Yes, it’s possible to fly with rats, but it takes a little more planning and finesse than traveling with rats by car, and it’s not feasible at all times. Some airlines won’t carry rats. During very cold or hot weather, most airlines will not ship pets at all. Even under perfect conditions, there are risks, and care must be taken to give your pet rats the best possible chance of a safe flight.
Since flying with rats can be a complex endeavor, we’ll address the subject in several posts, starting with this one.
Choosing an Airline
No United States airline will currently transport rats in the passenger cabin. Service animals are the only exception to this rule. Very few rats work as service animals, but it’s not unheard of. However, I’m guessing that most of my readers don’t have service rats, so you’ll probably need to fly with your rat as baggage if at all.
This isn’t as bad as it sounds, if you’re careful. The only airline I can personally recommend is Frontier Airlines, which safely transported four of my rats in a temperature and climate-controlled compartment separate from other luggage beneath the plane. Delta will also carry rats, and Alaska Airlines may, at its discretion, permit rats to travel. Continental also transports rats, but as cargo only.
When choosing an airline, go to the airline’s website and read their pet policy thoroughly. Airline policies change frequently, so make sure to repeat this step each time you’re preparing to fly with a pet. You may wish to look up airlines I didn’t list as well, in case their policies have been modified to permit rats to travel. If you’re unclear after checking the website, download that airline’s Contract of Carriage and search it for the word “pet” for more detailed policies and regulations.
Booking Your Flight
If you’ve done as I suggested above and read your selected airline’s pet policies thoroughly, you probably know more about these policies than the average employee of the airline. Chances are, most booking agents will never have been asked to book a flight with pet rats. That’s no excuse to treat the person booking your flight poorly. It’s an unusual question, so be prepared to be patient while your agent double-checks the relevant policies or asks a supervisor for assistance.
You will not be able to book a flight with rats online. You must call the reservations number, which may result in an additional fee. Inform the agent that you need to book a flight with pet rats. He or she will then need to confirm that the flight you’ve chosen can carry pets. Only two carriers containing live animals may be transported on most flights, so if someone else has booked travel with pets before you called, you may have to select a different flight or date of travel.
If a flight that suits your schedule is available to carry pets, I recommend booking right away. If your plans may change, you can usually pay extra for a flight that will be refunded if you must cancel.
Stay tuned for Part Two, in which I’ll discuss health certificates and other travel preparations.