Can My Pet Fly Without Me?

Reader debhayes recently asked, "Can I ship a puppy without flying myself?"

The short answer is: Yes, and in fact it's not uncommon. But as always, policies vary from carrier to carrier, and either way it's going to require some legwork and cash on the pet owner's part.

Most major carriers operate separate cargo services alongside their passenger business. These cargo operations handle everything from mail to food to human remains to—you guessed it—live animals, including pets. Not all carriers will transport live animals, but the ones that do typically have a separate page with clear instructions for people shipping pets. Here are the major airlines that accept live animals, with a link to the appropriate page:

Notably absent from this list are US Airways, JetBlue, Southwest, Virgin America, and AirTran. The first three have cargo services but do not transport live animals. AirTran and Virgin America do not have a cargo-only operation.

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In terms of requirements, shipping an animal is pretty similar to checking one as baggage. Note that short-nosed dogs, such as pugs and boxers, are not usually permitted in the cargo hold during the summer months, if at all. You'll need a kennel, of course, and older dogs should have a thorough veterinary examination prior to flying to make sure they can handle the stress.

In terms of cost, be prepared to pay up. Delta charges between $260 and $496 each-way for its domestic DASH service. Shipping a 26-to-50-pound dog from Boston to Chicago on American would set you back $191.25.

Readers, do you have any tips for shipping an animal? Any travel-related questions of your own? Leave a comment below. Thanks!

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