Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

Flying Cargo

Posted 11/20/2020

Image by Rayleen Slegers from Pixabay Image by Rayleen Slegers from Pixabay This past weekend was extremely exciting for our household. On Saturday, Ozzie, the dog we adopted from the Dominican Republic, flew into Canada. The charter flight he was on landed in Toronto, Ontario late in the evening and we were required to pick him up there. That meant we needed to travel four hours by plane to get to Toronto, stay in a hotel, ...

and then fly back to Alberta with Ozzie on Sunday. I have never flown with a pet and Ozzie was too big to fly in the cabin with us. I was super nervous about putting him in cargo and having him travel where I could not see him. I had no idea how to book his flight or what preparations were needed. Thankfully, with some research on the computer, and a few phone calls, we were able to make the trip home safely and with minimal stress to both myself and Ozzie. We flew with WestJet and they were amazing. The agent at the check-in desk was patient and reassuring. I really felt like Ozzie was in great hands. Here are a few things I learned during this adventure that might help if you ever need to travel with a pet in cargo.



 The Boy and I meeting Ozzie for the first time in TorontoThe Boy and I meeting Ozzie for the first time in Toronto

 Is Your Pet Allowed to Fly?

Not all pets are accepted on all airlines. While most airlines will accommodate dogs and cats, you may need to do some research if you are flying with a rabbit, bird, or other pet. Your pet must be in good health and any animal that appears aggressive, unruly or in distress may be denied transport. Some airlines have special requirements or restrictions for females in heat or pregnant animals, short-nosed pets, or ‘strong’ dog breeds. Your young pet must be fully weaned and be of a minimum age, most likely eight to twelve weeks. If you are travelling to another country, you should contact the veterinary services or government agency of your destination to check for any restrictions on the entry of animals.




Booking Your Pet on Your Flight

Since airlines limit the number of pets permitted on each flight, and that number can be as little as one kennel per flight, you will want to reserve your pet’s space as soon as possible.  It is recommended that you call your airline as soon as your tickets are booked. I called within minutes of booking our flight and was holding my breath until the agent on the phone said she had room for Ozzie! Try to keep your pet’s comfort in mind when choosing your route. Of course, direct or non-stop routes are preferred, and you may want to consider early morning or late evening flights in the summer, or midday flights in winter. Some airlines have summer, winter, or holiday restrictions on when pets may travel in the baggage compartment, so make sure you book your trip accordingly.


Pillow, blanket, and sweater to stay warmPillow, blanket, and sweater to stay warmKennel Requirements

Your pet’s carrier must be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. There may be size and weight restrictions so check with your airline if you have a large breed. The kennel must be airline approved, hard sided and secure. The floor must be leak proof and you may be required to line it with an absorbent material like a blanket or towel. Since Ozzie was coming from a Caribbean country and flying in November, I was worried about him being cold. His kennel had a pillow that covered the bottom and a blanket, plus I put him in a sweater. We were also told to include a food/water dish, but not all airlines will ask for this. I liked that WestJet wanted Ozzie’s name marked on his carrier. Some pets would appreciate that familiarity. The kennel will need to be marked with both ‘Live Animal’ and ‘This Way Up’ labels and your airline should supply these at check in.  



All through security, zip ties in placeAll through security, zip ties in place

Preparing for Flying

You will want to make sure that your pet does not eat more than a light meal within four hours of flying. The stress of the airport and flying may upset your pet’s stomach and could lead to vomiting or potty accidents. Take your pet for a last-minute walk so it can relieve itself. Some airports require your pet to be left in its carrier once you are in the building. Any food or water containers must be emptied. Remove your pet’s leash. Never use a lock on your pet’s kennel door in case airport personnel need to access your pet in an emergency. Zip ties should be used to secure the door, but these cannot be attached until after your pet and kennel have been through security. You will need to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the recommended check-in time for your flight and you will need to check in with an agent. You cannot use web check-in or the airport self-serve kiosks.



At the Airport

There was a special WestJet check-in desk for those of us travelling with pets at the Toronto Pearson Airport. I was required to fill out a Live Animals Handling Declaration form. I filled in information about Ozzie and my contact information. There was a tear off tab that I filled out with my name, flight number and seat number. The form was secured to the kennel along with a baggage tag, ‘live animal’ labels, and ‘this way up’ labels. We were then taken to a special security screening area where I was asked to remove Ozzie from his carrier. His bedding was removed from the kennel and x-rayed. A security officer swabbed the kennel and once it was deemed secure, we replaced the bedding and Ozzie. Our check-in agent helped us to zip tie the kennel door shut. We then had to say goodbye to our new pet, and he was taken to a secure area. The tear-off tab on the Live Animals Declaration form stayed on the carrier until the carrier was loaded into the cargo area of the airplane and we were already seated on the plane. At that time, the baggage handler removed the tab and brought it to the flight attendant. The flight attendant gave me the tab and I knew that Ozzie was on board.


Live Animals Handling Declaration FormLive Animals Handling Declaration Form


Reuniting at Destination Airport

We were super excited about reuniting with Ozzie when we landed in Edmonton. We debarked from the plane and made our way to the baggage carousels. We were told he would arrive on the oversized luggage carousel. It was only a short wait until his kennel emerged from the conveyor and we were able to take Ozzie home for good! I am happy to have been through this process now, and am familiar with it if I need to travel with a pet again. If you have any questions about my experience, please leave a comment below.


Safe in EdmontonSafe in Edmonton


 Thank you WestJet for taking such good care of our little guy!!


Ozzie in his forever homeOzzie in his forever home


Cookie Policy

This site uses cookies to store information on your computer.

Do you accept?