Bringing Pets To Hawaii, Step 5: Flight Booking

Posted Aug 4, 2011 at 6:55pm
Portrait of a wolf-like dog with small seaplane in background.

This lucky dog gets to fly in a private plane. I wish all pets flying to Hawaii could have such a comfortable ride! (Photo credit: Michael Hays)

Step 1: Prohibited Animals
Step 2: Vaccinations
Step 3: Microchip
Step 4: Blood Test

Step 5: Flight Booking

Unless your pet is a guide dog or service dog, it will probably have to travel to Hawaii in the baggage compartment or cargo hold of an airplane. I have yet to find a commercial airline that allows pets to fly in the passenger cabin on flights to Hawaii. Alaska Airlines is the only commercial airlines I have found that allows pets (small cats & dogs only) to fly in the passenger cabin on flights to Hawaii. I’ve even looked into commercial cruise lines, and Cunard is the only one I’ve found that accepts pets as passengers, but only on transatlantic crossings.

If your pet is too big to fly in the passenger cabin on an Alaska Airlines flight, I’ve come across only two other ways to avoid shipping your pet to Hawaii in a plane’s baggage or cargo hold, and both options are prohibitively expensive:

Most of us can’t afford those alternatives, and will have to use a commercial airline. But there are ways to minimize the risk and discomfort to your pet during its flight:

  • Review the track record of the airline you’re thinking of using. Each month, U.S.-based airlines are required by law to report any losses, injuries, or deaths of animals on their flights. Here is a compilation of animal “incidents” reported between 2005-2011. Keep in mind that major airlines are always going to have more incidents than smaller airlines, simply because they have more animals passengers. For this reason, it’s probably best to compare major airlines only with other major airlines, and smaller airlines with other smaller airlines. Click the name of an airline to see details of the incidents reported. As you read these statistics, you might want to pay more attention to the number of injuries and deaths than the number of losses, as losses are usually due to a poorly secured kennel, and this is almost always preventible. (In my next post in this series, I will tell you how to make sure a kennel is escape-proof.)
  • If your pet is a Brachycephalic (short-nosed) dog or cat — such as a pug, bulldog, or Persian cat — you should be aware that the Humane Society of the United States says these breeds should never be shipped in the cargo hold of a plane. Perhaps this stance is overly cautious, perhaps not. You are the best judge of which traveling conditions your pet is able and unable to tolerate. Ship your pet in the baggage/cargo hold only if there’s no other alternative, and avoid traveling during warm weather, as short-nosed pets overheat easily. Travel during the coolest months of the year, and if possible, travel early in the morning or late at night. If your journey will consist of more than one flight and your pet is allowed to ride in the passenger cabin on any flights before the flight to Hawaii, ask your airline(s) if it’s OK if your pet switches from an under-seat kennel to a baggage/cargo kennel mid-journey. Airlines usually have special rules regarding Brachycephalic breeds, so be on the lookout for those when reading over their pet rules.
  • Book your flight with an airline agent, not online. It’s fine to find the flight you want through online methods, but when it’s time to make the flight reservation, call the airline. Only a certain number of pets are allowed on each flight, and speaking to an agent is probably the only way you’ll be able to reserve one of those spots for your pet on the flight you want. Be sure you’ve read the airline’s pet rules before you call. If you get the feeling that the agent you’re speaking to doesn’t know the rules very well, call back and speak to another agent.
  • Book a flight that arrives in Hawaii no earlier than your pet’s eligibility date. At the end of Step 4, you should have found out from the Department of Agriculture your pet’s “5-Day-or-Less Eligibility Date” — in other words, the earliest date you can bring your pet to Hawaii without having your pet quarantined. Make every effort you can to avoid having your pet arrive in Hawaii before that date. If you must quarantine your pet, try to keep its quarantine time to 30 days or less. In her books “So You Want To Live In Hawaii” and “The Hawaii Pet Book,” author Toni Polancy says she’s found — from talking to pet owners about their quarantine experiences — that pets quarantined for 30 days or less seemed to tolerate their confinement pretty well, while those quarantined for longer than 30 days were more likely to show signs of psychological trauma.
  • Book a nonstop flight to your final destination in Hawaii. If this is absolutely impossible, book the route that will get your pet to its final destination in the shortest amount of time. Your first priority should be to minimize the amount of time your pet must spend in the baggage or cargo hold of a plane. If your pet is allowed to ride in the passenger cabin on any flights before the flight to Hawaii, ask your airline(s) if it’s OK if your pet switches from an under-seat kennel to a baggage/cargo kennel mid-journey.
  • If your final destination is the Big Island, book your flight to Kona Airport so you can use their direct-release program (rather than Honolulu Airport’s). Hilo Airport does not have a direct-release program.
  • If your final destination is Maui, book your flight to Kahului Airport so you can use their direct-release program (rather than Honolulu Airport’s).
  • If your final destination is Kauai, book your flight to Lihue Airport so you can use their direct-release program (rather than Honolulu Airport’s).
  • If your final destination is Kona Airport (Big Island), Kahului Airport (Maui), or Lihue Airport (Kauai), make sure the airline you want to use participates in the neighbor island dog/cat entry program so your pet can be released directly after its flight there. Before booking your flight, make sure a local inspector will be available to process your pet’s direct release on the date/time of the flight’s arrival. Call to make a reservation for a pet inspection with one of the following contractors:
    • Kona Airport
      • Kona Veterinary Service: (808) 325-6637
      • Keauhou Veterinary Hospital: (808) 322-2988
    • Kahului Airport
      • Central Maui Animal Clinic: (808) 893-2380
      • Maui Humane Society: (808) 877-3680
      • South Shore Veterinary Care: (808) 874-3422
    • Lihue Airport
      • Kauai Humane Society: (808) 632-0610
  • If your final destination is Oahu, Molokai, or Lanai, try to book a flight to Honolulu that arrives no later than 3pm (2pm if it’s an international flight). This will ensure that there will be sufficient time for the airline to transport your pet to the airport’s quarantine holding facility by 4:30pm. If your pet arrives after 4:30pm, it won’t be released until the following day.
  • If your final destination is Molokai or Lanai, allow at least 4 hours between your arrival at Honolulu Airport and the departure of your connecting flight to Molokai or Lanai. This will allow for possible delays as your pet goes through the entire direct-release process at Honolulu Airport.
  • If your pet will be coming from outside the U.S., make sure your pet’s flight will arrive during U.S. Customs’ hours of operation to avoid possible delays in your pet’s processing.
  • If your pet will be coming to Hawaii from Guam, Australia, New Zealand, or the British Isles, your pet must not leave its country of origin during the six months prior to its flight to Hawaii (except to travel to Guam, Australia, New Zealand, the British Isles, or Hawaii). Choose the date of your flight accordingly.
  • If you won’t be traveling with your pet, you must tell the airline so they can list a consignee (the only person whom the airline will be allowed to release your pet to) on the shipmaster’s declaration.
  • Avoid traveling during the hottest & coldest times of year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal-Plant Health Inspection Service will not allow pets to be checked as baggage if they will be exposed to temperatures higher than 85 degrees (Fahrenheit) or lower than 45 degrees (Fahrenheit) for more than 45 minutes. For this reason, many airlines institute summer and winter “embargoes” during which they do not allow pets to fly in the baggage or cargo hold. A notable example is Hawaiian Airlines, which will not accept pets as checked baggage from April 15 through October 15. A reader told me that a Hawaiian Airlines agent told her that this rule applies only to flights originating from Sacramento, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and San Jose. You should double-check this if you’re booking a Hawaiian Airlines flight, as those cities are not listed in the rule on Hawaiian Airline’s website.
  • At least 1 month before your pet’s scheduled flight(s), call the airline(s) to confirm your pet’s reservation(s).

Step 6: Kennel
Step 7: Import Form
Step 8: Health Certificate
Step 9: Flight Prep
Step 10: Moving Day

For more up-to-date, detailed info on moving to Hawaii, check out my e-book: Moving To Hawaii: A Step-By-Step Guide

Posted in Moving, Pets

Comments

  1. karma

    I just called Alaska today – 1/6/12 and they told me I could fly with my cat in the cabin to Hawaii. I specifically asked them to double check and they said as long as my pet met Hawaii’s requirements, I had all the paperwork, and space was available that my pet could fly for $100.

    • Michele Meyer

      That is FANTASTIC news! Thank you for the update! Come to think of it, I was recently on a U.S. Airways flight back to Hawaii and I saw a woman with a Chihuahua in the cabin. At the time, I just assumed it was some sort of service dog, but maybe U.S. Airways has changed its policy, too?

      I’ll do some research and make any necessary updates to the info in this article.

  2. Kelly Heiman

    Hi,
    Yes!! Late last year Alaska Airlines made some exciting changes to their policy pertaining to animals flying into Hawaii.

    My name is Kelly Heiman, I am the direct release coordinator at Central Maui Animal Clinic and West Maui Animal Clinic. I have been involved in the direct airport release program since its inception many years ago. I remember the stress and anxiety of flying my own pet over to Oahu, when the regulations were still mandatory quarantine – I believe I was more stressed than my pets.

    This is the first airline to allow pet(s) in cabin, that are not classified as service animals, I am hoping more airlines will follow suit. If you are flying into Maui, I would be more than happy to assist you, answer your questions and guide you through all the State paperwork.

    Please feel free to give me a call at my office 808-893-2380. Aloha, Kelly Heiman, RVT LVT

    • Michele Meyer

      Hi, Kelly:

      It’s great to hear from you! On behalf of my readers, thank you for your offer of assistance. You’re right that pet owners are usually more stressed than the pets themselves (I know I was!), so your support is very much appreciated!

      I really hope other airlines will follow Alaska Airlines’ policy change, too. They definitely have my business, that’s for sure!

      Aloha,
      Michele

  3. Dave

    So I’m in Maine it is a 12 hour flight or 2 6 hours hops… Our dog is a crate trained boxer. So the crate is not the issue. I’m just wondering about the long flights… Think I should fly to west coast wait a day then continue the flight? Welcome any ideas… Kona around March 2013.

    • Michele Meyer

      Hi, Dave: Yes, I would do it in two 6-hour flights, rather than subject the dog to a 12-hour flight, especially since boxers are somewhat snub-nosed. Twelve hours (plus ground time) is a long time to be without water in a cold baggage compartment. Even though it’s more of a hassle/expensive, I’d worry a lot less doing it in two separate, shorter flights.

      Good luck!
      Michele

  4. Kelly Heiman

    Hi Dave,
    That is an excellent question and one, I get quite a bit. When flying your pet, long distance or short distance, we as pet owners, need to look at many factors: health of the pet, breed, stress and/or anxiety level of the pet, age of the pet, and lets not forget, the pet owner’s own anxiety. In my 10+ years running this program, I have never had a dog or cat arrive, in medical distress, from being in the cargo hold, as now the cargo hold area, is pressure and climate controlled.
    But if I were flying from the east coast to Maui, with my French Bulldogs, I would probably make a stop overnight on the West coast, if for nothing else, my own sense of security. Some clients, feel it causes more anxiety to have the overnight stay and then have to put their pets back into a crate and on another flight, but once you receive a health check from your local vet, its really the owners knowing what is best for the four legged children.
    If you need any assistance, even flying to another island, I am happy to help and give any advice, tips, etc. please give me a call, 808-446-1521. Warmest Aloha, Kelly Heiman

    • Michele Meyer

      Thanks once again for your advice, Kelly! It’s always good to hear your take on things, since you deal with this all the time.

  5. Julie Bak

    I need help, we are moving to Maui in June 2013, after blood work and paperwork it will probably be around the last week, I’ve been reading the airline websites restrictions and now I can’t seem to find one that will let us check our 2 dogs (1 lab around 75 lbs and 1 min pin around 19 lbs). Kelly I noticed you work in the Maui office and I will definitely be calling you :) you give great points. We are first driving from Dallas TX to Los Angeles to drop off the car to be shipped, then wanting to fly out of LAX to OGG, noticed most airlines have that summer restriction :( I have a job transfer so I don’t know what to do now? Any suggestions on a airline are greatly appreciated.
    Mahalo :)

    • Michele Meyer

      Hi, Julie:

      As far as I can tell, United Airlines still doesn’t have a summer embargo on pet travel to Hawaii (that’s the airline I used when I moved with my cats in August 2010). It doesn’t look like Alaska Airlines has an embargo either, but you’d have to fly out of San Diego rather than LAX to fly nonstop to OGG (San Diego is about a 2-hour drive from LA). One really great thing about Alaska Airlines is that they allow pets to fly in the cabin (rather than the baggage compartment) to Hawaii, as long as they’re small enough to fit in an under-the-seat kennel — your min pin should qualify.

      Good luck!
      Michele

      • Julie Bak

        Thanks Michele for the update, we also have a Lab (75 lbs) I spoke with Hawaiian Airlines cargo and didn’t say much about embargo but the cost is around $600 just for the Lab, ill keep researching

        • Michele Meyer

          I was trying to figure out why you’d have to send your lab as cargo (rather than just as checked baggage, which is only $225), and then I saw Hawaiian Airlines’ rule about pets over 70 pounds needing to fly as cargo. That’s too bad. When I was reviewing Hawaiian Airlines’ rules, I noticed that LAX isn’t listed as an airport that is under their permanent summer embargo. The rules just say the temperature can’t exceed 85 degrees. So unless your flight happens to occur during a heat wave, you should be OK in that regard. I hope you can find a cheaper airline for your lab, though!

  6. Julie Bak

    I ended up booking with Hawaiian Airlines, since the Lab is also a Service Animal he can be with my son till boarding then be taking to Baggage , now in Texas we didn’t have to register the dog as Service Animal per ADA Laws do you know anything about Hawaii you can suggest? Thanks for all your help is definitely easier and love your website :)

    • Michele Meyer

      Make sure Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t charge you a fee to transport your service dog — they get to fly for free (see rule #4).

      I don’t know if Hawaii requires service dogs to be registered. But here is a list of other requirements for service dogs entering the state of Hawaii.

      • Julie Bak

        Once again you came through for me Michele thanks, it disturbs me though that they require a doctor letter stating the disability which defines the ADA law, but whatever is best for my son and dog :)

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