Story: Flying On Alaska
Recently, I had to travel from Los Angeles to Seattle (LAX -> SEA) for almost two months. It’s about a 3 hour flight. Being on a college budget and having few friends familiar enough with rabbit care to trust, I decided to bring my rabbit Toast for my trip. It was a pretty difficult decision to make, as I didn’t want to stress my rabbit out, but I concluded it was the best choice of my available options. Hopefully my experience will help out anyone else needing to fly with their bunny!
I flew on Alaska Airlines; to my knowledge, my only other possible options for my dates were Frontier and United Airlines. I went with Alaska Airlines due to past experience with the airline, and cheaper human tickets. It costs $100 each way for your rabbit to fly, and you must call them to reserve a spot for your pet 24 hours or earlier before your flight. You will not have to pay immediately, but at the check in kiosk. I recommend going straight to Alaska’s text customer service; they will connect you with someone immediately. You should also look over Alaska's pet policy for other information.
Alaska’s carrier sizes are mildly strict, so I got Toast the Sherpa pet carrier in small, since it fit within guidelines. Your pet will replace your carry on, so please try and put everything into your personal backpack or be prepared to pay for checked baggage. Although the pet carrier came with a faux-fleece liner, I replaced it with a washable pee pad for Toast’s comfort. I also packed gas drops, critical care, a bit of hay and veggies, and treats for the flight in my personal bag/the pocket in Toast’s carrier. I also brought a collapsible food bowl, to put water in. For treats, I carried Oxbow digestive support and timothy blend hay cubes. I also placed Toast’s favorite stuffed animal in the carrier, since he likes to lick her for support.
I’d recommend arriving early for check-in, about 90 minutes early. When I arrived, I checked in at the self check-in kiosk, where I paid for Toast’s ticket as well as my baggage. I was then directed to customer service with my receipts, in order to confirm that I was flying with an animal.
Afterwards, I went through security and informed them I had a rabbit. During this time, I believe there were officers were doing some sort of check and had drug sniffing dogs, and we were told to dispose of unpackaged food; because of this, I had to throw out Toast’s veggies :( However, I still kept Toast’s other treats and his hay, which were packaged.
When I got to the front of TSA, they asked me to remove Toast from his carrier. I complied, and his carrier went through the scanner. I then had to carry Toast through the metal detector. Afterwards, they wiped my hands down (I think for checking for drugs or something similar), asked me to stay a moment, and then it was all clear. I put Toast into my carrier and hurried to my terminal.
I got onto the plane without much trouble (though I did get many intrigued looks and comments). I placed a digestive support into his carrier, and then I put him under the seat in front of me, as required for takeoff. Once we were allowed to take off our seatbelts, I put Toast’s carrier on my lap (Alaska requires your animal to stay in the carrier, though my flight attendants didn’t care if I opened the top) to make sure he was okay. He was very stressed, but he did eat about half of his digestive support about 20 minutes into the flight, which was good! I then placed a hay cube and the water bowl for him, and placed him under the seat again for a little bit. He didn’t appreciate the water bowl, and proceeded to flip it over; however, he did lick the water off his paws and face though, so he did get some water in him!
He eventually calmed down enough to make a fuss, which I interpreted as a good sign; when he’s incredibly stressed and nervous, he just freezes. The rest of the flight was the same: putting his carrier on my lap for an extended period, making sure he eats, and petting him. During landing, he had to be placed back under the seat.
Afterwards, I went to baggage claim as I normally would, and took a Lyft to the place I’d be staying at. I already had my partner have Toast’s area set up, sans his litter box and personal effects, which greatly reduced my stress. My partner also brought food for Toast to eat when we landed! Toast was able to get acclimated to the new area immediately, which I think was aided by me bringing his old bowls, pillow, and plush girlfriend with us.
That was my experience flying with my rabbit. Your rabbit’s temperament may differ, so yours may react better or worse to flying than Toast did, and that’s perfectly alright! I think it definitely helps to bring personal items for your rabbit to adapt, or if your rabbit is bonded, to put them in the same carrier. I hope this write up helps you with whatever decision you make!