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Reader’s report: A first flight for Ella, from Boston to Long Beach

Reader Karen and I conferred last year about a trip she was planning to take from Boston to Long Beach, via Jet Blue. Ella, her young Lhasa Apso (Ella weighs 13 lbs.), had never flown before, and Karen was understandably nervous. The trip finally happened just before Christmas, and here’s Karen’s report:

Preparing for travel

“We had the Large SturdiBag for over a year (since we intended to but never did travel last winter) and although I practiced putting her in it at first, later I just left it sitting around so at least she was used to being around it. For her car seat I use a ‘Fido Rido’ but about a month before our trip I started putting her in the Sturdibag when I took her in the car.

I booked aisle and window ‘Even More Legroom’ seats for my husband and me on Jet Blue. I purposely booked a 6pm flight since it would give me time to make sure Ella got tired during the day, and the darkness and inherent quiet of a night flight would be calming.

I put one DryFur pad under the sheepskin and one on top. I debated it, ’cause the sheepskin seemed more cozy, but I figured if she did pee (which she didn’t) it would not be cozy at all! I got the Medium size which I think they recommended, but I noticed the sides are supposed to go up a little along the sides of the carrier, which mine really didn’t, but I still think it would have worked fine.

I put Ella’s health certificate, some other vet records, her photo and the SturdiBag brochure in a clear plastic folder in my very large personal carry-on/laptop bag. My husband had a large computer bag with the [PetEgo ‘Pet Dome‘] ‘pup tent’ (more on that later) and his small laptop.”

At the airport

“There was no issue at all at [Logan’s] baggage check desk!

Oh, with the help of an airport worker taking a break outside, I found Logan Airport’s Terminal 3 ‘pet area,’ which is to the right as you walk outside leaving the Jet Blue luggage area. It’s tucked in sort of an alcove, not lit at all, so for us it was too dark and scary. Not even sure what the surface was, definitely not grass — more like tar or something. But it is gated so in daylight hours it may work for others. [Here’s a link to a map of Logan Airport: Click on “Go Inside Logan Airport,” then, on the resulting map, click on Terminal C. You’ll get a close-up of the terminal. At the bottom, click on the arrow next to “To Terminal C Arrivals map.” At the bottom of the resulting page, click on the blue “Services” box, and an icon for the pet relief area will appear.]

One reason I chose to land in Long Beach is that in addition to being Jet Blue’s hub, it is small and you get off the plane outside, walk down a ramp then into the airport for about 10 steps, then outside again to baggage claim. There is a grassy area just behind the patio tables. So once you land you are only a few minutes from relief!”

On the plane

“I took the window as it seemed that she fit best with the carrier’s front facing my legs. It actually stuck out a few inches but since we had “more room” it wasn’t an issue. I just made sure to place my legs in front of me when the attendant passed so as not to draw attention to her. I did take your suggestion of opening the zipper (I did the front) just enough to bend down and pat her during takeoff (which was not bad,) and landing (which was bad and she freaked a little but it was over quickly).

A huge lucky break was that no one bought the middle seat, so after takeoff I placed the carrier on that seat with the opening against my left arm which I used to pat her when needed. But once she was off the floor next to me she was fine, and pretty much napped the whole 6 hour flight.

I was very excited when I got the ‘pup tent’ that unfolds and is longer than the carrier, but with the option of the middle seat I didn’t get to try it out. I would have to buy the middle seat as #2 if I wanted to use it since it definitely is wider than one seat, so I’ll have to think about that for my return trip in the spring.

I did buy an iced drink before boarding and used that and ice from the drink they served to give her ice chips throughout the pre-board and flight. She really liked that, and I don’t think I could have hydrated her any other way, so thanks again for the great tip!”

In conclusion

“When we landed at Long Beach, a flight attendant at the door looked at my carrier with surprise and said ‘My Gosh, she didn’t make a peep!’ Not sure they even knew she was on board. A couple of people at the baggage claim said ‘Was that dog on that flight?’ YAY, ELLA!! I was so proud of her! Since I have noticed that most people on Dog Jaunt report that their dogs do well, I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I could have been. I can’t thank you and all your Dog Jaunters enough! And Jet Blue gets A+ from me!”

And you, Karen (and Jack, and Ella!), get an A+ from me, for all your prep work and concern and caring, and for your kindness in passing on the details of your experience to other travelers with dogs. As you said yourself, hearing about other people’s experiences makes all the difference. Thank you! (And please let us know how the return trip goes!)