As a result of the helpful comments I received for the questions I posed on Sunday about pets too large to fly in airline cabins I learned the following:
- No one flies their pet via air cargo or in a baggage hold for a vacation. The need to transport a pet for a move is another matter entirely
- Some airlines are far better than others for transporting pets. Continental’s Pet Cargo service gets very high marks.
- For the most part, problems occur on the ground, not in pressurized and temperature-controlled hold areas (although pets sometimes end up in areas that are not temperature/pressure controlled by accident)
PetRelocation.com explained the third point as follows:
The issue is that many of these airlines that have temperature restrictions are not set up to keep pets in climate control when they are being transferred on and off the planes. This requires air conditioned/heated vans and climate-controlled holding facilities at origin and destination (pets typically have to be checked in at least 90 minutes prior to their flight and sometimes up to 4 hours prior to international flights).
That’s what makes the real difference between a “pet friendly airline” and one that is not. Airlines like Continental, Lufthansa and KLM all have specialized vehicles for transporting pets to and from the planes, as well as climate controlled areas where the pets are kept while waiting to be loaded on their flights.