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Reader’s tip for flying with an anxious dog: Chocolate (plus a report on Delta’s carry-on policy)

Reader Hannah left a comment, oh, so long ago, on my post about the major U.S. airlines’ carry-on policies, reporting a conversation that she’d had with a Delta rep about traveling with her pup Oliver from Asia to the U.S. Kindly overlooking the fact that I only responded, ahem, two months later, she posted a follow-up report about their trip. The carry-on part is interesting, but I’m putting it at the end because the part that knocked my socks off was how she prepared for her flight — specifically, how she thought ahead about the fact that her dog, new to travel, might be anxious, and therefore noisy:

“Before the flight I put together 40-50 ziplock bags with Hershey Kisses and a little note about Oliver to give to passengers in my section. Everyone loved it and was super friendly about his whining (they could barely hear him anyways). No one even minded when we had a little escape incident (I like the SleepyPod and Oliver LOVES it, but it is pretty easy for him to nose his way out if it’s open a crack or if my hand is in there).

The flight attendants were happy to get chocolate, and they made sure I had plenty of wine in exchange! One flight attendant offered to give me newspaper so he could potty in the lavatory. The baggies really put passengers in a good mood at the beginning of the flight, and everyone started sharing stories about their dogs. One lady had two of her dogs flying in cargo on the flight, so it gave her a chance to talk about them.

I’d recommend this to anyone flying a long-haul. I didn’t give out the bags on the short flight (I was too mentally and physically exhausted to engage people) and everyone was quite crabby and grumbly about Oliver whining under my seat. I think it’s a great idea for short flights as well!

Here’s the note I included:

‘Hi! My name is Oliver. I’m a little mutt from the streets of Korea. Then I was sick and lonely in doggie prison until some humans came and rescued me. My human mom is taking me to America where I can run and play in a yard with grass. I don’t really know what that is yet, but she says it’s fun. She’s doing everything she can to make me be quiet during this flight, but I’ve never flown before and I’m pretty scared. I’m sorry if I whine or bark. If I could get out of this carrier, I’d give you LOTS of kisses. Since I’m trapped, here are some chocolate kisses for you!
p.s. My human mom is named Hannah. She’s in seat 32D (to Detroit) or 6B (to Columbus) and has earplugs in case I bother you too much!'”

The basic idea isn’t new — I’ve written before about a reader’s suggestion to bring tasty treats for the flight attendants — but I love how Hannah thought big, and brought treats for an entire section of the plane. The note, too, is perfect. The only thing I might add is a picture of my pup, but really, it’d be icing the cake. That note would melt the most flint-like heart.

Photo by meddygarnet

I was about to finish this post and hit “Publish,” but I just can’t without reminding you — not that you need reminding — that chocolate is delightful for your fellow passengers, but deadly for your pup. Make sure she doesn’t get into those Kisses at your house or en route to the airport!

Hannah’s report re Delta’s carry-on policy

Delta’s web site doesn’t make it clear whether Delta is one of those airlines that counts your pet’s carrier as your carry-on, or as your personal item. The difference is important, because if it’s the latter, you can also board with a small, carry-on suitcase (which is all many passengers fly with; not me, but I loop Chloe’s bag over the handle of my wheeled carry-on for treks through airports). Delta’s site states that “Your pet counts as one piece of carry-on baggage,” leaving you no wiser than you were when you turned on your computer.

In her March 2013 comment, Hannah reported that a Delta rep had told her that she “would be allowed to take my dog in the carrier IN ADDITION to my personal item and carry-on.” She planned to call back closer to her flight date and ask again, and here’s what she told me:

“I called Delta back regarding my dog and carry-ons two days before my flight. The first person I talked to said that I could NOT take a carry-on suitcase (wheelie bag) and my dog — I could only take my dog and a ‘personal item.’ This, of course, made me freak out since I needed to transport thousands of dollars of camera equipment and electronics in my wheelie bag. I’m one for calling airlines twice in a row since their reps usually give different info, and I’m glad I called back on this one. The second time I got a more experienced and helpful rep who actually double-checked in a rule book about the issue (the first rep ‘asked [her] supervisor,’ and still came up with WRONG information). The second rep said that I could take my dog and my wheelie bag, since I would be putting the dog under the seat and the wheelie bag in the overhead compartment. That made me feel much better.

My experience in airports has taught me that no one actually polices carry-ons. (Do they? They have those FAA announcements, but I’ve never seen or heard anyone getting in trouble for having too many). Since I had so many treats and things for Oliver, I decided just to risk it and carry my purse, along with the dog carrier and my wheelie bag. If someone said something, I’d just play dumb. I tried to make it inconspicuous, and no one noticed for the whole journey. In fact, I saw a couple of other passengers with three bags/items. I had plenty of room under the seat for Oliver (we have a SleepyPod) and my purse (which is pretty soft, flat, and floppy — I wouldn’t recommend doing this with anything structured). He wasn’t cramped at all. I think we were on a Boeing 777, and it was worth it to pay a bit extra for Economy Comfort. On the second flight (only 30 minutes on a smaller plane), he still had enough room down there with my purse.”

It sounds to me like the answer is that both a pet carrier and a carry-on are allowed on Delta, since that was the answer Hannah got from the more experienced reps she spoke to (the original customer service representative she called has a mini Schnauzer of his own and they fly a lot together).

Thanks so much for your comment, Hannah — the tip is brilliant, the news is useful, and I know how much effort it takes to write a long message like yours. Thank you for your work, and your willingness to share info that will make other travelers’ trips easier!


  • Bonnie Coffin

    Love this site so much. I recently flew Delta out of Atlanta to Key West, I also thought you were allowed one carry on and one personal item on Delta. Well two weeks ago at the gate 10 minutes before boarding they announced you could only take one article in cabin with you. I had a purse and a laptop case, and was flying first class, and they said I would have to put one inside the other. I was only allowed one item. Thank goodness I didn’t have Bella, my Yorkie, with me on this trip. Now this is the first time this has ever happened to me and I fly Delta frequently. I sometimes think the agents don’t understand the rules either. Either way, they need to set a rule and stand by it. If I had Bella with me and my puse, they would have expected me to check one of them….not happening. In the future I will be asking about this rule and get them to send me confirmation via email, which I will print and have in hand….

  • Oh, thank you, Bonnie — and thank you, too, for the reminder that it so often comes down to the individuals working that day, and their understanding/memory/perception of the rules. I love the idea of getting an e-mail to print out in case of controversy!

  • Carol

    I love this idea. Hannah is one very smart person, and of course Oliver is one lucky little dog.

  • Ali

    I’m flying from Korea back to the States with my dog in cabin with me for the first time (she’s flown checked baggage to and from Korea before) as an ESA. She’s a well-behaved dog but I’m not sure how this will make her feel so this is a good idea!

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