There’s a Pet on Your Flight, and You’re Allergic: What to Do


Try calling your airline ahead of time to see if there are animals on your flight. By: Austin Kirk

If you’ve ever suffered from pet allergies, you know the pain of the runny nose, itchy eyes and even full-on hives or breathing problems. You certainly can’t ignore the situation.

As more and more people adopt the “pet family” outlook, airlines, hotels and even trains are opening their doors to peoples’ dogs, cats, birds and more.

Pets carry allergy-inducing dander on their bodies, and people transfer this kind of dander all the time too. If someone has a pet, they’ll have dander on their clothes that can transfer to the seat of a plane or bed of a hotel room — without the pet ever being present. So where does this leave allergy-prone passengers and guests?

Assume Pets Will Be on the Plane

If you’re hopping on a flight anytime soon and you suffer from pet allergies, it’s best to go ahead and plan for a pet to be on board, regardless of whether one actually is.

People transfer pet dander easily, and planes are rarely deep-cleaned. It’s safe to assume there will be some sort of allergen floating around the cabin and sticking to seats, tray tables and anything else you’ll touch.

How to prepare:

  • Pack wet wipes in your carry-on bag and ask to board early. Most airlines will let you pre-board if you mention a pet allergy. Tell the flight attendants you want to wipe your seating area down before other passengers board. Take 5 minutes to clean and disinfect your seat and tray table. This alone can make a world of difference.
  • Carry allergy pills and prescription medication with you. If you expect to react to pet dander, consider taking an allergy pill before getting on the plane. Make sure your prescriptions are updated, and carry an EpiPen if your reactions are severe.
  • Ask flight attendants to seat you as far away from pets as possible — even if you don’t see any animals in the waiting area. Always be respectful, and ask to move if your seat assignment happens to be near someone with a pet.
  • If you’re worried about a reaction and taking steps like these won’t do the trick, call the airline ahead of time. Ask if there are any pets flying in the main cabin, and if there are, see if you can move to another flight at no charge. Typically, airlines will accommodate you when possible.
Service animals are generally allowed in a plane’s main cabin for the flight’s duration. By: Can Do Canines

What If You Have a Reaction?

If you’ve taken these steps and still find yourself reacting to a pet on board, you have a few options.

In these cases, airlines do their best to make sure all passengers are happy (including the pets). If the outcome isn’t strongly in your favor, know that the decision was likely made in an attempt to satisfy everyone.

If there’s a pet near you on the plane, ask a flight attendant if you can move. Remember, a smile and “please” can go a long way here. If there’s no extra seat available, you might be able to switch with another willing passenger.

Try asking a passenger toward the back of the plane if the flight attendant won’t make the switch for you. Most people will jump at the chance to move their seat closer to the front, so you shouldn’t have any trouble.

When all else fails and you can’t remain in your seat, you’ll have to request the next available flight out. This is uncommon, but if there are no seats available and no passengers willing to switch with you, the airline won’t remove the pet. Instead, most will give you the option of taking the next flight.

If you suffer from pet allergies, check out these tips:

Rules of the Air

It’s helpful to know how airlines handle pets if you’re in this situation. Each company is different, but most follow a similar set of rules.

  1. Airlines only allow a specific number of pets on board each flight. Typically, they disperse them throughout first class, business and economy cabins.
  2. Service or emotional support animals are always allowed on board and don’t count against the number of pets allowed in the cabin. Because of this, there could technically be more than the allowed number of pets on a flight.
  3. If flight attendants feel you’re at risk of having a medical emergency due to an allergy, they’re allowed to ask you to deplane, find medical help and switch to a later flight.

At the end of the day, the decision to fly is up to you. To make your trip as allergy-free as possible, though, it’s a good idea to take necessary precautions, even if the flight doesn’t end up having a pet on it.

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