Delta should be commended for its efforts to provide pet owners with more information about their beloved animals. As described in the below article, the airline is now offers a device which “shows passengers the ambient temperature around their pets and how their crates are positioned.” During the critical phase of air transportation (flight), the FAA rules will not permit its use due to possible interference issues (why not make it an application on a PDA?).
This Delta addition will help, but to reach the risk expectations of most people who fly their pets, more will have to be done. Primarily, airlines will have to incur considerable additional expenses and the charges for carriage of animals will have to be increased.
The practical realities are not pretty. First and foremost, as shown in the above pictures, all pets (except aid dogs and some smaller pets) must be transported in the cargo belly of an airplane. It is not the same atmosphere as the passenger cabin; when the cargo door is closed, it is dark, noisy and not always at ideal temperature. The process of loading and unloading the “crates” is tough on the occupant. The ride out to planeside is totally open to the airport weather. The transitions from baggage cart to loader, from that ramp into the belly and the reverse processes on arrival are not fun for your animal. If the pet must connect with another flight before final destination, all of these transitional “bumps” will be incurred again. While training has increased the awareness of the baggage handlers, the demands of moving the “cargo” to and from other flights sometimes override animal sensitivity.
Among a number of difficulties associated with flying pets, the actual “flying” part may be most stressful. Many humans, and particularly first fliers, are uncomfortable because their sensory system is disturbed. Being unaccustomed to the sensation of lift, the pull of acceleration, the impact of pressurization on the body, etc., signals the subconscious that something unusual is going on. People have the ability to rationalize these aberrations. Unfortunately, animals do not have the same coping mechanism. Dogs, cats and other pets experience stress during their air travels.
Most veterinarians would suggest that flying should be a last choice. Your vet should be consulted before you plan your itinerary. Professional judgment as to individual pets’ compatibility may vary based on the animal’s type and personality. There also may be prescriptions which will mitigate the stress. Try to avoid air travel during periods of upper reaches of high and low temperatures. The pet owner’s most important task is to plan the trip to the advantage of the animal, not the passenger.
It is unrealistic to upgrade the environment and handling of this precious cargo (i.e. to make the cargo belly less stressful). It would so increase the airlines’ costs and higher fares might not be acceptable to the pet owners.
Delta, any new information is extremely helpful, but knowing the risks of animal carriage on planes and trying to address the factors within your control are the animal’s best friend.