Pet-Friendly Airlines: How to Fly Safely with Your Furry Friend

Traveling with your pet is easier than you think — as long as you plan ahead.
Last updated Feb 27, 2020 | By Jennifer Calonia
Dog at airport

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Whether you’re permanently relocating with your pet and need to get them from point A to point B, or you want to bring them along on your travel adventures, figuring out flight logistics can feel daunting.

In addition to finding the most pet-friendly airlines, you’ll likely need to plan ahead of your trip to make sure your furry travel buddy flies comfortably. Popular domestic airlines offer a few options to make pet travel easier, but you may face some restrictions too. Here’s what you should know about popular carriers and their policies — plus, some tips for keeping your furry friend safe while you fly.

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Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines passengers are permitted to fly with their pets in cabins and in baggage or cargo holds. However, you must reserve your pet’s spot on the plane in advance, and space is limited. You can book a reservation for your pet by calling Alaska Airlines’ reservations line at 1-800-252-7522.

Pets in cabin

Pets are allowed with their owners in the aircraft cabin on most flights. Only one pet carrier per first class cabin flight is allowed, and up to five pet carriers per flight are permitted in the main cabin.

To carry your pet on board with you, you must be at least 18 years old and have a ticket for an approved seat. Passengers seated in the emergency exit row, for example, may not have an in-cabin pet. Alaska Airlines doesn’t require a health certificate for in-cabin pets, but your arrival state may require proof of vaccination and other documentation.

Keep in mind your pet carrier counts as a carry-on item that replaces either your personal item or standard-size carry-on. If you’ve purchased two main cabin seats next to each other, you’re permitted to bring a maximum of two pet carriers, which must fit under the seat in front of you. If you have two pets, such as two cats of a similar size, they may be placed in one carrier, as long as they’re comfortably contained.

Kennel guidelines for in-cabin travel on Alaska Airlines

Carrier type Dimensions
Hard-sided 17"L x 11"W x 7.5"H
Soft-sided 17"L x 11"W x 9.5"H

Pets in cargo

Generally, household pets are permitted in the baggage hold of Alaska Airlines flights. According to the airline’s policy, this includes cats, dogs, ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, household birds, non-poisonous reptiles, pot-bellied pigs, rabbits, and tropical fish.

Cats and dogs must be a minimum of eight weeks old and weaned to travel, and combined pet and carrier weight must be 150 pounds or less. Currently, flights using Alaska’s Airbus aircraft are unable to transport pets in the cargo hold or in the first class cabin due to lack of heating in these areas. See your flight itinerary to find out what type of aircraft is being used for your trip. Also, PenAir flights outside of Alaska do not allow pets to travel in the baggage hold.

When you check in to your flight, you’re required to fill out a pet check record that states that you’ve offered food and water to your pet before dropping them off with the airline. If you have a connecting flight, Alaska doesn’t transfer your pet for you; you’re responsible for rechecking them at the connecting location.

Cost to fly with your pet on Alaska Airlines

To fly with your pet — whether in-cabin or checking it in baggage — Alaska Airlines charges a $100 pet fee, each way.

Pet restrictions on Alaska Airlines

Dogs and cats that are brachycephalic (i.e. “short-nosed”), aren’t allowed to travel in Alaska Airlines cargo holds due to breathing risks. Examples of dog breed restrictions include American pit bulls, Brussels griffon, bulldogs, and pugs. Cat breeds such as Burmese and Persian, among others, are also restricted.

Your destination may also impact your ability to bring your pet on Alaska Airlines. For example, certain destinations such as Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico and Hawaii allow only cats and dogs.

For Hawaii-bound flights, pets in the baggage hold may be limited or not allowed at all, depending on what months you fly. And specific guidelines are in place due to the delicate ecosystem of the islands. For more information about pet health and documentation needed for arrival into Hawaii, visit hdoa.Hawaii.gov. If you don’t have the necessary documents ready upon arrival, your pet may be quarantined for up to 120 days.

American Airlines

Passengers traveling on American Airlines may be able to bring their cats or dogs on flights. You’ll have to book a reservation for your pet ahead of time (space is limited) by contacting the airline’s reservations department. All pets must be at least eight weeks old to fly within the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Pets in cabin

When traveling with your pet in the aircraft cabin, its carrier replaces one of your carry-on items and must meet the airline’s size guidelines.

A total of seven kennels are permitted on American airline flights. Five total kennels are allowed on American Eagle flights with one kennel permitted in the first class cabin. Underseat storage in the first class and business cabins on some Boeing and Airbus aircraft may be too small to bring your carry-on pet.

Kennel guidelines for in-cabin travel on American Airlines

All pet carriers must be able to fit underneath the seat in front of you. If you’re traveling with your pet, American advises that you call 800-433-7300 ahead of time to verify under-seat dimensions.

Pets in cargo

With a health certificate and reservation for each pet, you can check-in up to two pets with American Airlines assuming they meet your destination’s standard health and age requirements. You may have two pets of the same species in one kennel, as long as they meet age, weight, and size restrictions.

Some Airbus aircrafts (A321, A321neo, A321S, A321H, A320, and A319) don’t permit checked pets; review your itinerary ahead of time to ensure your pet can be checked upon arrival. If you have questions, reach out to American directly or learn more about its pet travel policies.

Cost to fly with your pet on American Airlines

The fee for a checked pet is $200 per kennel, and $150 when traveling to and from Brazil. The cost to bring a pet in the aircraft cabin is $125 per kennel. Services animals aren’t charged, regardless of the destination or where they’re held.

Pet restrictions on American Airlines

Certain breed restrictions apply for the safety of your pet. Short-nosed cats and dogs aren’t accepted on American Airlines. In addition to breed restrictions, certain locations and routes have varying carry-on and checked pet restrictions, such as Australia, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico, specific South American countries, and on transatlantic and transpacific travel.

Extreme temperature restrictions also apply. If any location on your flight itinerary is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, you’re not allowed to travel with a pet. Cold weather restrictions may be waived if you have a letter from a licensed vet confirming that your pet is accustomed to a specific cold weather temperature.

Delta Air Lines

To book a reservation for your pet on Delta Air Lines, contact 1-800-221-1212 to make arrangements ahead of your flight. Space for in-cabin pets is limited and some destinations (e.g. international) require passengers to ship pets via cargo.

Pets in cabin

Dogs and cats may travel in the cabin if they meet age and health requirements, and if your seat permits carry-on pets. Pet birds are only permitted inside the cabin on domestic U.S. flights, except when traveling to Hawaii, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

For Delta flights, pets are required to be at least 10 weeks old for domestic travel; at least 15 weeks old when traveling to the EU; and at least 16 weeks when traveling to other international destinations.

Typically, you can have only one pet per carrier. A couple exceptions apply, such as when your pet is traveling with an unweaned litter or if two pets of the same breed and size are in one carrier. In these circumstances, you’re charged for only one pet.

Kennel guidelines for in-cabin travel on Delta

In order to travel with your pet in-cabin on Delta, your pet’s carrier must fit under the seat in front of you. Contact Delta directly to verify under-seat dimensions before your trip.

Pets in cargo

If your pet isn’t able to fly in the cabin with you, the airline offers Delta Cargo, a service that provides transportation for pets without their owners. Age and breed restrictions apply. To ship your pet to your final destination via Delta Cargo, you must make arrangements ahead of time and have a valid health certificate from a licensed vet.

On the day of your flight, you’ll need to drop off your pet to Delta Cargo check-in at least three hours before your departure time and sign a confirmation that you’ve offered your pet food and water within the past four hours. Keep in mind that there’s no guarantee that your pet will be on the same itinerary or plane as you.

For the safety of your pet, Delta doesn’t accept warm-blooded pets in cargo for flights that are longer than 12 hours.

Cost to fly with your pet on Delta

When traveling within the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, the pet fee is $125 each way. Flights to the U.S. Virgin Islands and other international destinations (via cargo arrangements) are $200 each way. And pet travel fees to and from Brazil are $75 each way.

Pet restrictions on Delta Airlines

Pet carry-on isn’t an option when traveling to the following locations, according to Delta:

  • Australia
  • Barbados
  • Dakar
  • Dubai
  • Hong Kong
  • Iceland
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • Republic of Ireland
  • South Africa
  • United Kingdom
  • United Arab Emirates

Also, Delta imposes extreme weather restrictions when pets can’t be shipped, specifically in temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit and below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hawaiian Airlines

Those traveling on Hawaiian Airlines are restricted to transporting pet dogs, cats, and household birds. You can book your pet’s spot while making your flight reservation or by calling Hawaiian Airlines Reservations at 1-800-367-5320. All pets traveling into Hawaii require a health certificate dated within 14 days of arrival to your destination.

At least one hour is required to check in your pet. Upon arrival to Hawaii, a Hawaiian Airlines agent needs to escort you from the aircraft to the quarantine area, if you don’t follow this procedure you may be fined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Pets in cabin

Dogs and cats are allowed as a carry-on when flying between the Hawaiian Islands. For flights departing from Hawaii to North America, only dogs and cats are permitted in the main cabin. Pets flying from Hawaii to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), however, are not allowed in the main cabin.

Pets arriving into Hawaii from North America are not permitted as carry-on, and no pets from international countries are allowed into the state.

Passengers are limited to one adult dog or cat in a kennel or two puppies or kittens of the same breed in one kennel as long as they meet weight and age requirements.

Kennel guidelines for in-cabin travel on Hawaiian Airlines

Your pet’s carrier must fit under the seat in front of you. Here are some further guidelines for in-cabin pets:

Carrier type Carrier dimensions Carrier/pet combined weight
Soft-sided 16”L x 10”W x 9.5”H 25 pounds or less

Pets in cargo

Passengers of Hawaiian Airlines are allowed one dog or cat in a single carrier, or two puppies or kittens of the same breed in one carrier. Your pets must meet size and weight limitations and have a compliant carrier for travel.

Cost to fly with your pet on Hawaiian Airlines

Flying pets as a carry-on between different Hawaiian islands is $35 each way, and $175 when flying in-cabin pets from Hawaii to North America. For checked pets in the baggage hold, fees are $60 each way within the state of Hawaii, and $225 each way between Hawaii and North America.

Pet restrictions on Hawaiian Airlines

Snub-nosed cat and dog breeds are not recommended for travel on Hawaiian Airlines.

As mentioned above, pets from international destinations and Pago Pago are not accepted in the cabin or as checked baggage. Pets traveling from Hawaii to New York or Boston are also not permitted to travel in the cabin.

Also, between April 15 and October 15, pets aren’t allowed in the baggage hold when traveling to and from the following cities: San Jose, California (SJC), Sacramento, California (SMF), Las Vegas, Nevada (LAS) and Phoenix, Arizona (PHX).

JetBlue

JetBlue offers options to fly with your small dog or cat in-cabin only. You can make a reservation for your fluffy friend while booking your own flight or by contacting an agent at 1-800-JETBLUE (1-800-538-2583).

The airline permits up to four pets on each flight. The last pet spot on a flight must be booked at the airport through JetBlue’s ticket counter within 24 hours of departure. Due to the limited number of pet reservation spots per flight, reservations are first-come, first-served.

Pets in cabin

As a JetBlue passenger, bringing one small cat or dog as a carry-on is your only option. Your pet and its carrier must weigh 20 pounds or less. Unaccompanied minors can also bring pets in the cabin, as long as fees are paid beforehand.

If your itinerary is domestic, there are no health documents required. However, you’ll need to show vaccination, ID tags, and a health certificate from a licensed vet at check-in for all international travel, including Puerto Rico.

During the flight, you’re required to keep your pet inside its kennel and stow the carrier under the seat in front of you during taxi, takeoff, and landing.

Kennel guidelines for in-cabin travel on JetBlue

Your pet’s carrier must fit under the seat in front of you. Here are some further guidelines for in-cabin pets:

Carrier type Carrier dimensions Carrier/pet combined weight
Soft-sided or hard-sided 17"L x 12.5"W x 8.5"H 20 pounds or less

Pets in cargo

Currently, JetBlue doesn’t permit pets in the undercarriage of the aircraft or checked as cargo. If your pet exceeds the carry-on size limitations, they won’t be able to travel with you via the airline.

Cost to fly with your pet on JetBlue

To fly with your pet on JetBlue, expect to pay $125 each way.

Pet restrictions on JetBlue

Although JetBlue generally permits pets in the main cabin, some restrictions apply based on your destination. Travel to and from Jamaica, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Cayman Islands, Trinidad & Tobago, and interline or codeshare flights don’t allow pets on board.

Southwest Airlines

Flying on Southwest with your pet is possible if your pet meets carry-on limitations. Only small cats and dogs are allowed to fly on Southwest, and they must meet age requirements to travel. Book a reservation for your pet in advance by contacting 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792).

The airline permits up to six pets per flight, but this count may increase or decrease, depending on the flight. One carrier per passenger is allowed, and the kennel may hold two cats or dogs of the same species, if needed.

Pets in cabin

All pets must be at least eight weeks old to travel. When traveling with your pet in the main cabin, you can’t sit in an exit row or seat that doesn’t have under-storage. The carrier must be stowed under the seat in front of you at all times.

Unaccompanied minors can’t travel with pets. If you plan to travel with a trained service animal or an emotional support animal, it can’t share its kennel with another pet.

Kennel guidelines for in-cabin travel on Southwest

Your pet’s carrier must fit under the seat in front of you. Here are some further guidelines for in-cabin pets:

Carrier type Carrier dimensions
Soft-sided or hard-sided 18.5”L x 8.5”H x 13.5”W

Pets in baggage

Southwest doesn’t offer passengers the option of checking pets into the baggage hold.

Cost to fly with your pet on Southwest

A $95 pet fee applies each way. The airline charges pet fees per carrier so there’s no extra cost when traveling with two pets in one carrier, aside from the standard pet fees.

Pet restrictions on Southwest

When flying to or from Hawaii, you’re unable to take your pet on Southwest flights. For Southwest flights between the Hawaiian Islands, small dogs and cats are allowed as a carry-on item. Special travel requirements also apply when traveling to Puerto Rico.

Pets also can’t travel with you in-cabin to international destinations or any itinerary that has an international flight.

United Airlines

Passengers on United Airlines may travel with small cats and dogs in the main cabin, or choose to make a cargo reservation through its PetSafe program for larger pets. A health certificate is required for both in-cabin and cargo travel.

Up to four pets per flight are permitted in United Economy flights. You can reserve a spot for your carry-on pet during your reservation booking process, through managing your booking through united.com, or by contacting 1-800-UNITED-1 (1-800-864-8331). You can book your pet’s cargo travel through PetSafe’s website or by calling 1-800-575-3335.

Pets in cabin

In-cabin pets must be at least 16 weeks old to fly on United. You can bring another pet with you, as long as you pay for an additional seat. Unaccompanied minors aren’t allowed to travel with carry-on pets.

When arriving at the airport, check in at the ticket desk to receive a yellow tag that you’ll attach to your pet’s carrier. Passengers with in-cabin pets can’t sit in the emergency exit row, bulkhead, or in United Premium Plus seats. During the entire flight, your pet must remain inside the closed carrier and under the seat in front of you.

Carrier guidelines for in-cabin travel on United

Your pet’s carrier must fit under the seat in front of you. Here are some further guidelines for in-cabin pets:

Carrier type Dimensions
Hard-sided 17.5”L x 12”W x 7.5”H
Soft-sided 18”L x 11”W x 11”H

Pets in cargo

On your departure day, make sure you’ve filled out, signed, and dated the PetSafe customer acknowledgment form. You’ll also need to provide a copy of your pet’s health certificate, a photo of your pet and their crate upon check-in.

Find your pet drop-off location on the United Cargo website by entering your airport code or city. You can also call PetSafe directly for assistance. You’ll need to check in at your pet drop-off location at least two-to-three hours ahead of your departure, depending on your flight destination.

One pet per carrier is allowed, unless you’re traveling with two kittens and or two puppies that are the same size and weigh less than 20 pounds each. Pets traveling in cargo aren’t allowed to have toys and medication in the carrier.

Cost to fly with your pet on United

Pets traveling in the main cabin cost $125 per kennel, each way. If you have U.S. stopovers that exceed four hours or international stops longer than 24 hours, another $125 pet fee per stop, per carrier, applies.

The cost for United’s PetSafe cargo program depends on your departure and arrival locations, as well as the total weight of your pet, its carrier, and other necessities, such as water and food bowls. To get an estimate, use the PetSafe calculator.

Pet restrictions on United

Pets traveling with their owners to, from, or through certain international cities, and Hawaii, may not be able to fly in the main cabin. Also, pit bull breeds aren’t permitted as carry-on pets.

Brachycephalic cat and dog breeds are restricted from travel in cargo due to the safety risk. Extreme weather cargo restrictions also apply. If you’re traveling between May 1 to September 30 to the following destinations, you won’t be able to check your pet into cargo: Las Vegas (LAS), Palm Springs (PSP), Phoenix (PHX), and Tucson (TUS).

Flights to and from Australia, India, and South Africa, and on other international flights, also don’t allow pets to travel via PetSafe.

8 tips for keeping your pet safe and comfortable on a flight

Although planning your pet’s travel arrangements can feel complicated, making sure you’ve set your pet up for a successful trip can help ease your worries. Here are a few ways to keep their travel experience as comfortable as possible.

  1. Visit your vet beforehand to ensure they’re healthy enough to handle the stress of travel.
  2. Book direct flights to avoid excess time spent in their carrier.
  3. Choose an airline that lets your pet travel in-cabin.
  4. Avoid booking during extreme weather months, if possible. Make other accommodations if this is unavoidable.
  5. Trim your pet’s nails before the trip so they don’t snag while inside the carrier.
  6. Give your pet some exercise at home or at the airport’s designated pet area.
  7. Take your pet to go potty before departure to limit accidents during travel.
  8. Make sure your pet’s kennel is lined with enough absorbent material so your pet doesn’t have to lay on waste.

Pet airfare travel checklist: Things you need to bring

  • Vaccination records
  • A recently issued health certificate
  • Pet collar or harness, leash, and ID tag
  • Pet carrier that meets airline regulations
  • Food and water dish
  • Food and water
  • Treats for in-cabin companions
  • Potty accident items (e.g. paper towels, pet wipes, and a plastic bag for soiled carrier items)
  • Comfort items, such as a favorite toy or blanket, if permitted
  • A recent photo of your pet and their carrier

How to save on pet fees with the right credit card

Bringing your pet with you on your trip can make your travel experience that much more meaningful, but pet fees can be costly. Booking your pet’s arrangements using a travel rewards credit card that covers pet fees can help relieve you of some of the financial burden.

For example, The Platinum Card by American Express offers a $200 airline credit that covers incidentals such as pet travel fees. If the Amex Platinum’s $550 annual fee makes you balk, the Amex Gold card offers a similar $100 airline credit and comes with a lower annual fee of $250.

If you travel often, especially with your pet, having the right travel credit card can help you offset the cost of airlines’ pet fees.

The final word on flying with pets

Choosing the best airline for you and your pet depends on your destination, the airline’s restrictions, and the needs of your pet. Giving your pet a positive travel experience means doing your due diligence in planning ahead for a smooth ride. Always ensure that your pet is healthy enough to travel before you go, and enjoy your trip!

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