Some years ago I was trying get my gal shipped back home. The trainer said he was bottlenecked by the jerk at "Y" airlines. I checked the airport and found that "X" airlines also had cargo service so I called that number. Seemingly nice guy on the phone and I told him I appreciated his help 'cause the guy at "Y" airline was a total jerk. Pause. "That would be me" he said. Turned out the small airport only had a single agent on duty for both airlines. Finally found out when there was another agent working and got pup shipped no problem. So, no matter what the regs say it may depend on the mood of the guy who checks you in. Good luck.
I have had my dog fly from Tampa to Palm Springs for the past 2 years. The flights are all with commuter Jets and they can only accomodate the 400 size crates. This has never been a problem, so far. My dog is a 70lb lab. This summer though, I flew my dog on a Canadian carrier and they claimed the dog was too big for the crate. I had to re-schedule his flight and buy a larger crate. This same airline has flown the dog before and the 400 crate was apparently fine. You know the old saying "small people with badges can be very dangerous"
Depends on the Agent, I suppose!!!
I figured I'd give an update now that my trip is over in case someone later searches for info.
The trip was a big success. Great hunting and no real problems at either airport (Washington Reagan and Minneapolis/St Paul). I flew American Airlines and their language regarding the crate size is more vague than others, especially United. The first gate agent asked "your dog fit in the kennel?" and that was it. The second came around and just gave it a quick look.
- Get there EARLY. It took 20+ minutes just to deal with the pet check in. There is a checklist, weigh-in and all sorts of forms and stickers to fill out. You also have to go through a screening with TSA where they check both the dog and the crate.
- Have everything the airline says it needs. The only real issue I had was on the return when I didn't have a bag of food to tape to the top of the kennel. Luckily, I found some in my hunting bag. Plan B was to claim my dog ate pop tarts which I could get from a nearby vending machine. I really thought they might not let the dog fly because of this.
- Make sure you have a health certificate from the vet. Have them list the temperature range acceptable for your dog to fly. They checked this on the return, even though it was just 2 degrees below the level where such a vet note isn't required.
- The Smarte Carts at the airport worked really well for moving all my gear. Bring some bungees and duct tape just in case.
- Nobody gave me any flak for having the dog out of the crate at heel, even though it is against the rules in most airports. It made it less stressful on the dog.
- They zip tie the kennel door closed. Have a cutter in your checked bag or find someone with scissors as soon as you arrive so you can get your dog out quickly.
- Airports have pet rest areas. Locate these before flying. They are a good place to hang out with your dog if you get there too early.
Thanks again for everyone's help!
My big boys routinely fly in 500 crates (though they ride even more often without a problem in 400 crates in the car) and I haven't had any issues with dog size in the crate (they can turn around in even 400 crates, though it's a bit tighter obviously).
The issues I have had (as recently as April when I had to cancel one flight while AT THE AIRPORT with my dog and book another one on a different airline leaving 10 min earlier... it was completely crazy and a LOT of $$$) is dog + crate WEIGHT (not over 100 lbs on some airlines for BOTH dog AND crate AND water bottle, etc. including bedding, etc) and making sure a 500 series airline crate will fit onto the plane it is booked for. Some cargo doors won't accommodate a 500 crate so be VERY sure the airplane (737 etc) will be able to fit a 500 crate on it if flying with a 500. Most will be able to accommodate a 400 crate.
BTW, for cutting zip ties (and I always bring extra zip ties as sometimes they won't zip tie the crates closed, though they are supposed to, and it provides more added security, IMHO), I have been able to get by with big, heavy-duty human nail clippers and carry them with me in my carry-on.
I also always try to freeze water in a bowl that attaches to the inside of the crate door for a couple of days prior to leaving, carry it in a cooler to the airport and put it prior to leaving the dog. That way, when they're carrying the crate and loading it on the plane, the water doesn't all splash out into the crate with the dog since it's frozen, and as it melts, there is a water source. They do typically require you to tape a baggie (a "meal") of food and a regular small full plastic water bottle to the top of the crate in case there is a delay that requires feeding/watering the dog. I also typically put a laminated brightly-colored sign on the top that says "Hi, my name is.... This is my first time flying so I may be nervous. Please don't give me treats but I love to have people talk to me. My flights are date/flight # to and date/flight # from. In case of emergency, please call... (my cell number and contacts)" at the top of the crate.
The other thing I like to do is use brightly colored or striped duct tape and mark the crate on the sides/top with a big "X" or something, so I can see it when it is on the tarmac getting ready to load.
ALWAYS ask for the pull tags when the dog has been loaded on the plane. Those loading the plane are instructed to pull off one of the tags and hand-carry it to the door to hand to the attendants. Let the steward/stewardess know as soon as you step foot on the plane that you are traveling with a dog and where you are sitting so that they can bring you the pull tag. Do NOT let them start rolling away from the gate until you are GUARANTEED the dog is on the plane.
Blame falls on the government, sue happy people who never think it wise to crate condidtion a dog before shipping and just stuff one in a crate and send it. When something happens then they want to sue the airline. Can't fix the government or stupidity. Common sense is a lost art.