Tips for a Stress-Free Flight

Person in wheelchair at airport

Flying is rarely a stress-free event, but it can be more stressful when you need special accommodations at the airport. Knowing what to expect and how to prepare for your flight can help you solve flight-related problems before they occur. Below, our experts at St. Pete International Airport (PIE) have outlined three common types of special accommodations people need when they go to the airport, and we've provided tips for each set of circumstances, to help you get through your flight without trouble. Here's what you need to know.

Pet or Service Animal Information

Traveling with a pet and traveling with a service animal are two different things. In general, service animals get special treatment over pets.

Flying with a Service Animal

A service animal is any animal that is able to provide assistance to a person with a disability, whether that assistance is emotional or physical. Passengers who want to fly with their emotional support or psychiatric service animal may need documentation in order to fly.

Under some circumstances, airlines can exclude some animals from flying. For example, airlines may refuse a service animal if they will cause disruption in the cabin, are a threat to the health or safety of others or are prohibited from entering into a foreign country where the flight will be landing.

Airlines are allowed to request specific documentation and/or notice for animals that are emotional support or psychiatric support animals. Some tips:

  • Call your airline at least 48 hours in advance of your flight to notify them if you'll be flying with a service animal.

  • Ask your airline about documentation requirements for your service animal.

  • Lap sitting is permitted in some circumstances, other animals must ride in a carrier in the space under the seat just in front of you. Ask your airline what will be permitted on your flight.

  • Consult with your service animal's veterinarian before the flight. Your service animal's veterinarian may recommend vaccinations before travel or animal medications to be used during travel.

Airline personnel is responsible for providing certain types of assistance to passengers with service animals. Specifically, they are required to escort you to a designated animal relief area if it's needed. Know your rights before arriving at the airport. You can find more information about traveling with a service animal on the TSA website.

Flying with a Pet

Some pets are allowed to travel in the cabin of the airplane, others are not. A typical airline will charge passengers who wish to bring their pet aboard their flight. Your airline may have specific requirements regarding pet vaccinations.

  • Contact your airline before booking your flight to find out what their requirements are.

  • Airlines typically cap the number of pets allowed on a flight, so inform your airline as soon as possible that you plan to bring your pet on board.

  • Your pet will count as a carry on bag, so pack accordingly.

  • If your pet is anxious or makes noise when in their carrier, consult with your pet's veterinarian to find out whether they recommend sedatives or medication to alleviate your pet's anxiety.

For more information on flying with a pet, read the St. Pete International Airport (PIE) Pet Owners Safety Guide or navigate to the TSA website about traveling with pets.

Portable Wheelchair or Scooter Information

Some passengers with disabilities travel with a portable wheelchair or scooter, while others must get assistance at the airport with an airport wheelchair. Contact your airline in advance to ensure your plane has an accessible lavatory and there will be no issues bringing your wheelchair onto your flight. Bring the handling instructions for your wheelchair or scooter, just in case they're needed. For more information about airline travel and wheelchair information, see the TSA's digital brochure.

Travel With a Portable Oxygen Concentrator

The Portable Oxygen Concentrator (POC) you bring with you on a plane must be approved by the FAA. Modern POCs have a label stating whether they are approved by the FAA. Older POCs may not have the label and must be looked up from a list.

If you have a POC, familiarize yourself with the FAA requirements and your airline's requirements, because both will be important on your flight and they may not be the same.

  • Notify your airline at least 48 hours in advance if your plan to bring a POC on your flight.

  • Find out your airline's POC requirements before the day of your flight.

  • If you are flying with multiple airlines in one trip, or if you are on a codeshare flight, find out the requirements for each airline involved, and notify each airline separately.

Your airline may require you to fill out a form or provide a statement from your doctor. If you anticipate getting such a statement would not be easy, start the process early enough that you'll have adequate time to obtain it.

Your air carrier may not let you plug your POC into their system. If you are not allowed to plug in your POC, bring enough batteries to power your POC for the flight and your time at the airport. Your airline may have battery requirements, including rules about where batteries are allowed to be stored during the flight, so learn these requirements in advance.

Fly Comfortably and Conveniently With PIE

At St. Pete International Airport (PIE), our focus is always on our travelers. We want your trip to be as convenient, safe, and comfortable as possible. To find out more about flying with us, check out the FAQs on our website. Our experienced staff at St. Pete International Airport look forward to serving you on your next flight. 

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