So you want to go on vacation, but you’re stressed out about what to do with your pet while you’re off enjoying R and R. Well, summer vacation is no longer just for two-legged travelers.
Room service menus for Fido, massages for over-stressed terriers and tabbies, cushy beds for canines: many hotels have been ratcheting up the pet amenities. Best Western has even hired Cesar Millan of National Geographic Channel’s “Dog Whisperer” to be the chain’s pet travel expert, according to a story in the New York Times.
It sounds good, but is taking a pet on vacation more relaxing or problematic?
One issue to consider is getting your pet to the destination. In recent years, transporting pets on commercial flights has grown more complicated — and more expensive.
All major carriers have significantly raised the fees they charge for bringing pets onboard, matching, or in some cases, surpassing, the $100 surcharge each way they typically charge for children flying alone. Fees vary depending on whether the pet flies under your seat, or as checked baggage or cargo, which involve extra handling.
American, Delta, United and Continental charge $125 each way for pets in the cabin. United charges the most for pets traveling as checked baggage: $250 each way or $500 round trip.
Pet safety has also become a more pressing issue. Incidents of animals being lost, injured or dying have recently risen. Thirty-nine animals died while flying aboard commercial jets in the United States last year, compared with 22 in 2009, according to the Department of Transportation. Thirteen were injured and five were lost.
Delta was responsible for a significant portion of the increase, with 16 deaths and 6 injuries in 2010, compared with 3 deaths and no injuries the previous year.
While those numbers are a small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of animals flown by the airlines each year, they expose the dangers that pets may face while traveling. Not that airlines don’t anticipate risks.
Carriers typically will not accept pets as checked baggage or cargo when the temperature is forecast to exceed 85 degrees or fall below 20 degrees at any location on the animal’s itinerary.
Also, many airlines will not accept snub-nosed pets, like bulldogs or Persian cats, as cargo since they are prone to breathing problems. Delta, for instance, which reported several bulldog fatalities last year, has changed its policy and now bans the breed from its planes.