Where Does Your Pet Go When Flying As Cargo?

When it comes to travel, flying can sometimes be the best and only option for our pets. Yet, not all pets can enjoy the luxury of traveling in the aircraft cabin. Restrictions on how and where animals can fly depend on individual airlines. So, if it’s not in the cabin, where do they go?

Dogs evacuated from hurricane Katrina
Where do pets go when they’re traveling as cargo? Photo: Getty Images

Where do our pets fly, and why?

The majority of pets that fly on aircraft are shipped in the hold. This is a section of the aircraft at the rear, underneath the cabin. It’s the place where all our luggage goes but also the best place for our furry friends.

That said, when pets fly in the hold, they’re not merely dumped among overloaded suitcases. Many airlines have created specifically designed processes to take the best care of our pets when we can’t be with them.

Aircraft have special zones in the hold that can accommodate crates for pets. Of course, the amount of space available for live animals depends on the size of the aircraft.

When a live animal is flown, the aircraft’s crew will be notified. This means that air in the hold can be heated and pressure readjusted to preferable conditions for animals. Because of these carefully thought out details, flying pets in the hold is as safe as it can be. Still, many owners would favor the idea of placing pets in the cabin.

Pet dog with glasses checks in
Some passengers prefer that their pets travel in style. Photo: Getty Images

Pets in the cabin vs. in the hold

Despite what some pet-owners might find desirable, it’s not always possible to transport pets in the cabin. This ability depends on individual airlines.

For example, American Airlines says that it does allow pets in the cabin. Many cats or dogs over eight weeks and in a crate that can fit under the seat in front can be transported in the cabin. American has some restrictions on this policy. The airline does not allow any brachycephalic dog types (a short-nosed condition) onboard or in the hold due to the likelihood of them developing breathing difficulties.

By contrast, British Airways puts nearly every pet in the hold. The exception to this rule is any Special Assistance dogs and emotional support animals on direct flights to and from the US. The airline does not permit its passengers to transport their animals in the cabin.

British Airways
Carriers like British Airways put animals in the hold by default. Photo: Getty Images

Is flying pets in the hold safe?

No doubt flying pets in the hold may not be the ideal method of transport. Despite that, it cannot always be avoided. Although most airlines hold their duty towards these animals in high regard, some accidents can happen in terms of injury or worse. For the most part, transporting pets in the hold is safe.

There are some considerations, however. As stated above, American does not allow brachycephalic dogs to travel on its aircraft due to the nature of their breed. These dogs, like pugs and boxers, are more likely to develop respiratory issues. Passengers wishing to transport their animals via air should consider any further health issues that their animals might have. In addition, traveling in the hold can be stressful, and pet-owners should do their utmost to mitigate this pressure.

Have you ever flown your pet in the hold? Share your experience with us in the comments.