How To Travel with Pets by Air

From Airline Approved Carriers to Pet Friendly Airlines

It's easy to fly with your cat, small dog, bird, or other pet in the cabin of an airplane. Most airlines will allow you to bring an animal on board as a carry-on and place it underneath the seat in front of you. Restrictions can vary, however, depending on the airline that you're hoping to fly. Make sure that you look into the requirements that each airline sets forth. 

There are also many standard rules and regulations that you'll need to follow, regardless of the airline you and your pet are going to fly. If you are going to travel with your pet, you should adhere to the following steps. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a list of airlines and their specific requirements and restrictions.

Here's how to travel with pets by air.

Before You Travel
:

  1. Make sure your pet is healthy. They must be in good health in order to travel by air. Although not all airlines require you to produce a health certificate, many states and countries may require that you carry one. Take your animal to the vet for a check-up within 30 days of traveling to ensure that you have the appropriate documentation. Remember that all airlines reserve the right to refuse travel to an animal if it appears to be ill, aggressive or violent, or in obvious distress, so make sure that your pet is fit for the journey before you arrive at the airport.

    Note: If they are less than 8 weeks old are not permitted to travel; pets over 8 weeks must be weaned.

  2. Find an airline(s) that will accommodate. Not all airlines will allow animals on board the plane and/or in the cabin. Check to make sure that your specific animal is allowed on board before booking a ticket.

    Tip: If you are connecting to multiple airlines make sure to check about their policies and make a reservation.

  3. Determine your itinerary. Look into which pet safe flights will work with your schedule, but don't book them yet. You'll need to ensure that there is space on board before you book the trip. Otherwise Fluffy will be staying behind.

    Note
    : You can't bring pets to HI.
  4. Call the airline to make a reservation for your animal. Once you decide on the flight you're going to take, call the airline to make a reservation for your pet. Remember, if you're going to travel with pets, you should call ahead of time to give yourself enough time to find a flight. All pet friendly airlines limit the number of animals they allow in each cabin and reservations are made on a first-come, first-served basis. Typically it's restricted one to two animals in the first class cabin and three to six in the economy cabin. You shouldn't run into a problem, but it's important to check before you commit to a flight, especially at peak travel times like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  5. Book your flight. Now that your pet has a reservation confirmed (or you at least know there's space), it's time to book your flight. If you've already booked your flight and haven't confirmed your pet, now is the time to call the airline and make that reservation for Fido.
  6. Purchase a carrier. If you do not already have a airline pet carrier that conforms to your airline's size requirements, you've got to purchase one. Many airlines sell them at the airport, but you shouldn't rely on these being in stock. Check the size regulations your airline enforces and head to the pet store. Your pet must be able to fit "comfortably" in his carrier, which means that he can stand up, lay down and turn around. The carrier should also be leak-proof.

    You'll find an aisle of pet carriers at your local pet store, many of which will state that they are approved for specific airlines. Carrier requirements range from 23" to 17" long x 16" to 12.5" wide x 10" to 8" high; check with your airline for exact requirements. However, it's unlikely that anyone will get out a ruler to actually measure your carrier, so as long as your carrier is within these general guidelines, you should be safe.

  7. Get your pet comfortable in his carrier. If possible, purchase your carrier a few weeks before you trip. Let your animal inspect the carrier for himself, then place him in the carrier for short amounts of time to allow him to become familiar with his new mode of transportation.

Day of Travel:

  1. Exercise your animal, if possible. Before any kind of pet transportation, take your dog out for a run, or get a string and play with your kitty. If your animal is tired he is less likely to be stressed out by his day of travel.
  2. Decide whether you're going to sedate them. Sedating your pet for travel is a somewhat controversial issue. The American Veterinary Medical Association believes that, in most cases, giving sedatives or tranquilizers them prior to flying is not necessary. It can actually hinder your pet's natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium, which can be dangerous for your animal. On the other hand, if your animal becomes highly agitated or stressed while flying, it might benefit you, your pet and the passengers around you to sedate him before air travel. Consult your vet before giving your animal any medications.
  3. Place your pet in his carrier with food and water. Depending on the duration of your trip, you may want to supply food and water. You won't be able to bring water through the security check point, so you'll need to purchase some (or fill up an empty water bottle) once you get into the terminal. Or, you can ask your flight attendant for water once you board the plane.
  4. Go to the customer service desk to check-in and pay for your pet. Since you'll need to pay a fee for transporting your pet on the airplane, you'll need to check in at a customer service desk. You'll be able to purchase Snowball's ticket, check yourself in for your flight and drop off any checked luggage you have. Then you can proceed to the security checkpoint.
  5. Remove your pet from his carrier while going through security. Your pet's carrier will have to go through the x-ray machine, along with all of your other belongings. So you'll need to remove your animal from his carrier (cats, especially, love this) and walk through the metal detector holding your pet. Then you'll be able to place him back inside his carrier on the other side.
  6. Place your pet back in his carrier and keep him fully contained for the remainder or your journey. Your animal is not permitted outside of his carrier at anytime while you're at the airport or on the airplane. He'll need to remain fully contained (meaning all body parts), until you've completed your trip.
  7. Place your pet under theamerican west animals on board seat in front of you for the duration of the flight. Most airlines require that they stay under the seat in front of your from take-off to landing. Others may allow you to take the carrier out, but none will allow you to remove your pet from his carrier. Check with your airline, but you should plan on leaving Rover alone while he's on the plane. Travel on airlines can be a trying journey for you pet, so make sure you create as much comfort for her as possible.

Airline Specific Information:

American Airlines
Cost
: $80 USD per container, each way.
Type of Pets Allowed
: Cats, Dogs.
Medical Records Required
: No, passengers are responsible for complying with individual country and state laws, depending upon travel destination.
Container Requirements
: Maximum size is limited to 23" long x 13" wide x 9" high.
Weight Restrictions
: None specified.

Additional Info: Only one pet per passenger is allowed in the cabin. Your pet must stay under the seat in front of you for the duration of your flight.

Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air
Cost: $75 USD per container, each way.
Type of Pets Allowed
: Cats, Dogs, Rabbits, Household Birds, Tropical Fish.
Medical Records Required
: Yes. A valid health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian within 30 days of travel is required for all pets crossing state borders.
Container Requirements
: None specified.
Weight Restrictions
: None specified.

Additional Info: If the animal is being transported by a breeder, dealer or research facility, then the health certificate must be issued within 10 days of travel. Guide dogs do not require a health certificate.

Continental Airlines
Cost
: $95 USD per container, each way.
Type of Pets Allowed
: Cats, Dogs, Rabbits, Household Birds.
Medical Records Required
: No, passengers are responsible for complying with individual country and state laws, depending upon travel destination.
Container Requirements
: Maximum size is limited to 22" long x 14" wide x 9" high.
Weight Restrictions
: None specified.

Additional Info: Only one pet per passenger is allowed in the cabin.

Delta Airlines
Cost: $50 per container, each way.
Type of Pets Allowed: Cats, Dogs, Birds, Ferrets, Rabbits, Hamsters, Guinea Pigs.
Medical Records Required: Not specified.
Container Requirements: None specified.
Weight Restrictions: None specified.

Additional Info
: Only one pet per passenger is allowed in the cabin.

Frontier Airlines
Additional Info: Frontier does not allow any animals in the cabin unless they are fully trained assistance animals accompanying a person with a disability. Frontier does allow pets to travel under the plane, as checked baggage.

Jet Blue
Cost: $50 per container, each way.
Type of Pets Allowed: Cats, Dogs.
Medical Records Required: No, passengers are responsible for complying with individual country and state laws, depending upon travel destination.
Container Requirements: Maximum size is limited to 17" long x 12.5" wide x 8" high.
Weight Restrictions: Combined weight of the carrier and pet cannot exceed 20 lbs.

Additional Info: Only one pet per passenger is allowed in the cabin. Only one pet allowed per carrier. Animals are accepted for both domestic and international trips.

Northwest Airlines
Cost: $80 per container, each way.
Type of Pets Allowed: Cats, Dogs, Domesticated Birds.
Medical Records Required: No, passengers are responsible for complying with individual country and state laws, depending upon travel destination.
Container Requirements: Maximum size is limited to 17" long x 12" wide x 8" high.
Weight Restrictions: Combined weight of the carrier and pet cannot exceed 15 lbs. (6.8kg).

Additional Info
: Accepts pets on all flights within the U.S.

Southwest Airlines
Additional Info: Southwest does not allow any animals on board the plane unless they are fully trained assistance animals either accompanying a person with a disability or being delivered to a person with a disability.

US Airways/America West Airlines
Cost: $80 per container, each way.
Type of Pets Allowed: Cats, Dogs, Birds, Aquarium Fish (less than 4 inches).
Medical Records Required: Not specified.
Container Requirements: Hard-sided containers are limited to a maximum size of 17" long x 16" wide x 8" high. Soft-sided containers are limited to a maximum size of 17" long x 16" wide x 10" high.
Weight Restrictions: None specified.

Additional Info: Carry-on pets are not allowed on transatlantic flights.

United Airlines
Cost: $85 USD per container, each way.
Type of Pets Allowed: Cats, Dogs, Domesticated Household Birds (Canaries, Finches, Parakeets).
Medical Records Required: No, passengers are responsible for complying with individual country and state laws, depending upon travel destination.
Container Requirements: None specified.
Weight Restrictions: None specified.

Additional Info: Tropical birds such as Parrots are not allowed. Recommended Resource: Medical Travel

 

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Comments

Jul
10

This is a really informative article! I just wanted to add that the AVMA is also hesitant to recommend the use of tranquilizers because they can interfere with breathing, which can be a problem if there are sudden changes in cabin pressure. Also, pets should wear collars or harnesses in their carriers so that they can be controlled when they are taken out at security!

By S. E. Smith
Feb
28

Nicely written, and useful advice. You should write another one for people who plan to travel with their pets in the cargo hold, as my golden retriever is definately too big for a carry-on :o)

By Marie Bulfinch