Traveling with pets is no picnic. It has never been simple to bring your furry sidekick along for a long distance trip, and the challenges increase in proportion with the size of the animal. Unfortunately, that has never been truer than it is now. Airlines are really buckling down on the way pets fly, and it’s such a change that you may even find it more appealing to make your next vacation a road trip.  Delta Airlines is the latest company to join this growing trend. Here’s what you need to know:

Size matters.

As of March 2016, you will no longer be able to check your pets as baggage. Nobody would ever argue that checking your family member along with your suitcases was ideal… but the alternative is even worse for those pets who are too large to ride in the cabin. That brings us to our next point.

Animals are cargo.

If your pet is too large to fit into what would be considered acceptable size for a carry-on bag, then he or she will be forced to ride in the cargo area. This poses a significant risk to the health and safety of your pet. In some cases, it’s a necessary evil, but you should really take the time to consider it carefully. Noise and temperature are not controlled in the cargo hold. Imagine if you had to ride there yourself, sometimes on flights with a duration of many hours. It’s a pretty scary thought.

You’ll need to plan ahead.

If you will be flying with your pet, a separate booking is required. You’ll need to make these reservations in advance, but no more than 14 days ahead of your planned departure. Pets will need to be dropped off at least 3 hours before your scheduled boarding time.

Expect to Pay More.

In the past, the fee to check your pets with your baggage was $200. You can expect to pay at least double that amount when your pet is flying with cargo. You’ll be quoted an exact fee at the time of booking, and the price you pay will depend largely on the weight of the animal and the size of the carrier he or she is transported in.

The decision to travel with your pets should not be taken lightly. The risks of flying with pets are significant, especially if they will be flying in the cargo area. That statement really hits home when you take a look at the monthly consumer travel reports that are published by the Department of Transportation. In September 2015 alone, 5 pets suffered reportable injuries and 4 pets died while in the care of an airline.

If you’re considering air travel with a pet, speak with a representative of the airline about your options, and be sure to discuss your pet’s individual concerns with your veterinarian, as well.

Featured Photo Credit: whiteafrican via Compfight cc