With high-profile air travel-related pet deaths causing an outcry among pet lovers, carriers including Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines have changed some policies for carrying animals on board. But that also means it can now be more difficult, complicated and expensive to fly with a pet, be it for a long-distance move or for a family vacation.
Navigating the rules and restrictions for flying a pet on an airline can be tricky. As of last month, for example, Delta no longer carries pets as cargo or checked baggage on any flights on the Boeing 767.
Delta said it contacted customers affected by the change to offer alternatives. In some cases, the airline can move the customer to an earlier or later flight, or turn to its airline partners. Delta has about 81 Boeing 767s among its fleet of more than 800 aircraft.
The unusual 767 restriction demonstrates how pet travel is subject to a variety of factors. Delta is modifying its international flight crew rest accommodations with bunks beneath the passenger cabin in the 767, which limits the amount of space available in the cargo hold. Although not all 767s fly internationally, they are sometimes interchanged on domestic flights and Delta is putting the restriction in place for all 767 flights.
The 767 restriction follows other changes Delta has put in place in recent months.
In February, Delta banned pets in the cabin in international business class. With the airline installing lie-flat seats in that section, space is limited for pet carriers under seats.
Late last year, after a string of deaths of bulldogs and similar breeds, Delta banned snub-nosed dogs and cats as checked baggage.
"Safety always has to be the top priority," said Delta spokesman Anthony Black.
Delta also will generally not carry pets as checked baggage from May 15 through Sept. 15, or anytime when the outside temperature is above 85 degrees or below 10 degrees at any point the plane is on the ground during the trip.
More than half of reported pet deaths on U.S. airlines last year were on Delta, according to federal data. But Delta said the number of pets that are injured or die on the airline is less than 0.2 percent of pets carried.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed new procedures, including: requiring reports of incidents involving not just pets but also cats and dogs shipped commercially, such as by breeders; requiring airlines to report how many animals they transport to compare rates of animal incidents between airlines; and requiring more airlines to report pet incidents. The DOT is taking public comments on the proposal until Aug. 28.
Southwest and AirTran Airways both allow crated pets in the cabin, but do not allow pets as checked baggage or cargo.
Those traveling with pets should check with their airline well in advance for current regulations, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, adding that airlines sometimes update their restrictions on pet travel.
"If the airlines are making these decisions based in whole or in part on the health and welfare of the animal, then it's a good thing," said AVMA spokesman David Kirkpatrick. Before flying with pets, "owners need to do a good amount of research."
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