Airline travel is sometimes unavoidable. Vacations and visits to friends/family may require the use of an airplane. As rabbits cannot be left alone for long, your pet may need to come with you.
Five major U.S. and Canadian airlines (American, United, Alaska, Spirit, and WestJet) permit rabbits in-cabin. You will need to pay $125 each way. Your rabbit will be treated as hand luggage. She must remain in her carrier, and be kept under your seat throughout the journey.
Rabbits are nervous animals and don’t enjoy air travel. It will be noisy and frightening for your pet. Ensure that she will be strong enough to cope with the stress that a flight will cause.
Can I Take My Rabbit on an Airplane?
If you’re planning on air travel, you may wish to bring your rabbit along. This will likely be the case if you’re taking a vacation. Rabbits cannot be left alone for prolonged periods of time.
Some airline carriers allow rabbits to travel on airplanes, but not all. Even airlines that permit cats and dogs may not allow rabbits. The five main airlines in America that permit rabbit passengers are:
- American Airlines
- United Airlines
- Alaska Air
- Spirit Airlines
- WestJet Airline
Be aware that there will be cost implications for taking a rabbit on an airplane. Your rabbit will not need her own seat, but there will be a surcharge. You’ll also need to check how your rabbit will travel.
Your rabbit will be treated as hand luggage. She must be stowed beneath your seat, in her carrier. This means the carrier must be small enough to fit in such a location.
Most airlines will only accommodate your pet for domestic or short-haul flights. Transatlantic travel is often not possible rabbits as it can be traumatic for such small and frail animals.
Will My Rabbit be Safe on an Airplane?
Many humans are afraid of flying. This terror will be magnified for a rabbit. Your pet will not understand what is happening. Just getting your rabbit to the airport can be stressful.
Upon arriving at the airport, think about how overwhelming this will be for your rabbit. People and noise will surround her. Rabbits are curious, but also cautious. All these sights, sounds, and smells may overwhelm your pet.
Rabbits are also innately afraid of airplanes. This is because of your pet’s vision. Rabbit eyes are engineered to see well at a distance, but lack depth perception. Your rabbit will see countless planes in the sky, and think they’re close. She may mistake these for birds of prey and panic.
Airplanes are loud and bright. Rabbits have sensitive ears and eyes. For this reason, avoid storing your rabbit in the cargo hold if possible. Your presence will offer some measure of comfort. Your pet must remain in her carrier throughout the flight. Make this as comfortable as possible:
- Ensure that, while your carrier fits within size regulations, it’s big enough to be comfortable. Your rabbit must be able to move and stand within her carrier.
- Line the carrier with soft blankets and towels. Rabbits love soft furnishings. This will provide a small measure of luxury.
- Lay down some pee pads as your rabbit will likely have a stress-related accident. As rabbit urine smells so strongly, this will not make you popular with other passengers.
- Fill your rabbit’s hutch with food to distract her. Ensure that flying with fresh hay and vegetables is permitted by your airline and destination. Some territories ban this, as the law protects local agriculture.
- Ensure your rabbit has a constant supply of fresh water.
- At any sign of distress, offer as much as comfort as the circumstances allow.
Flying with a rabbit will not be easy. Keep flights as short as possible, and do whatever you can to make the experience bearable.
What Airlines Allow Rabbits to Fly?
The rules of airline travel with rabbits vary, depending on your carrier. Unfortunately, rabbits remain misunderstood by many airlines. They sometimes mislabel rabbits as rodents or livestock.
Let’s take a look at the ten largest airlines in the USA, and whether they welcome rabbit passengers. As you will see, only half of these popular airlines welcome pets. It’s important to study this information before making a flight reservation.
Check the fine print when flying with your rabbit. A different carrier to the name on the ticket operates some flights. Code sharing flights will abide by the rules of the carrier, not the booker.
Book your trip early and ensure that there is space for your rabbit. Most airlines have a limited number of pet slots. Be upfront about your intention to bring your rabbit aboard.
Also be aware that an airline can refuse pets on the day of travel, based on a range of unforeseen factors. Turbulent traveling conditions or high in-cabin temperatures can change plans.
How Much Does Flying with a Rabbit Cost?
Most airlines have a fixed rate cost of $125 per rabbit.
This fare will be payable each way, so you’re looking at $250 for a return. You should also expect to pay an additional $125 for any prolonged stopover.
Make this clear when booking a ticket, too. You may be turned away at boarding if your airline is not expecting an animal passenger.
My Rabbit is an Emotional Support Animal
Restrictions on rabbit air travel do not apply to emotional support animals. Regardless of policy, an airline is legally obliged to provide passage to an emotional support animal.
Such rabbits can be allowed out of their carrier, and will travel without charge. All the same, you will be responsible for your rabbit. Your pet cannot run free on the airplane. You must also respect any potential allergies of other passengers.
You cannot arrive at an airport with a rabbit and declare them as an emotional support animal. You need to arrange this in advance. Also, you require a letter from a legally licensed mental health professional. This letter must:
- Be less than one year old and printed on official letterhead paper.
- Explain the credentials of the professional, clarifying from which state and college the license was obtained.
- State that you have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. The letter does not need to name the disorder. Airline staff are legally forbidden from asking for the reason.
- Confirm that you are currently undergoing treatment for your condition.
- Confirm that the presence of your rabbit is essential for your mental and emotional well being.
The Federal Register looks at some of the questions you can expect. If asked whether your rabbit is a pet, you must answer, “no, they are a service animal.” If you call your rabbit a pet, the usual restrictions will apply.
This will lead to further questions about the service provided by your rabbit. The airline will be required to operate within the law, though. If you have the appropriate documentation, you should not experience an issue.
Is Shipping Rabbits by Air Safe?
Tread carefully when shipping your rabbit as cargo. As rabbits as so small, you can usually avoid this. A rabbit will rarely be so large that she needs to be stored as cargo, but some breeds are big.
If your rabbit is loaded into a cargo hold, she is treated as property. Airline staff are not trained in handling the needs of animals. Your pet will be left to fend for herself for the duration of the flight.
Ensure that your rabbit has enough food and water. Do whatever you can to keep her calm before she is loaded into the cargo hold. She will likely be alone and frightened. Worse still, she may be housed with aggravated dogs and cats.
If the worst happens, an airline will rarely take responsibility. As Consumer Affairs explains, the statistics are often fudged. A rabbit that is unwell when released from the airplane will be deemed safe. If she later dies, the airline will absolve itself of any blame.
If you can avoid shipping your rabbit, do so. Even if your pet concludes the journey safely, she could be unloaded at the wrong airport. Without appropriate care, your rabbit is in grave danger.
Do Rabbits Need Passports to Travel by Air?
By law, rabbits do not require pet passports for domestic flights within the USA. They will be subject to the same restrictions as human passengers.
If you are planning to take your rabbit overseas, the rules may differ. EU countries, for example, often require pet passports for travel. You may find that your airline will not permit such a long journey with a rabbit.
Call your airline and explain your travel plans. The more time you allow yourself, your more information you’ll gather. This, in turn, will prevent any nasty surprises in the air or at the airport.
Do Rabbits Need Vaccinations Before Flying?
If you’re taking a domestic flight, your rabbit is unlikely to need vaccinations. These are not a legal requirement for pet rabbits in the USA. There is no legal rabbit vaccine available throughout the country.
Laws vary in other countries, though. The UK and Australia are prominent examples of nations with rabbit vaccination laws. If you are permitted into these countries, you’ll need to get your rabbit vaccinated ASAP.
This is because these countries have substantial wild rabbit populations. With wild rabbits comes a heightened risk of disease. Health concerns such as myxomatosis and rabies spread like wildfire.
Research the laws of your destination before boarding a plane. You may need to make an urgent veterinary appointment upon landing. This may be frustrating, but it’s for your rabbit’s own good.
Will My Rabbit be Quarantined upon Landing?
This depends on where you have arrived. A domestic flight between American states will not result in quarantine. There are no legal restrictions surrounding rabbits in the USA.
If you have flown overseas, the result may be different. Some countries have strict laws surrounding animals. This is especially likely if your new country expects rabies vaccinations.
If you are traveling overseas, research your destination’s quarantine procedures. You may need to leave your rabbit at the airport for a day or two. They will then be inspected. Once declared disease-free, you’ll be able to collect your pet. You may be expected to arrange vaccinations, though.
There will be cost implications. You may need to pay for an import permit. You will certainly need to pay for the health inspections. Vaccinations will also cost money, and are unlikely to be covered by your pet insurance.
These are additional concerns to bear in mind when traveling with rabbits. The stress does not necessarily end when the plane lands. It could be just the beginning. Think carefully before taking a long journey with a rabbit in tow.
Flying with Two Rabbits
On the one hand, the two animals will comfort each other. They may consider it an adventure. It all depends on their unique personalities.
You’ll need to consider the cost implications. At the very least, you’ll be paying an extra $250 each way. If there are additional costs upon landing, these will also double.
You also need to think about logistics. Will your pet carrier hold two rabbits and still weigh less than 20 lbs.? If not, you’re looking at stowing the rabbits in a cargo hold.
At least the two rabbits will have each other for company in this setting. All the same, it will be dark, noisy, and scary down there. Without the ability to keep an eye on your pets, your stress will increase.
Only attempt to travel with two rabbits if you’re sure they can cope with it. The two pets must have an unbreakable bond. One rabbit could turn on the other through stress. You can’t break up any ensuing fight if you’re in a different part of the airplane.
Flying is stressful for humans, and that does double for rabbits. Assess if your airline of choice will allow rabbit passengers. If they do, decide whether your pet can cope.
Taking a rabbit on an airplane is always better than leaving them alone. It may not be the only option open to you, though. Think long and hard before subjecting your rabbit to airline travel.