RDU Airport: Everything You Need to Know When Flying With Your Pet - Dog Walker & Pet Sitter Serving Apex, Cary & Holly Springs

Moving to the Raleigh area or flying out of town for a vacation with your pet? Traveling by air can be such an exciting experience, especially when you’re relocating to another area or getting out of dodge for a while!

If you’re flying with your pet and don’t put in the necessary time to research, your trip can turn quickly into a stressful one. We have just the ticket to get you prepared for when you’re flying with your pet to and from Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport

airplane wing with clouds behind it

Raleigh–Durham International Airport, or locally known as “RDU”, is located in Morrisville and adjacent to William B. Umstead Park. RDU is open 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

The ticket counters open at 4:30 a.m. The security checkpoint opens at 4:00 a.m. in both terminals. Check out RDU’s screening tips to navigate through security to avoid any inconvenience or delays.

With pets, it’s highly recommended to give yourself extra time on top of the normal two-hour buffer before you’re supposed to board your flight. Learn more about RDU’s tips for traveling.

Traveling From RDU With Your Pets

man holding pet cat and other items, smiling at airport.

Don’t forget your pet’s collar and leash, even if they’re traveling by carrier. You’ll probably need to remove them from their crate to be screened at security. The last thing you want is for them to escape while at the airport!

At RDU Airport, pets must remain in their kennel. Service dogs on a leash are the only exception to this rule. Pet relief areas are located on  Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 baggage claim levels.

Your pet is allowed to walk through the metal detector with you, if possible. If your pet is not able to, they will need to have a secondary screening, including visual and physical inspection.  With a service animal, you’ll need to hold the correct identification and documentation, along with a harness. You’ll also need to maintain 100% control of the animal while going through all of the security screening.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requires your pet to be at least eight weeks old and fully weaned before traveling on an airplane.

Which Airline is Best for You and Your Pet?

For one thing, don’t make any assumptions. You would think every airline allows pets, but they don’t. Those that do have pet policies don’t all offer the same options either. Some airlines have their own rules in addition to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) standards. Other airlines require kennels to be accessible in case of an emergency.

Whenever possible, book a direct flight and avoid holiday travel. Try to plan schedules that minimize temperature extremes as well. Airline policies regarding pets vary widely and it is highly recommended that you contact the airline prior to making a reservation. and purchasing your pet’s kennel.

Below are the airlines listed in alphabetical order with a link to their pet policies:

Documentation You’ll Need to Have for Your Pet

Forgetting just one important document or failing to meet any regulations may result in delay and isolated quarantine for your pet…Double check that you have everything before you leave for the airport with your pet. Taking the extra time may seem like a pain but can actually save you loads of time down the runway.

You are required to possess a certificate for Veterinary Inspection and Rabies Inspection. Some airlines are known to require an Acclimation Certificate as well. These can only be provided and approved by a federally accredited Veterinarian, so make sure yours is!

Feed your pet within a four-hour window of being transferred to the care of transportation services. Most airlines and veterinarians highly recommend aiming for the high end of this time frame. This is so that they’ve had food not too long ago to tie them over but not too early to make them sick or have accidents from all the moving around.

Even if your airline doesn’t require one of the certifications, get them anyways for safe measure. Your flight(s) might be rearranged and end up on a different airline that does require the certificate. They’ve been known to not be that expensive and is definitely worth the extra peace of mind while you’re traveling.

Contact Your Vet When Flying With Your Pet

A Veterinarian’s purpose is to treat the animals. Don’t count on them to have all the information about the paperwork requirements for your pets when flying. Come to the clinic with the all of the documentation and certifications you’ll need to travel at the airport with your fur ball.

Don’t delay in making a visit to see your pet’s Veterinarian. The last thing you need is to frantically make an appointment and they’re all booked up. Make this a priority in your planning and know that there won’t be any hiccups when getting through security.

Should You Tranquilize Your Pets Before A Flight?

A select few airlines will allow you to tranquilize pets prior to air travel with a letter of approval from your Veterinarian. The American Veterinary Medical Association strongly recommends against it. Pet shipping companies will not accept tranquilized pets.

If sedated, they will have a significant amount of decreased muscle control. The animals will have a very difficult time trying to stay balanced while constantly being moved all over the place. The pets are more likely to be injured this way. Remember, a lot is happening that your pet doesn’t comprehend why and feeling groggy can sometimes cause them to panic.

Flight Crates Rules and Regulations

crates with live animals being hauled to the plane for flight.

Here’s where the fun begins…It is a requirement to use an International Air Transport Association-approved kennel to carry any pet as cargo or baggage. You can find these online and in most major pet stores. Check with your airline to see if they offer IATA approved kennels.

The carrier needs to hold enough space for your pet to easily stand or sit fully erect, turn around, and lay down. Nothing of your pet can extend beyond the carrier as well. Short-nosed breeds must be allowed additional space for more breathing room. There needs to be at least 16% of ventilation on all four sides of the kennel for air travel. Only puppies or kittens can double up in one carrier.

All attachments have to be secured with metal nuts and bolts, no plastic. The crate must not have anything on the inside projecting out that could injure your pet. Larger size kennels must have handles mounted in the middle of each long side. The door must latch securely, just in-case you have Velociraptor pets that can undo them. If the combined weight of the kennel and the pet total over 132 pounds, the carrier must be “forklift-compatible”. The carrier has to ensure your dog’s safety and security besides comfort, although that’s a priority as well.

Every main airline follows to the IATA kennel regulations. All mesh or collapsible containers do not meet their safety regulations, so don’t assume and don’t wait until the last second to purchase one!

Snub-Nosed Dogs and Cats

boxer dog looking to the side.

Breeds with shorter snouts, also known as “Brachycephalic Dogs”, have a higher risk of breathing problems when flying on planes.

This includes but not limited to: American Pit Bull, American Staffordshire Terrier, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Brussels Griffon, Bull Mastiff, Bulldog, Bull Terrier, Burmese, Chow Chow, Dutch Pug, English Bulldog, English Toy Spaniel, Exotic Shorthair, French Bulldog, Himalayan, Japanese Boxer, Japanese Pug, Japanese Spaniel, Pekingese, Persian, Pug, Shih Tzu, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

These breeds are most sensitive to changes in air quality and temperature. Even though the cabin and hold areas are pressurized and temperature-controlled, your pet could still experience these changes. They’re shallow airways leave them to be more susceptible to collapsing and causing the pet to faint and/or overheat.

Consider bringing your pet onboard the flight with you. If your pet is small enough, they can probably travel right with you in the main cabin. Some airlines will not allow short-nosed animals to travel as excess baggage or cargo, but usually, those restrictions don’t apply to in-cabin travel.

In-Cabin Pet Travel

ssmall dog pomaranian spitz in a travel bag on board of plane

As mentioned before, the cabin is considered safer for snub-nosed pets but any pets would prefer it when flying! Animals traveling in the passenger cabin must be screened at the security checkpoint. But the pros is that you might actually get to board the plane first!

If your pet will be riding on board with you, make sure they are the right size and temperament. Also, you have more options when it comes to carriers.

Space allocation differs from one airline to another. Contact your airline about the dimensions for seating. Your pet will take up space on the floor and count as your carry-on. Your other bag will have to go in the overhead bin. If you have pockets in your pet carrier, it’s ideal to tuck away something that will entertain you during the flight.

Hold on to your receipt that you paid for your pet, your flight attendant may ask to see it for proof. If possible, book a seat that’s in the middle of the plane with extra feet space or a window seat.

Keep an eye on your pet’s body temperature since most have been known to be too cold or too hot.

Train Your Pet to Feel Safe in the Crate

Let your pets get used to their travel carrier and associate it as their “safe place” for when you fly. Train your pets, if not already, to go into the crate on their own and get a treat immediately after. Have them “go to bed” and sleep in it overnight for several nights before the big trip. This will ensure that they’re as used to the carrier as possible.

You can lay a blanket down that both of you have laid on previously, so they have your scent and theirs while boarded. Never use the crate as punishment, they need to always view it as a positive place to rest.

Reducing Anxiety Before You Embark On Your Journey

dog sitting in pet stroller.

The moment the suitcase comes out, the nerves begin for your furballs. When they see you packing, they associate it with a trip to somewhere unknown and undesired.

Be sure to give your pet plenty of tender love and care before the commotion commences. Avoid any negative energy flying through the rooftop by keeping your pets on their normal routine.

Keep your pets distracted by taking them on long walks, a quick visit to the park, or playing with their favorite toy. Essentially, give them plenty of exercises to get rid of any nervous energy. Giving them back scratches and belly rubs definitely help as well!

Ultimately, the more attention they get from you, the happier they’ll be since you’re the most important thing in their world. Keep yourself calm and relaxed as well. Remember, pets can sense when you’re stressed.

Flying from RDU Airport Without Your Pet? Our Professional Pet Sitters Come to Your Home!

If you’re not flying with your pet, take off into the sky with the peace of mind that they’re are at home in their comfortable environment.

If you live in Raleigh, Apex, Cary, Fuquay Varina, Holly Springs, or Morrisville, North Carolina, and plan to travel or just work a long day, we’re here to make your life easier! Not in your area? Reach out and let us know your location, we might be closer than you think.

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