Preparing to travel by airline with your service dog? There are a few things to keep in mind that ideally should help to make the process as smooth as possible. While unforeseen occurrences can happen, steps can be taken to minimize situations that slow you down or can make travelling by air more difficult.
Many fliers have found it helpful to limit their service dog's food and water intake in the hours before the flight, particularly if it is a lengthy one and to give him or her a final bathroom break as close as possible to flight time. Additionally, making sure you service dog has an animal identification card, linking them to you in the case of any unforeseen occurrences is always a good safety measure.
Calling in Advance
Calling at least 48 hours in advance to inform the airline you will be accompanied by a service animal can ensure you and your service animal are prepared for any requirements that must me met. Ask any and all questions you may have at this time, do not wait until the last minute or day of the flight to be surprised with additional requirements. It is also at this time you can attempt to request seats with more legroom for your service dog such as bulkhead seating if this is an option at your airline. State that you have a service animal in your request as rarely some bulkhead seating can actually have less than the standard legroom as opposed to more.
International Flight Concerns
You should be cognizant of the laws to any other country you will be traveling to. Avoid being taken by surprise as this may result in mandatory quarantines that separate you from your service animal. Service animals may be exempt from some requirements in some places and not in others. Also be aware of re-entry requirements when returning to the US after visiting a foreign country. Thoroughly research to make sure everything is in order and do not neglect to bring veterinary vaccination documentation with you.
Be aware of the airline security process. It is a good idea to arrive early for your flight in case of any holdups. You should expect that your service animal will be screened just as any passenger would be. Removing your service dog's collar or any part of his equipment that will set off the metal detectors, before proceeding through them is a good idea. Setting off the metal detector with your service animal will usually result in pat downs for both of you. Additionally, keep in mind that any individual bringing an animal on board an airline may be required to undergo the TSA's explosives trace testing, merely a swab of your hands to check for traces of explosives.
Letting the flight attendants know you will be boarding with your service animal in the pre-boarding process can help make the situation easier. Informing them of any previously approved request for seating, or requesting seating appropriately spaced for you should be done then. In addition, asking permission to pre-board so you and your service animal are settled down and out of the way before it becomes hectic should benefit the entire situation.
Flying with a service animal should not be an exhausting and frustrating experience. To reduce the chances of this happening, understanding the process unique to your airline as well as the general requirements can benefit everyone involved.