This week, my dog Marshall and I are heading to San Francisco for a long weekend of relaxation and sightseeing (and vineyard hopping, time permitting). Traveling with a dog can be stressful, so being prepared prior to departure is key to ensure a stress-free flight. Different airlines have different policies when traveling with your dog, and picking the one that works best for you and your needs is important.
As a dog owner, fellow dog owners often ask me about my experiences with in-cabin pet travel. I fly Delta with Marshall the most, so I’m fairly familiar with their rules, but every airline has different rules and requirements, so what works best for me and my 8 pound (okay, okay 10 pound) dog may not be what’s best for the next person.
While airlines differ in specific details for dogs traveling in the cabin, across the board, airlines typically note the following:
- Pets in their carriers/kennels count as one carry on baggage.
- Pet travel reservations/requests must be made in advance of your flight (and not at check in)
- Airlines usually have a limit to the number of pets allowed to travel in the main cabin, so those interested should call the airline before booking tickets to ensure availability)
- Maximum dimensions for carriers may vary per airline, although a general rule of thumb is that the carrier must fit under the seat in front of you.
- Your pet should be able to stand, lay down, and turn around comfortably in the carrier and limbs should not be protruding from the kennel/bag.
- Pets should be healthy and up to date with vaccines
- For safety reasons, passengers traveling with pets are not allowed to sit in the emergency exit rows.
- Regulations for international travel vary by airline
I’ve listed below some information about flights and pet travel that might be helpful in deciding which airline would be best for you to travel with your dog.
- Dogs and cats must be at least 8 weeks old to be accepted for travel
- One customer may travel with up to 2 pet carriers in the main cabin, as long as the adjacent seat is purchased by the same customer
- Up to 2 pets of the same species (ie 2 dogs) may travel in the same carrier as long as both animals fit comfortably, are not in distress, and body party do not protrude from the carrier.
- Maximum dimensions for hard-sided kennels are 17 in x 11 in x 7.5 in
- Alaska accepts pets to be checked in their climate-control baggage compartment
- Regardless of which way your pet flies (in-cabin or checked), travel fees are $100 per segment
- Visit Alaska’s Travel with Pets page for more information
- In-Cabin Pet Travel:
- Maximum dimensions for hard-sided kennels are 19 in x 13 in x 9
- Charges for kennels for flights within and between the United States, Canada and Mexico is $125 per pet
- Checked Pets
- Each passenger is able to travel up with to 2 checked pets at least 8 weeks old.
- American charges $200 per kennel for flights within and between the United States, Canada and Mexico. For details about other countries, please visit American Airlines’ Traveling with Pets page
- Reservations for pet travel must be made by contacting American Airlines Reservations.
- In Cabin:
- Within the contiguous United States and Canada, Delta charges $125 per segment
- Your pet must be at least 10 weeks old for domestic travel and 16 weeks old when traveling internationally
- Delta does not accept pets as checked baggage, with the exception of U.S. Military Personnel with active transfer orders. Otherwise, those looking to transport their pets as checked baggage must do so through Delta Cargo.
- Pets traveling to and from Hawaii will not be accepted to travel in-cabin due to state health regulations. Click here for more details.
JetBlue currently does not allow pets to be transported in the belly of the plane. And unlike the other airlines, JetBlue has a special (free) pet program called JetPaws. Participants are provided the following:
- Pet bag tag
- Petiquette – “a handy list of all the social graces for pet travel”
- 300 TrueBlue points for each flight segment your pet travels on
Other important info:
- In-cabin pet charges will run you $100 each way
- Pet carrier cannot exceed 17 in x 12.5 in x 8.5 in
- Combined weight of pet and the carrier must not exceed 20 pounds.
- Only one pet per customer
- Visit JetBlue’s JetPaws page for more information
- In-Cabin Pet Travel:
- United charges $125 each way for pets traveling in the cabin.
- Maximum dimensions for hard-sided kennels are 17.5 in x 12 in x 7.5 in
- Maximum dimensions for soft-sided kennels are 18 in x 11 in x 11 in
- Checked Pets:
- United’s PetSafe program requires kennels comply with USDA and IATA regulations
- Fees depend on destination and weight of pet
- MileagePlus members can earn 500-1,000 points per shipment.
- Visit United’s In-Cabin Travel page or PetSafe page for more detail on additional policies.
- Puppies and kittens must be at least 8 weeks old
- The total weight of the animal and carrier cannot be above 20 pounds
- Maximum dimensions for hard-sided kennels are 18 in x 15 in x 7.5 in
- Pets cannot fly in the First Class cabin, and passengers traveling in the Main Cabin will not be eligible for upgrades.
- Virgin America does not accept animals as cargo or checked baggage
- Visit Virgin America’s Pets page for more details
As a reminder, all the information noted above is specific only to flights operated by the specific airline and associated regional partners. Codeshare flights are subject to the rules and regulations of the operating airline, so be sure to check with the ticketing airline to confirm which airline is operating the flight in order to obtain any details you need to provide when traveling with your pet.
|Airline||In-Cabin Pet Fee (per segment)||Earns Miles?||Pets Per Passenger||Pets as Checked Baggage?|
|Alaska Airlines||$100||No||1 carrier (up to 2 pets per carrier)||Yes|
Typically when traveling with a dog meant to service health issues (service dogs, emotional support animals, therapy dogs), the rules are different and your dog is allowed to be in the cabin but may remain out of the kennel/carrier as needed. Check with your airline for additional details that may be specific to their rules and regulations.
Passengers traveling with a service animal or emotional support pet typically cannot check in online as the airline needs to verify your dog’s status in-person (typically in the form of certificates, or notes from your doctor). Typically, service animals must be added to your ticket by contacting your choice airline by calling, and cannot be done when booking tickets online, so be sure to check the details on the airline’s website before you finalize your travel plans.
Another thing to note – carriers/bags for emotional support animals often do not count as a carry on – but as always, check with your airline.
See the links below for more information on traveling with your service animal for each airline noted above:
While airlines all have different views and rules regarding pet travel, it’s clear that JetBlue is ahead of the pack (pun intended) when it comes to an established pet travel program, with United a close second (after all – they let you earn points!). I’d love to see the idea of earning miles for traveling with your furry friend become the norm across all airlines. After all, if you’re paying for your dog to fly with you, it would be nice to see that come back in some way, whether it be in redeemable miles or elite qualifying dollars.
It’s interesting to see that Alaska allows two pets to fly in the same carrier – something unique to their airline. I’m sure people with extremely bonded pet siblings would find this appealing, though my dog would find the idea of traveling in such close proximity to another pup completely nerve-wrecking. Even more surprising is it allows one customer to bring 2 pet carriers, as long as the customer purchases the adjacent seat (in which case I really hope they earn twice the miles).
Have you flown any of the airlines mentioned about with your pup? Which one is your favorite? How about others I missed? Share your stories in the comments!