Frequently Flying with Pets

Does your Fifi fly a lot? Did you name your kitty Points Galore? It may be time for you to check out these Pet Frequent Flyer Programs! Plus, we have a few tips on flying with your pets at the, uhm, tail.

Ed.Note: Last updated December 2018.

Snakes Pets on a Plane

If you think you’ve been seeing more and more pets flying the friendly skies, you are not imagining things. People are bringing pets along far more frequently; so much so that Mexico has even started a Frequent Traveler Pet Program to help owners who are bringing their animals on vacation.

As great as it is having your furry BFFs along for the trip, all of those animals in the air can get expensive. Most airlines charge for pets, whether flying in the hold or as carry-on; as much as $175US per pet, each way. That’s believed to be a contributing factor to the rise in “emotional support animal” claims. Since our pets are paying passengers too, wouldn’t it be great if the airlines had pet Frequent Flier programs?

It might surprise you to learn that some do! The rules vary, though. Aside from JetBlue, all of the pet programs reward you for flights with your pet in the plane’s pet hold, not as carry-on in the main cabin. None of them, however, include service animals because they always fly with you for free by federal mandate. What sort of pets are allowed varies slightly by airline, and sometimes by route, but none of them allow pug- or short-nosed breeds, such as bulldogs or Persian cats, or dog breeds considered aggressive or dangerous. Always check with your airline before heading to the airport, or even before buying plane tickets if it’s vital that your pets fly with you.

Airlines with Pet Frequent Flyer Programs

Korean Air

Korean Air debuted its frequent flier pet reward system, SKYPETS, in 2017. The program lets pets earn points for every trip they take, and redeem them later for free travel. The scheme is simple: every domestic (Korean) flight earns one stamp in their SKYPETS profile, and two stamps per international flight. Redemption is just as simple: Six stamps gets you half-off pet fees on an upcoming domestic flight, or twelve stamps for international. Double those figures to get a free flight for Fido. Caveat: Each stamp is only good for three years.

Virgin Australia

The first frequent flyer pet program down under was launched in 2013 by Virgin Australia, for members of its Velocity Rewards program. The airline said they carries almost 30,000 pets a year, all of whom could be earning 300 points (or more) for their human companions every time they fly! The “or more” pertains to frequent fliers of status: Silver gets you 50% more points, Gold equals 75% more, and Platinum members mine double points. There is a limit of two pets per person, so the program maxes out at 1200 points per flight. The pets must fly in hold, and only domestic flights qualify.

Virgin Atlantic

Sky Paws is the frequent flyer program for pets at Virgin Atlantic. If you are a Flying Club member, trips with your furry friends can earn you up to 2000 bonus miles, depending on where you’re flying. Just as with Virgin Australia, this reward program is for pets flying in their carriers in hold.

Virgin Flying Paws banner

Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Paws banner:
Does it get any cuter?
(Photo: Virgin Atlantic)

JetBlue

Unlike other programs, JetPaws is for pets who board in a carrier as your one personal item. If you’re flying first class, so is your pampered pooch! Pets get a special carrier bag-tag, so agents will know they’re ready to fly, and their humans get 300 TrueBlue points for every trip they bring their pet on. There is a limit of one pet per passenger, and four pets per flight total. You’ll need to reserve space for your companion in advance and by phone; you cannot book your pet’s travel online. You’ll also need to pay a non-refundable pet fee of $100 per flight segment.

United Airlines

After some very disturbing headline-making issues, United completely revamped their program for pets flying in hold in 2018. United PetSafe lets pets travel in pressurized cabins, just like the humans do. The humans also get to track their furry (or feathered) friends, and have access to a 24-hour pet desk. Somewhat disturbingly, they still call your pet a “shipment,” but that shipment earns you 500 MileagePlus award miles within the U.S., and 1,000 miles when flying international.

Should You Fly with Pets?

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Whether you should fly with pets is an old and heated debate. We are pet owners ourselves, but have never taken our pets on board. An airplane is not a natural, or even healthy, environment for people, let alone animals. We have made the choice to leave our Chief Barketing Officer with at home with his buddies rather than putting him in a carrier and sticking him in a flying metal box. We asked for that treatment; he did not. That said, many animals travel very well. Like some humans, some breeds are very resilient and adventurous. You know your pets the best, and only you can decide what’s best for them.

Once you’ve made the decision to fly with your animal amigos, the fun of sorting through airline rules and regulations begins. If you’re traveling internationally, there are even more rules, possibly quarantine, and even puppy passports. We know pets who got the Home Alone treatment just because nobody could figure out the paperwork! But we found a good resource at PetTravel.com. They have a database of airline pet policies, travel information, and important requirements for more than 240 countries.

Read: Summer Flights with Fido: When Not to Fly with Your Dog

Five Tips for Flying with Fido (and Felines)

“So,” you may ask yourself, “what about those tips?”

First and foremost, call your carrier to find out their specific rules and reserve a spot for Spot as space is limited on all carriers. And remember, many airlines will transport pets; we’ve just highlighted those with Frequent Flier programs for pets.

TSA FastPass Harness

The TSA FastPass Harness – functional and stylish! (Photo: TSAFastPass.com)

Our travel tips for pets:

  1. You must have an approved pet carrier with a solid bottom, ID tags and current immunizations. Again, check with your airline for specifics on allowed carriers.
  2. If your pet is flying “in cabin,” you’ll need to take them out of the carrier to go through security so a TSA Fast Pass leash and harness is a good idea. (Yes, they exist!)
  3. Since you have to leave the secure area of most airports for your pet’s “bio breaks,” make sure business is taken care of before you pass through security.
  4. Make sure they have plenty of water, but don’t feed your pet for about five hours before flying. It helps with Tip #3.
  5. Make sure your pet gets some exercise before boarding to help encourage an in-flight nap.

We’re anxious to hear about your experiences when flying with pets, which airlines you prefer, and your tips to make things easier for you and your pets. Let us know with a Comment below!

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