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Logistics of checking in large dog crates at SFO International Terminal

Logistics of checking in large dog crates at SFO International Terminal

Old Dec 22, 22, 4:09 pm
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2019
Posts: 16
Logistics of checking in large dog crates at SFO International Terminal

Hello! I am flying from San Francisco to Zürich on Swiss, with two comically large dog crates (4' long, 3' tall, 30" wide), they are the largest size allowed by Lufthansa / Swiss for animal in hold (AVIH).

I have travelled this route many times, but never with pets . Can someone explain to me how the logistics work, of getting the crates and dogs from the international terminal's short-term parking garage into ... where-ever it is that I check the animals + crates in? I guess that's another thing I don't know, is what point in the check-in process the dogs are handed over, and to whom / where.

For example, when is the last time the dogs have a chance to pee? Am I allowed to bring the dogs into the airport terminal on-leash, and put them in their crates once inside? The crates are way too large to fit on one of those little 3-wheel luggage carts. Is there some provision for transporting larger cargo?

Thanks for your help!
goffredo is offline  
Old Dec 26, 22, 9:30 am
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: BSL
Programs: AA (EXP); among others :)
Posts: 2,480
The dogs will get checked in at the same counter as you if they travel as checked baggage. As far as the logistics are concerned , they'll get handled like oversize pieces of baggage, plus (hopefully!) some extra care.
An agent will process all the paperwork right at the passenger Check-In area. After everything is done, you can either take them to TSA right away, or take them on a last stroll outside before it's time to go. In any case, there'll be large baggage carts available to wheel them around on.

Here's a a picture of me checking in a giant crate with AA at LAX - note the baggage carts in the background. The TSA officer came over to explain the procedure and how he'd like the whole thing handled.

I would not park in the parking garage but stop at the curb right in front of Door 5 (where the Swiss Check-In is) and unload the crates/animals right there. There are large baggage carts available for this purpose - you may have to go inside and ask an agent for assistance. Or call ahead at (415) 629 9307 - that's the phone number for SFO porter service.
BTW, I know from personal experience that the 700-series crate does fit on a standard luggage cart when disassembled. I's a bit precarious to balance but it'll work if it has to... Dogs on a leash, crates disassembled on that cart with my own baggage heaped on top - I`ve traversed many airports that way
Check-In takes a good amount of time, You'll have ample opportunity to assemble the crate right there while the agent processes the documents.

You can take the dogs for a last walk to relieve themselves, no problem. Designated pet relief areas are only on the arrivals level, though, and a bit off from the international terminal. (see here for locations) I`d just take them down to the arrivals level and walk around the parking lot where's a few trees and some grass.
SFO technically doesn't allow pets in the terminals outside their crates - the wording of their regulation is rather ambiguous ("With the exception of service animals, pets in the airport terminals must be kenneled and ready for travel. Service animals are permitted on AirTrain. Leashed animals are permitted in other areas of the Airport, such as Animal Relief Areas"). That said, you should be safe bringing them to the Check-In area and taking them outside and back on a leash. I have done this very very often at ariports all around the world and never incurred any problems.
Tip: Get there early,. Way early. Best at a time where traffic isn't a nightmare and it shouldn't be problematic to stop at the curb for a minute or two to unload the dogs for check-in. After all Check-In formalities are completed and before the animals have to go in their crates and get handed over to TSA, take them on a walk to get that 'last pee' done.
bhomburg is offline  
Old Mar 31, 23, 1:15 pm
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2019
Posts: 16
A belated thank-you for your detailed and extremely useful response. As my flight is only a week away, your candor halved my anxities! Since we have a friend dropping us off, it sounds perfect for us to unload our stuff right outside the terminal, rather than dealing with the parking garage.
goffredo is offline  
Old Jul 23, 23, 4:42 pm
Join Date: Sep 2022
Programs: Skyteam, OneWorld
Posts: 5
How did this go for you? I'm doing this in Atlanta and departing on Korean Air, solo, two medium crates, 4 bags, and a rental car to return.
NedRyerson69 is offline  

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