Airline Pet Policies
Alaska Airlines (cabin, checked, cargo)
Passengers on Alaska Airlines will have three options for pet-friendly travel: in-cabin, checked baggage, and cargo shipping. Prices range from $100 to $1,000+ depending on which travel method you choose and how long of a distance you plan to travel. However, brachycephalic animals are prohibited on all forms of travel with Alaska Airlines.
If you’re looking for cost-effective but limited pet travel, Allegiant Air might be your best option. This airline only offers an in-cabin transit option, foregoing the offer of checked baggage and cargo shipping. Flying a pet in the cabin will cost $100 each way, and there is no set limit on the number of animals allowed on each flight. Only domestic cats and dogs are allowed.
American Airlines (cabin, checked, cargo)
American Airlines is one of the few domestic carriers to provide all three forms of pet travel: carry-on, checked baggage, and cargo. Flying a pet in the cabin will cost $125 each way, but baggage and shipping rates will vary by your pet’s weight, size, and distance traveled. All animals must be vaccinated and be at least 10 weeks old, and snub-nosed animals are not permitted.
Delta (cabin, cargo)
If you’re looking for in-cabin or cargo shipping transport for an animal, Delta has a robust set of amenities and offerings. In-cabin transit will cost between $75 and $200 each way, depending on where you are traveling, while cargo pricing is dynamic. Delta cargo shipping also offers a real-time GPS On-Demand tracking program for an additional $25, which can be helpful for stressed out pet parents.
For those looking for a loosely defined pet policy, Frontier Airlines might be the carrier of choice. This airline leaves the pet owner to complete the documentation required of the states and airports to which they may be traveling. Keep in mind that Frontier only allows pets to fly inside the cabin. Your pet will need to be small enough to fit into an 8-inch high carrier, but it will only cost $75 to bring them where they need to go.
Hawaiian Airlines (cabin, checked, cargo)
Hawaiian Airlines is one of a few carriers to provide in-cabin, checked baggage, and cargo shipping transport options for animals. But while Hawaiian Airlines has a welcoming pet policy, it relies heavily on the State of Hawaii to enforce any restrictions. If you plan to fly this airline, consider researching Hawaii’s strict animal import laws before purchasing a ticket. If you choose Hawaiian Airlines, be prepared to spend $175 for each pet flight.
While jetBlue’s pet policy is relatively permissive, allowing pets in the aircraft cabin on both international and domestic flights, they place strict limitations on the number of animals allowed on each flight. A maximum of four animals are allowed on each flight. Flying a pet will cost $125 each way, and the animal and carrier cannot weigh more than 20lbs combined. If you choose this airline, call a representative as soon as you have your ticket to ensure your pet has a spot.
Only small animals will be able to fly with Southwest Airlines, which restricts pet travel to inside the cabin. While you will only pay $95 each way, the maximum carrier size restricts height to 8.5 inches. Additionally, keep in mind that only 6 pet carriers are allowed on most flights. As soon as you reserve your ticket, call a Southwest customer service representative to secure your pet’s ability to fly.
If you need to transport a household bird, Spirit Airlines is one of the only domestic carriers in your options. This airline allows only in-cabin transit, but they allow domestic cats, dogs, and birds. Pet transportation will cost $110 each way, and only four animals are allowed on each flight. However, the maximum carrier size for this airline is slightly larger than most, allowing for a few square inches of extra space. Spirit also does not accept animals on international flights.
Sun Country (cabin)
If you travel with a pet on a Sun Country flight, know that you will save money if you book your pet’s ticket in advance. This carrier only allows for in-cabin pet transport, and it costs $125 per segment with an advance reservation. That price swells to $199 if you request pet transit while at the airport. Small dogs and cats are permitted, but they must fit in a small, 16”L x 11”W x 9”H carrier. Pets are also only accepted on domestic flights.
United (cabin, cargo)
Those flying with rabbits and household birds, as well as cats and dogs, should consider choosing United Airlines for their upcoming trips. This carrier allows animals to travel inside the cabin and in the cargo hold via their PetSafe program. Costs will vary between $125 and $2,000, depending on the pet, mode of transport, and distance traveled. Crate sizes must be no more than 7.5 inches high for in-cabin transit and 30 inches high for cargo hold transport.
Virgin America (cabin)
Virgin America only allows pets to travel inside the aircraft cabin. While this will only cost $100 each way, animals and their carriers cannot weight more than 20 lbs combined. However, Virgin America allows household birds and domesticated rabbits to fly, in addition to the more widely accepted cats and dogs, so this may be a good option for those traveling with unconventional pets.
Virgin Atlantic (cargo)
Virgin Atlantic has one of the stricter pet policies, only allowing pets to fly as cargo. While service and emotional support animals are permitted inside the aircraft cabin, no other animals may fly under the seat in front of you. The cost will vary by pet, distance traveled, and the weight and size of your animal, and most cat and dog breeds are accepted.
Aeromexico (cabin, checked, cargo)
Air Canada (cabin, checked, cargo)
Air France (cabin, checked, cargo)
British Airways (cabin, cargo)
China Airlines (checked, cargo)
Iberian Airlines (cabin, checked, cargo)
Japan Airlines (checked, cargo)
Lufthansa (cabin, checked, cargo)
Turkish Airlines (cabin, checked, 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.