Delta will no longer allow pets as checked baggage

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Delta will no longer accept pets as checked baggage, the airline said this week in a blog. The change will be effective March 1, 2016, and will affect anyone who has already paid for their animal to travel as checked luggage. Delta will be reaching out to those passengers to inform them of the change, as February 29th is the last day of the old policy.

The airline will continue to allow pets under 30 pounds to fly as a carry-on in all classes but Delta One, and will offer exceptions to its new No Pets as Checked Baggage rule to active-duty military traveling to new posts, and for certified support animals.

For those passengers who still want to fly with their pets, Delta Cargo will be the only way to ship pets within the United States. But brace yourselves, because the cost will be greater than that of checked bags. Although there is no price data currently available, a similar program – United’s PetSafe – can cost anywhere from $200 to $2,000 for shipping, depending on the animal’s weight and destination.

It’s also far less convenient, as passengers must drop off pets at least three hours before departure time at an area away from traditional passenger check-in. The airline also will not guarantee that pets will fly on a passenger’s schedule, potentially complicating travel even further.

For the past decade, Delta actually had the worst track recordrelating to animal safety. According to statistics from the Department of Transportation, 74 animals died on Delta flights between May 2005 and September 2015, almost 25% of all recorded airline pet deaths. This might explain why the airline has decided to completely transfer the operational burden of transporting pets to a different division, one more focused on cargo that also has dedicated areas of the airport that could prevent accidents, should a pet escape its carrier before or after a flight.

Delta offers the following guidance for travelers bringing pets under the new rules:

  • A separate booking from their flight itinerary is required.  Additional fees and charges may apply.
  • A pet shipped domestically via Delta Cargo cannot be booked until 14 days prior to departure.
  • Pets are not guaranteed to be shipped on a customer’s same flight or flight schedule.
  • Shipping a pet requires dropping it off at a Delta Cargo location at least three hours before departure time at a location separate from passenger check-in.
  • Picking up a pet will also occur at a Delta Cargo location.
  • Delta Cargo will only accept international pet shipments from International Pet and Animal Transportation Association members.
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