Last week Sadie joined me on a very exciting adventure – her first airplane ride! It’s only a 2 hour flight from here to Florida, so I thought this would be a good first flight for Sadie to take. We flew on JetBlue, so Sadie was able to ride with me as my carry-on bag. I just had to make sure that she was in a soft-sided carrier that met the airline under-seat requirements, which I’ve heard are a little stricter than other airlines. I also brought along Sadie’s vaccination records and a certificate of good health from her vet just in case someone at the airport or hotels asked to see them (no one asked, but better safe than sorry).
On our way to the airport, I was a nervous wreck. I’ve flown many times and I’m not usually a nervous flyer, but I kept thinking about everything that could go wrong with having Sadie along. What if her bag wasn’t right and they didn’t let her on the plane? What if the air pressure or noise hurt her ears too much? What if she kept barking the whole time? Etc. Etc. But by the time we got to the airport, I was in too much of a rush to keep worrying. I had no problems checking Sadie and I in. The JetBlue representative just gave me a hanging tag to put on Sadie’s carrier and showed me the pet confirmation on my boarding pass and we were good to go. I had to carry Sadie through the metal detector when we went through TSA. Her leash had to be put through the x-ray machine, but not her collar for some reason. And apparently carrying a dog means I’m more of a risk of having dangerous chemicals, because I was the only person who had to get their hands swabbed for chemical residue at both airports.
Once on the airplane, I sat in a middle seat with Sadie’s grandparents on either side of me and Sadie underneath the seat in front of me. I thought that would give us the most room and ensure that no one else would bother Sadie going up and down the aisle. Five minutes later I had to switch seats. Apparently on JetBlue (don’t know if it’s the same with other airlines) pets can only sit under the aisle or window seats. The control box for the in-seat entertainment systems is located under every middle seat and can heat up during the flight, so it’s safer for pets not to be placed in the middle.
So Sadie’s first flight began at 9AM. She whined a little when the engines started, as if she didn’t like the vibrations. At first I had the zipper of her carrier undone a little so she could stick her head out. Two out of three flight attendants didn’t care, but the third made me zipper the bag all the way. As soon as Sadie was zippered completely, she whined a bit more, and barked every few minutes. She kept looking up at me, alternating between sad eyes and accusing eyes, wondering why I could be free in my seat when she was trapped in a bag on the floor. I couldn’t read my book or watch a movie because if I broke eye contact, Sadie got upset. Once the seat belt sign was turned off, I was able to life Sadie’s bag onto my lap, so at least she wasn’t on the floor any longer. I unzipped her bag again and gave her some water and she was perfectly happy for the next half hour. Then the strict flight attendant returned and made me zipper Sadie back in completely. Sadie began whining again and I almost got to the point of asking the flight attendant if annoying other passengers with a whining dog was really better than allowing her head to stick out just a little, but the flight was almost over.
Once the plane landed and everyone started moving around getting their stuff together, Sadie started getting antsy, pawing and pushing at her bag. Not that I blame her, since I certainly get antsy by that point, wanting to get off the plane as fast as possible. She complained like crazy about staying in her bag as I walked through the airport, so eventually I stopped and put her leash on so she could walk. No one seemed to care about her walking around and Sadie was much happier exploring and sniffing all the new people and things we passed along the way.
I was not nervous at all for the flight home. I knew Sadie could handle flying without too much trouble and knew what to expect a little better. What I did not expect was a six hour delay at the airport. Sadie did not mind the delay at all, which actually made it go by much faster for me. I took her on a few walks, we had dinner, we took some photos around the airport, we visited the “doggy relief area” a few times. And every fifteen minutes or so someone would stop by to meet Sadie and talk about dogs.
Eventually our night flight back to New Jersey began. It went a million times better than the flight to Florida. Sadie was exhausted from the vacation and the time exploring the airport, so she just slept under my window seat the entire time. The lights on the plane were dim since it was a night flight, so I could barely see Sadie sleeping at my feet. I was able to relax, watch a movie (movies were free thanks to the six hour delay), have a snack and a drink, all without Sadie ever waking up. At one point a flight attendant came by wanting to say hi to Sadie, so I unzipped her carrier, but Sadie just put her head on my foot and fell back to sleep. Once the plane landed and I put Sadie on my lap to get ready to leave, the woman in front of us couldn’t believe that a dog had been sitting right under her seat the whole time and she never noticed.
So here’s what I’ve learned from Sadie’s first experience with airplane travel: get an aisle or window seat for the safety of my dog; fly at night whenever possible (need to look into night flights to and from Nashville
); don’t pack so much, as Sadie probably won’t want a toy or snack or blanket on the plane; and most importantly, don’t worry so much, because Sadie makes a great travel companion.