If you have a pet, chances are you are familiar with the dilemma one faces when forced to choose between out-of-station travel and leaving their pet behind. Whatever the reason may be, the reality is you will eventually have to step away from home and leave your pet behind. Doing so is not an easy task, especially if you are someone who lives by yourself or someone who cannot trust someone else with their pet.
This is not to say services for such a situation are not available. Pet boardings and pet hostel facilities are available in most metropolitan cities, but it is difficult to convince a pet parent to opt for such a facility, especially if they are a first-time pet owner or don’t trust such facilities. Another option is to take your pet with you on your trip. For someone who does not want their pet with a stranger or alone, this is a great option; even more so if your stay will be a lengthy one.
Flying alongside your pet sounds wonderful, but you may be wondering whether it is possible, and what the rules, requirements, and costs for such a trip may be. The good news is that pets can fly with owners in India, with a multitude of airlines being pet-friendly.
Once upon a time, the only pet-friendly airline providers operating within India were Air India and SpiceJet. The majority of pet-friendly airlines provided international pet relocations but not domestic ones. Now, most major airlines have provisions for pet travel, albeit with a few terms and conditions which must be satisfied. While one of the two original service providers has shut down pet travel provisions (SpiceJet), numerous others now allow pets to travel on board, with a few conditions.
Jet Airways will allow pets to fly on board, but they must travel in the cargo hold. Other airlines permit service animals to travel; Airlines like IndiGo, AirAsia, and Vistara all permit service animals so they may assist their owners.
Air India is still the airline offering the most inclusive pet travel experience, as they allow pets to travel in the cargo hold as well as the cabin (provided your pet’s carrier fits under the seat). Do note that the final permission to get your pet on board is subject to the approval of the flight commander of your specific flight.
While the rules for domestic pet travel via flights are not cumbersome, they cannot be ignored, and failure to fulfil any of the rules/requirements means the airline can prohibit your pet from flying.
Here are the guidelines for pet travel in India:
If your pet is travelling with you inside the cabin, their soft bag/carrier dimensions must not exceed 18” x 18” x 12” (Length x Width x Height). As for weight, the limit for in-cabin pet carriers is a maximum of 5 Kg.
Pets that exceed these limits are not eligible for in-cabin travel and must travel in the cargo hold. Pets travelling in the cargo hold must travel inside an IATA-approved fibre pet crate. A label must be affixed to the crate showing the name of the pet. Along with this, a moisture-absorbent mat must be placed inside the crate.
Your pet dog/cat must be at least eight weeks old before they can travel. Pets who are pregnant are not eligible for travel.
A maximum of two pets are permitted in-cabin per flight, being accommodated on the last rows of Business Class and Economy Class respectively. Passengers must accompany their pets.
Pet dogs must be muzzled or leashed. Pets or guide dogs will not be allowed to take up a passenger’s seat. Pets are accepted on board at the owner’s risk, and the airline will not be responsible if a pet is refused boarding.
Pets must be accompanied by a health certificate and vaccination record (pet passport).
The pet owner is responsible for complying with government rules and regulations, including health and safety requirements.
The pet owner must sign an indemnification form before they can fly with their pet, and must assume all risks of injury, sickness, or death of the pet before travelling.
Pets travelling on flights will carry an additional charge and are not covered under the free baggage allowance. Normal excess baggage charges are applicable for pets travelling domestically in India, with the weight of the container, the weight of the pet, and the weight of food inside the crate being chargeable.
In October 2022, a newcomer joined the ever-growing list of pet-friendly airline providers in India. Akasa Air is now the second pet-friendly airline in India and allows pets to travel in-cabin and in the cargo hold. Since its inception, Akasa has received acclaim for its pet-friendly services, and the number of pets travelling with their owners continues to grow daily. Akasa Air has also released a pet policy for those interested in flying with their pets.
Akasa allows pets weighing under 7Kg to travel in-cabin with the passenger, while those weighing between 7-32Kg must be checked in as baggage once passengers have passed through security. The weight criteria include the weight of the pet crate. For pets weighing over 32 kg, Crate size should not exceed 28 x 28 x 36 (inches). The container should be large enough to permit the pet to stand properly, turn around and lie down.
The usual documentation is required, meaning that passengers must be accompanied with their pet’s health certificate, vaccination record, and further certificated (if applicable).
Pets are typically allowed to travel on board flights in India, barring a few exceptions. For instance, snub nosed (brachycephalic) breeds of dogs and cats are tricky to fly, as their natural physique makes it difficult for them to breathe & regulate their body temperature, so make sure to call your airline and inquire about your pet before flying.
With the number of pet parents growing in the country, it is no surprise to see airlines opening up the skies for domestic pet transportation in the country. Pets are akin to family in the modern family unit and deserve to be treated as such. To conclude, while the country has pet-friendly airlines aplenty, these services will only continue to improve with time and usage, until travelling with your pet is as convenient as travelling with another person.