 

So, if you have any questions, let me know.  Like I said, these are my opinions and perhaps I’m crazy!  Only time will tell.

Like I said last week, Thursday will be our Travel Dog Blog day. And then I posted one on Monday–but it was too good of a trip to hold until next week.  Happy Travels!





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