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Traveling by Plane to Hawaii

hawaiiHawaii is an island that is rabies free, meaning they have never had a reported case of rabies.  For this reason, taking your pet to Hawaii is far more difficult than just flying from one state to the next within the U.S.  First, because requirements can always change without notice, it is important to look up the rules and regulations well in advance of planning your trip.  In some cases, you will need to start planning your trip to Hawaii with your pets 6 months to a year in advance to make sure your pet meets all of the requirements.

Here is the link to Hawaii’s pet travel instructions:

Hawaii State Requirements  

Every cat and dog imported into Hawaii will need to be inspected and quarantined.  The preparations you do in advance of your flight can shorten the quarantine time pending approval, but the standard quarantine time is 120 days.  Any flight to Hawaii will need to arrive by 3:30pm so there is enough time to do the inspection and transfer the pet to the quarantine facility before they close for the day.  Pets that arrive after 3:30pm will be held at the airport quarantine facility  overnight.

There is a “5-day-or-less” program to get your pet released from quarantine early.  Here is the link to the checklist for this program:

Checklist for "5-day-or-less" quarantine program in Hawaii

Delta Airlines: pets to Hawaii or internationally

There are a lot of details to follow for this program, so it is a great idea to print this out and plan out a schedule with your veterinarian so you can meet all the deadlines.  The first thing you will need is to be sure your pet has is an internationally approved microchip.  This has to be placed before doing any rabies blood titers and must be on the rabies certificate as well as the health certificate the veterinarian will fill out within 10 days of departure.  The rabies blood titer test has to be done within 36 months and 120 days before departure in order for your pet to qualify for the program, and this blood sample has to be sent to a federally-approved laboratory.  The veterinarian also has to apply a flea and tick medication on the pet 14 days before departure that has a main ingredient of fipronil (Frontline).  This seems like it will be difficult, but with the right preparation and your veterinarian’s help, it can all go without a hitch!



Traveling by Plane within the Continental United States

AirplaneLet’s talk about traveling by plane with your pet.  First, let’s talk about just within the U.S. not including Hawaii because Hawaii is a rabies-free island and has more rules and regulations than the rest of the U.S.  The first thing you should do is contact your airline and see what their requirements are for traveling with your pet.  Every airline may have a little different carrier requirements and if your pet can be with you under the seat or has to go back into cargo.  Next, you should look up the requirements for importing your pet into whatever final state you are going to.  Keep in mind that the requirements can change at any time and even if you have traveled to the same state multiple times with your pet, those rules can change without any notice.  Here is the best link to the USDA website where all the most recent regulations are documented for each state:

USDA APHIS State requirements for import

The next thing you should do is schedule an appointment with your veterinarian within 10 days of departure so they can fill out a health certificate that verifies your pet is healthy enough to travel on a plane and is also up to date on their rabies vaccination.  You should also get a signed rabies certificate to carry with you and your pet at all time.  The health certificate is valid for 30 days, so if your trip is going to be longer than that and you are taking a plane ride back, you will need to get another veterinarian-signed health certificate.

Here are some helpful articles about traveling with your pet on a plane:


Airplane travel with your cat

Airplane travel with your dog


Another point to consider when traveling is the time of year you are going. For most airlines, they only allow pets 15 pounds or less to be a carry on with you in the cabin. All other pets need to be in cargo in a sturdy carrier. This can be problematic depending on the time of year, the temperature outside, and the airline you are flying on. Most airlines' cargo areas are not pressure or temperature controlled and so they do not allow any "snub nosed" animals such as Persian cats or Bulldogs in cargo at all for safety reasons. At extreme temperatures such as below 10F and above 85F they do not allow any pet in cargo. Delta for example has the following weather requirements:



To keep your pet safe, Delta observes the following seasonal restrictions on pet travel.

Year-round Restrictions:

Delta will not accept animals as checked baggage during extreme weather, if at any point (origin/transit/destination) during the animal's trip the high temperature for the day is forecast to be: (no exceptions to the temperature restriction)

  • Below 10°F (-12C)

  • Above 85°F (29.4C)

Delta reserves the right to refuse live animals as checked baggage and as cargo if the animal's health is in question and/or if the health of the animal may be jeopardized by extreme conditions.

  • For tickets purchased on/after May 30th, 2014, Delta will no longer accept live animals as checked baggage in Liberia, Costa Rica (LIR).

Summer Restrictions — May 15 through September 15

  • Pets cannot be checked as baggage on Delta and Aeromexico operated flights.

  • Pets may be shipped as cargo; see year-round temperature restrictions below.

Winter Embargo — November 1 through March 31

  • Animals will not be accepted as checked baggage on flights operated between Sun Valley, ID (SUN), Twin Falls, ID (TWF) or Jackson Hole, WY (JAC).

Delta Airlines: Pet travel domestic and international, crate information and more

Now let’s talk about carriers.  Again, each airline can be different, but the basic rule of thumb is that your pet should be in a carrier just large enough for them to stand up and turn around.  Some airlines have specific carrier dimensions you must meet.  For pets going back into cargo, the airlines usually require the carrier to be a sturdy plastic material versus the softer canvas material most people usually have for their pets.  Some airlines have weight requirements for pets sitting with you in the seats, and some airlines will not allow certain short nosed dog and cat breeds.

Here are some links to airline-specific requirements, so you can get an idea of what you may need to purchase:

TSA: Traveling with pets, guidelines

Jet Blue Airlines: travel guidelines for pets