When you own or operate a private aircraft, you can bring the entire family along on trips – including fido, your tabby or other pet. As long as you employ some common sense and follow some of these simple tips, you can make sure that everyone stays safe and has fun – let’s get started!
1) Take the Pet to the Vet for a Checkup
First things first – before taking your pet up in a private aircraft, do a thorough check up with the vet to ensure that everything is in order. Make an appointment with a veterinarian at least a month before departure to obtain a health certificate stating all vaccinations are up to date. Also, this gives you a chance to ask any relevant questions, such as medication usage, health conditions and the amount of food and water to provide.
2) Consider Your Pet’s Age
The United States Department of Agriculture requires all pets being transported by commercial plane to be at least eight weeks old and weaned at least five days prior to flying. While this isn’t a legal requirement for general aviators, it’s still a good rule to adhere to. You should also consider your older pet’s ability to handle the stress of air travel.
3) Make Sure Your Pet is Welcome at Your Destination
No matter where you’re going, when staying overnight at a destination, make sure your hotel or other lodging allows pets. You may not be able to get a refund on your accommodations should you arrive and find out that your pet can’t stay, so make sure to check and recheck on the pet policy to ensure everyone is welcome.
4) Give Your Pet Plenty of Pre-Flight Exercise
It’s a good idea to give your pet exercise before boarding the plane. This will tire the pet out and help them avoid restlessness throughout the flight. Even if it’s just a short walk around the airport parking lot, this will help keep your pet calm and let them go to the bathroom prior to take off.
5) Pack Your Pet’s Favorite Items
When traveling to far-off destinations with your pet, it’s helpful to bring along some of their favorite or familiar items that they can find comfort in. Whether it’s a bed, blanket, stuffed animal or chew toy, these items will help soothe their anxiety and keep them happy throughout the duration of the flight.
6) Give Pets Sedatives/Tranquilizers on a Case-by-Case Basis
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “It is recommended that you DO NOT give tranquilizers to your pet when traveling by air because it can increase the risk of heart and respiratory problems. Short-nosed dogs and cats sometimes have even more difficulty with travel.”
In most cases, avoid using sedatives or tranquilizers, however if your veterinarian deems it appropriate, it can be considered appropriate on a case-by-case basis—another good reason to get a checkup done on your pet before you take flight.
7) Watch Food and Water Intake
Before and during your flight, watch how much food and water you give your pet. A little is fine, however, too much and your pet could need to use the bathroom or get sick in the air. In general, try to cut your pet’s meal down or forego it completely, unless there’s a medical reason they need to eat, like diabetes. Water is fine as long as they’re able to relieve themselves before they board the plane.
8) Have a Plan for In-Flight Relief
When nature calls and you’re 15,000 feet above the ground, you better have a plan in place for your pet to relieve themselves While you can’t train them to use the lavatory, you can utilize things like a litter box, training pads or a wide variety of other products out there that allow your pet to relieve themselves mid-flight without stinking up the cabin.
9) Gather the Right Safety Equipment
You’d never fly without your safety harness, right? Same goes for pets. Not only is having a loose animal in the plane risky for the pet, should the plane experience turbulence, it’s dangerous for the passengers aboard as well. There are a variety of safety products out there for your pet that will keep them in-place throughout the flight, such as a special harness that connects to a seat belt or a crate that attaches to the interior of the plane. In addition, you can find oxygen masks and flotation devices designed specifically for pets. You can even purchase an aviation headset for your dog, which gives you a great photo opportunity!
10) Know When it’s Appropriate to Leave Your Pet Home
While it may be excruciating to leave a wagging tail and wet nose behind, sometimes it’s the right choice. It’s painful to part with your pet, and as much fun as they’d have coming along, it’s important to consider the safety and well-being of everyone on-board before making the final decision to bring your furry friend along.
11) Flying Out of Country? Check with Your Destination First
Some places have lax rules about flying pets across borders. However, some countries can be very strict. A famous example of this happened in 2015, when leading popular actor Johnny Depp and wife Amber Herd had to issue a somber apology for flying their dogs into Australia. Having failed to declare their two Yorkshire terriers properly when entering the country, the couple faced a $75,000 fine and maximum 10 years in prison. Needless to say, if you don’t want to end up on the wrong side of the law, check with your destination country before bringing your pets aboard.
12) Don’t Forget the Food!
Upon landing, your dog may be a little disoriented or tired from the stresses of travel – especially if it’s their first time flying. A bowl of food should perk them up quickly. Make sure you have food, water and bowls at the ready to give your pet the fuel he needs to recover and enjoy the rest of his vacation!
When you have the ability to fly wherever you please, bringing the entire family along, including your pet, is one of the greatest perks of being a pilot. Now that you have these 12 tips for bringing your pet aboard your private airplane, you—and your best buddy—can fly with confidence.
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