In-flight Allergies: A Peril of Flying with Pets

With many airlines now allowing animals on board, allergy sufferers need to be well prepared ?

Credit: Flickr/dmoola

Feline allergens were detected in 100% of aircraft seats surveyed

If you’ve got pet allergies, you’d better make sure you’re prepared for anything before getting on a flight

Whether it’s Snow Birds heading south for the winter with their beloved pets in tow, or someone who just can’t part with their furry best friend during their holiday, there seem to be more and more animals aboard airplanes these days.

According to a recent study by Swiss scientists, it is nearly impossible to avoid cat dander when you’re in an airplane cabin at 30,000 feet.

This isn’t just limited to cat hair residue from cats actually on board or carried on by pet-owning passengers. The most common feline allergen was detected in 100 per cent of aircraft seats tested. The amounts were actually high enough to trigger serious reactions in sensitive people.

Surprisingly, out of the top 10 major airlines that haul the most passengers, only two of them have rules that keep cats out of the cabin. The other eight airlines allow as many as 10 cats per flight. Of the Canadian companies, both Air Canada and WestJet permit cats in the plane cabins.

Typically, the only animals allowed in the cabin are cats and small dogs. Pets must travel with their owners, provided they are small enough to fit and stay comfortably in their carrier under the seat.

Coping with In-flight Allergies

For someone who is highly allergic to cats, this in-flight reality may sound very daunting. The best way to avoid suffering throughout the entire flight is to be sure you’re well prepared.

Be certain to check the airline’s pet policies prior to your departure. Almost all of the airlines will post on their websites their specific rules for animals in the cabin.

You can also phone the airline and make inquiries about your particular flight. If there are going to be pets on your plane, the airline will know ahead of time because passengers are required to make reservations for their animals in advance.

If the person with a pet is seated near you, you can always ask to move to another seat. Airline officials will typically do what they can to reseat allergic passengers far away from people with pets.

And if nothing else, make sure you have your allergy medications with you. If you’re a very serious allergy sufferer, an EpiPen or any other necessary antihistamine is a must for air travel. 
It’s a good idea to speak to your doctor about your options before you leave on your trip.

Kennel Requirements for Travelling Animals

If you’re the one who’s planning to fly with a pet, keep in mind the general kennel requirements for an animal that’s placed in the plane’s cargo hold:

  • Constructed of sturdy plastic

  • Includes a locking system

  • Includes food and water bowls inside

  • Includes clearly visible “Live Animal” stickers

  • Does not have wheels

  • Provides good ventilation

  • Pet’s name and owner’s contact info are labelled clearly

Watch Claire Newell on Global BC News: Final (Mon.), Early (Wed.), Morning & Noon (Thur.), Noon (Sat.). Or catch her Tuesdays at 8:30 a.m. on Shore 104 FM.

Originally published in TV Week. For daily updates, subscribe to the free TV Week e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.