The Adventures of Django and Arya

COVID-19 is STILL Affecting Pets on Planes

airline pet in hold bans covid 19 pets on planes travel bans

This summer, with worldwide airport chaos due to staff shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not just human holidays that are being cancelled – some airlines aren’t flying pets in the hold. As airport baggage handlers are currently in short supply across the globe, airlines are struggling to cope with pet travel demands, and subsequently amending their pet policies at short notice. In general, the current situation isn’t affecting cats and dogs flying in the passenger cabin, but many airlines are adapting their policies for pets flying in the hold as checked baggage or cargo. To further complicate matters for those travelling with dogs from high risk rabies countries, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) has extended the travel ban. Also be aware that following Read on to find out which airlines have a current ban on new bookings for pets flying in the aircraft hold as checked baggage or cargo in 2022.

airline pet in hold bans covid 19 pets on planes travel bans

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Why is the COVID-19 Pandemic Still Affecting Pet Travel in Summer 2022?

As well as there being fewer flights due to the pandemic, which of course affects the availability of cat and dog friendly planes, there’s a global shortage of airport baggage handlers. In addition, flights are being cancelled in their droves, leaving thousands of passengers, and their pets, stranded in international airports.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there were abrupt changes to the freedom of flying to an international destination, which resulted in thousands of planes being grounded for two years. Airlines therefore didn’t need the number of staff in their employment, and many were made redundant then moved on to other occupations. Subsequently, there’s a significant shortage of trained staff in worldwide airports.]

US Center for Disease Control Dog Import Ban

But, it’s not just staff and flight shortages affecting the pet travel world. On 14 July 2021, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) imposed a one year travel ban on dogs being imported from high risk rabies countries. The ban was effected due to the number of dogs arriving in the US during the pandemic with fraudulent Rabies Vaccination paperwork. In June 2022, the US CDC ban was extended until January 2023, and therefore continues to affect pet travel from over 100 countries. Note that if your dog has visited or resided in one of the high risk rabies countries in the last six months, the same rules apply.

Changes to Companion Animal Laws

Remember too that, in 2021, the US Department of Transport (USDoT) changed Emotional Support Animal laws, which resulted in many North American pet travellers having no option but to fly their pets in the hold. In cabin airline transport for cats and dogs is limited to small pets, usually under 8-10 kg when combined with their pet travel carrier. So, further limitations on pets in the hold of the plane as either checked baggage or cargo isn’t welcome news for people who want to fly with their furry friend.

Which Airlines Have Cancelled Pandemic Pet Flights?

When travel began to open up earlier this year, some pet friendly airlines didn’t restart their pet flight options. For instance, pre-pandemic, Virgin Atlantic permitted cats and dogs flying on their planes in the cargo hold. But, they have yet to resume this service after cancelling pet travel options during the pandemic.

More recently, in June 2022, Air Canada announced that they won’t accept new pet reservations until 12 September 2022 for cats and dogs flying in the hold as checked baggage. They can, however, continue to fly in the cabin, or in the hold as cargo. If you have a current reservation during the affected period, your cat or dog will still be accepted for their Air Canada flight.

Check out the differences for pets flying in the hold as checked baggage or cargo, and be aware that the latter is always significantly more expensive!

At the moment, the following airlines in North America don’t accept pets in the aircraft hold as checked baggage, but they may allow cats and dogs to fly as cargo.

No Pets as Checked Baggage Airlines

Air Canada (until 12 September 2022)
American Airlines
Breeze Airways*
Delta Airlines
Frontier Airlines*
JetBlue Airlines*
Southwest Airlines*
Spirit Airlines*
Sun Country Airlines*
United Airlines

*these airlines don’t allow pets to fly as cargo
Airlines that DON’T Allow Pets as Checked Baggage in North America

But, you can still fly your cat or dog as checked baggage or cargo with these pet friendly airlines in North America:

No Pets as Checked Baggage Airlines

Alaska Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines
Airlines that DO Allow Pets as Checked Baggage in North America

So, even though pet travel was increasing in popularity year on year prior to the pandemic, due to the different limitations in place it’s likely to be some time before the numbers reach pre-pandemic levels. With airlines reducing flights and cancelling pet services, combined with staff shortages and the lack of airlines in North America allowing pets in the hold, as well as the US CDC dog travel ban, pet travel is far from easy in summer 2022.

While a staycation is always an option, if you’re relocating you may have to utilise the services of an independent pet cargo courier. But, remember that pet flights are still limited to those airlines that permit cats and dogs to fly on their aircraft in the cargo hold.

Although the many changes to international pet flights isn’t great news for pet travellers, it has a life-changing effect on rescue dogs, particularly those from high risk rabies countries being relocated. As most of these dogs are larger breeds, and therefore can’t fly in the cabin, rescue centres tend to fly them as checked baggage. The cargo option is incredibly expensive for one dog, never mind hundreds. So, hopefully, flying with pets for those affected will become easier soon.

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