Airline Pet Policy and Travel Reservations

If you’re trying to fly a pet within the United States or abroad, Dogs on Planes can greatly simplify things. Our airline pet policy information and smart booking strategies are just what you need to take the stress out of traveling with a pet. If you’re already familiar with how your pet will travel, you can start researching specific airline pet policies. Otherwise, it’s best to scroll down and learn about the wider industry standards before trying to make a reservation with a particular carrier.

 

Airline Pet Policies

Alaska Airlines (cabin, checked, cargo)
Allegiant (cabin)
American Airlines (cabin, checked, cargo)
British Airways (cabin, cargo)
Delta (cabin, cargo)
Frontier (cabin)
Hawaiian Airlines (cabin, checked, cargo)
jetBlue (cabin)
Southwest (cabin)
Spirit (cabin)
Sun Country (cabin)
United (cabin, cargo)
Virgin America (cabin)
Virgin Atlantic (cargo)

 

Identify Your Airline and Pet Travel Options

The first step is knowing whether a pet can travel in the cabin, as checked baggage, or cargo. There are some basic rules of thumb that apply…with some wiggle room.

 

  • Pets in the Cabin: Pets under 20 lbs may be able to fly on some airlines with greater under-seat stowage space and larger pet carrier allowances. Dogs and cats under 15 lbs should be able to fly on pretty much any airline that allow in-cabin pets. For most airlines, it boils down to carrier size. If a pet can fit comfortably in a carrier that’s small enough to fit under the seat, chances are in-cabin pet travel is a viable option.

 

  • Pets in Checked Baggage: For pets too large to fly in the cabin, checked baggage may be the answer if someone is flying with the animal. There are some limits to the size of the kennel, but the pet policy to watch out is temperature and animal breed. Most animals are typically prohibited from flying when the ground temperature is above 84 degrees or below 45 degrees. Animals that are accustomed to colder temperatures may fly in the cargo hold with a letter of acclimation from a veterinarian. Brachycephalic (snub-nosed) animals may have to wait for the temperate to be between 45-75 degrees, or they may be prohibited from flying altogether.

 

  • Pets in Cargo: This option allows an animal to fly in the cargo hold without a passenger escort. Some airlines will try to keep you on the same plane, but there are rarely any guarantees. The temperature and breed rules should be the same as with checked baggage, though some airlines will allow pets to fly as cargo but not as checked baggage. The big differences are cost and drop-off/pickup locations. Flying a pet in cargo frequently costs several hundred dollars with dynamic pricing based on dates, destinations, and weight class. Instead of the ticketing counter and baggage claim that are used for checked pets, cargo travel typically uses the airport’s adjacent air cargo facilities for drop-off/pickup.

 

  • Service Animal Policies: Many of the policies are dictated by the American with Disabilities Act and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). Dogs on Planes has a general resource with the basic rights, responsibilities, and air travel regulations for service animals. Within the parameters of these regulations, airlines also have their own service animal policies for safety restraints, seat restrictions, and animal breeds.

 

Pet Travel Reservations: Choosing a Carrier vs. Choosing an Itinerary

When booking airline pet travel, the easiest way isn’t always the best way. Rather than making a reservation with the first airline that accepts your pet and flies to your destination, a better strategy is to create a list of possible air travel options. Then, you can see which airlines offer the best itineraries and costs for your pet travel needs. Often, this itinerary search can be done using your favorite third-party airline booking platform. You can then choose between booking your own ticket through the platform or contacting the airline directly. Either way, to finalize pet travel reservations, you’ll typically need to go directly through the airline.

While you shouldn’t discount airline pet policies and animal safety record, it’s not the only consideration. For example, the time of day may be just as important for animal safety if you’re trying to fly a large pet somewhere that’s prone to extreme temperatures, for example. Likewise, the option to fly a pet in checked baggage rather than air cargo can save you $100 or more in certain situations.

Knowing these airline pet policies will enable you to make the best decision possible and greatly increase the odds of successfully flying with your pet.