The internet was abuzz this week with word about the changes to Delta’s pet flying policy. And as tends to happen, people got about 75% of the way there before they took a sharp left turn and read it incorrectly. Here is what you need to know:
1. Headlines saying “Delta no longer allowing pets as cargo” are wrong.
As of March 1, 2016 pets will no longer be allowed as checked baggage. This does not mean pets over 30 pounds will be allowed in the cabin. It means they must fly as cargo, which is different than baggage. (More on that in a minute.) The exceptions to this rule will be active duty military travelling to new posts, and certified support animals.
2. The in-cabin policies have not changed.
Pets under 30 pounds have always been allowed to travel as carry-on in approved carriers. This policy does not affect that at all, nor does it allow animals into the cabin that it did not before.
3. Delta Cargo is probably going to be a lot safer for the pet than travelling as baggage.
When a pet is to travel, airlines require a health certificate signed by a veterinarian. One of the worst parts for me is when they require a “statement of acclimation“, stating that a pet is acclimated to temperatures above or below a certain range. I live in San Diego. Pets don’t get acclimated to 45 degrees here.
Even if you are flying a pet from San Diego to Miami, if there is a layover in Denver then the pet may be exposed to extreme temperatures during that period, and that is where trouble usually happens. No matter how you plan, delays and problems occur and most problems happen on the ground.
You would be surprised at the number of people who get upset when I say, “This isn’t safe for your pet. I can’t sign this statement.” Most do not agree to delay travel. They just find another vet willing to take on the liability. 74 pets died on Delta flights in the last ten years.
In cargo, pets will be in temperature controlled holds at all times in air and on the ground, not sitting on the tarmac in the rain and snow (it happens). They will also utilize professional kennel services if overnight stays become necessary. While airlines do temperature and pressure control luggage holds, cargo areas often have a separate controlled temperature area specifically for temperature sensitive cargo, and this is where pets will go.
4. It’s going to be a pain.
- There is no guarantee you and your pet will be on the same flight
- It’s probably going to be more expensive
- The pickup and drop off locations will probably be somewhere other than baggage claim
United has a similar plan in place already if you’re wondering how this will probably look. PetSafe costs in the $200-$2000 range and they have a long list of restrictions for breeds, most notably brachycephalic breeds. (But English Bulldogs shouldn’t be flying in cargo ever anyway.) In short, you’re going to have to REALLY want to travel with your pet.
5. Plan ahead.
Have your ducks in a row in terms of appropriate kennels, health requirements, and travel dates. International travel with pets can require a TON of work. To make it even more fun, domestic travel cannot be booked more than 14 days ahead of time. Those people who start thinking about this stuff a week before they’re supposed to depart are going to be in for a major surprise.
You can read the original Delta blog post here.
The liability of pets in luggage compartments has been a headache for veterinarians and airlines for many years, so I can’t complain about this. Whether this change is due to a genuine concern for pets, bad PR, or financial liability doesn’t really matter to me- all I care about is the fact that this is a good change for travelling pets.