Official ARK Pet Oasis Position on Cargo vs. Excess Baggage


There are three ways that pets may travel by air:

  • In-cabin with a passenger as a carry-on placed under the seat in front of the passenger (weight limit is approximately 18 lbs. for both the pet and its carrier combined). Service and support animals are allowed in-cabin
  • A pet inside a travel crate may be checked as excess baggage – essentially a piece of luggage, or
  • as manifested cargo.

Many airlines allow pets to fly as excess baggage due to pressure from their passengers, which is where they generate most of their income. For those carriers that have a cargo travel requirement, it is generally for certain routes – into the UK, South Africa or Australia – or international flights only; for example, Delta requires that pets be booked as cargo on all international flights.

If your pet is too large to fly in-cabin with you, The ARK strongly recommends that owners book their companions as cargo rather than excess baggage for these reasons:

  • Animal Welfare – Concern for animal welfare is regulated when pets are shipped as cargo.
  1. Live animals in cargo are manifested as AVI and the carrier is required to maintain temperature ranges in the cargo hold. While airlines are supposed to maintain temperature for checked baggage when AVI are present, there is a greater likelihood that the carrier may not be aware that live animals are on the plane.
  2. Acceptance personnel for cargo have been specifically trained to handle live animals. Though IATA guidelines are inconsistently enforced, the level of attendance to AVI is much higher for cargo than terminal staff handling “excess baggage.” The check-in staff have neither the time nor the knowledge to advise or correct deficiencies such as crate size, crate security, documentation, microchips, etc. Upon arrival at the destination, these deficiencies may result in significant charges and/or the need to return pet.
  3. Animals in cargo must be transported in temperature controlled vans shielded from heat or wind and are the last to go on and first to come off the plane, this is not always guaranteed for excess baggage.
  4. There is a greater likelihood that excess baggage will not make a connecting flight.


  • Disease transmission – Animals manifested as cargo must be properly examined by a licensed veterinarian and have documented vaccination records. While the requirements are the same for excess baggage, the enforcement for excess baggage is almost non-existent. Because of that, there is a greater likelihood that pets in excess baggage may carry diseases that could be transmitted to other animals travelling on the same flight. This past summer at JFK airport, Egypt Air allowed 24 dogs to be shipped as excess baggage. 3 arrived DOA. Several of the remaining dogs had viruses and parasites that could have been transmitted to other dogs.


  • Control of Rabies – The fact that carriers allow animals checked as excess baggage to be cleared through the passenger terminal increases the risk that improperly documented or vaccinated animals from third world and non-rabies free countries can enter the U.S. Passengers simply retrieve their pets from the baggage carousel and exit the airport.


  • AWIClients can track the status of the animal with the Airway Bill # when booked through Cargo


Unfortunately, passenger demand for lower cost alternatives to cargo and social media are causing a conversion from cargo bookings to excess baggage and for the most part, individual airlines are reluctant to institute a policy change out of concern for competitive issues. Any change must be driven by regulatory bodies such as IATA, the USDA, CDC and CBP.


ARK Pet Oasis strongly recommends booking your companion as cargo. Traveling can be stressful for us as humans, our goal is to make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible for your beloved pet. Airlines require travel arrangements for animals be booked closer to the date of departure, this may mean your pet will not be on the same flight as you. If departing from JFK airport, you are able to drop off your pet at ARK Pet Oasis before your flight, where we will make sure your companion has all necessary documents and an IATA standard travel crate. Food, water and relief will be provided as needed, along with ground-transportation to the cargo facility where trained staff checks-in your pet for their flight. Please give us a call here at the ARK Pet Oasis 1-212-973-8275 to make a reservation and hear about additional services we offer for your furry-friend.

Leave a reply