Pets on planes

Each week on msnbc.com’s Overhead Bin, I have the opportunity to answer a reader’s question. This week the topic was pets on planes.. A reader wanted to know if she could take her small dog in the cabin.

The good news is that, yes, on most airlines small pets may travel in the cabin.

The bad news: There are plenty of restrictions. And, in some cases, the ticket for your tabby or toy poodle may end up costing more than your own.

“The cost runs anywhere from $50 all the way to $125. And that’s each way,” says Kim Saunders of Petfinder.com.

“Pets will also need a recent health certificate, while will require a veterinary office visit that can cost from $35 to $100. You’ll also need to be sure your pet is in an approved pet carrier that can fit underneath the seat.”

Passengers taking a pet on a plane should also keep these tips in mind:

Make your reservation well in advance. Frontier Airlines allows up to 10 ticketed pets in the cabin, but most airlines only allow one or two. “You and your pet may not be able to take the flight you want,” said Saunders. And all pets need to remain in their carrier under the seat for the duration of the flight.

Give your pet food and water far ahead of the flight so that your pet can visit the relief area before going through security. (A few airports have relief areas post-security; but every airport has a spot for Spot outside). “Even then, it’s a good idea to put something soft and absorbent in the carrier. Just in case,” said Saunders.

Make sure your pet is social. Your pet must stay inside the carrier at all times, but at the security checkpoint, you’ll be required to take the pet out and either walk it or carry it through the metal detector. “If there’s an alarm because of the leash or a metal collar, the pet will be checked physically, in a sort of pet pat-down, by an agent to resolve any kind of issue,” said TSA spokesperson Nico Melendez.

Some people have tried to put their pets − and sometime their babies − through X-ray machines. “That won’t harm a pet or a baby, but we prefer they don’t do that,” said Melendez.

For more information about taking your pet on a plane, check your airline’s website or the resource section of a website such as Petfinder.com, which recently issued its 2011 list of the most pet-friendly airlines in the United States and Canada.