Traveling With Pets on a Plane

What should you know when deciding to travel with your family pet on a plane?

 
There are various rules when it comes to traveling with pets on a plane. Some restrict the number of pets you can fly with to two and the size of the kennels may be specific. Check-in and reservation requirements vary, some have restricted breeds, and other limitations that make prior research a very important factor when traveling with pets on a plane.

 

American Airlines

One of the first things to consider when traveling with pets on a plane is their age and breed. American Airlines restricts dogs and cats under 8 weeks of age from traveling within the U.S. Dogs and cats with brachycephaly or snub-nosed dogs are not accepted for travel with AA. Common breeds that fall into this category are Boston Terrier, Boxer, Pug, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Burmese and Persian cats, as well as Himalayan cats. AA does not require a health certificate for pets to fly domestically, however, some states do. Contact American Airlines about health documentation required for travel to Hawaii and international destinations.

 

Destination time restrictions are limited to 11 hours and 30 minutes, including the time needed to go through customs. On AA flights, passengers can bring one kennel as a carry-on bag if:

  • They pay the carry-on pet charge
  • The pet stays in the kennel under the seat for the entire duration of the flight

 

Kennel requirements state the pet must be able to stand and turn in the kennel as well as lie down without touching any sides or top of the container. Soft-sided kennels must be made of water-repellant material and have nylon breathable ventilation areas. Hardshell kennels must fit underneath the seat in front of the passenger without exceeding the aircraft dimensions. Contact AA Customer Services at 800-433-7300 to secure travel reservations for your pet.

 

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines’ website provides slightly more lenient qualifications when it comes to traveling with pets on a plane. While accepting only small dogs and cats, they do not list age or breed restrictions. They also do not require a health certificate or any other documentation from a veterinarian for a pet to travel. Carriers can be soft or hard-sided, must be leak-proof, well ventilated, and small enough to be stowed away under the seat in front of them. Travelers are subject to a $95 Pet Fare each way per pet carrier (limit 1 pet carrier per person, up to two pets of the same species per carrier). Reservations are required in advance by calling 1-800-I-FLY-SWA.

Southwest Airlines Pet Carrier can be purchased for $58.00 and is an approved carrier meeting all requirements per the airline.

 

Delta Airlines

Small dogs, cats, and birds are allowed to travel in the cabin on Delta flights for an additional one-way fee. Traveling from U.S./Canada/Puerto Rico requires a $125 USD checked pet fee each way. U.S. Virgin Islands/ Puerto Rico increases to $200 each way, while Brazil decreases to $75. Delta does not require a health certificate for pets traveling in the cabin, however again, pet health certificate requirements are determined by each state. Pets again must fit in a small, ventilated carrier that fits under the passenger’s seat in front of them. Delta requires pets to be at least 10 weeks of age for domestic travel and 16 weeks for international. One pet is permitted per kennel with the exception of an un-weaned litter 10 weeks to 6 months of age. A secondary exception is two pets of the same breed and size between 10 weeks and 6 months in one kennel with adequate room for mobility.  Call Delta in advance at 800-221-1212 to schedule arrangements for bringing your pet aboard.

 

United Airlines

United Airlines allows domesticated travel companions on their airlines limited to dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds (excluding cockatoos). Puppies and kittens must be 16 weeks of age and must fit in a carrier that remains in the floor space below the passenger’s feet at all times. United allows for only one pet per kennel with the exception of birds. Each dog entering the U.S. from a foreign country must have a valid certificate of rabies vaccination, signed by a licensed vet and include specific information. Cats are not required to have the same proof of vaccination however it is required by some states. Local health authorities at the final destination should be contacted to confirm the requirements. Contact United Customer Services at 1-800-UNITED-1 for more information.

Other Airlines: 

Spirit: accepts dogs, cats, and household birds, on domestic flights only, limited to one carrier/ max 40 lbs, $110 one way. Contact Spirit Airlines Customer Services team at 801-401-2222 to guarantee a spot aboard for a pet.

Alaskan Air: pets must be at least 8 weeks of age, with a maximum of two pets, allowed to sit in an extra purchased seat or be stowed under the seat in front of the owner for $100 each way. There are breed restrictions and vaccination documentation requirements. Contact Alaska Airlines at 800-252-7522 for reservations.

Jet Blue: cats and dogs are welcome on domestic and international flights. There is a $100 fee each way and the combined weight of the carrier cannot exceed 20 pounds. Documentation is required. Customer Service can be contacted at 1-800-538-2583.

 

According to akc.org, these are the top 10 Dog-Friendly Airports in the U.S.

  1. Denver International Airport– has private restrooms for pets at each concourse and an on-site pet resort called “Paradise 4 Paws”.
  2. Minneapolis-Saint Paul– has multiple areas dedicated for pet relief as well as a 24/7 pet boarding facility to pamper your pet while you’re away with doggy daycare, spa treatments, and training.
  3. Detroit Metro– animal relief areas are available in each terminal with pre-security and post-security amenities.
  4. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson– offers a 1,000-square-foot dog park for pets and services dogs, fully fenced-in and has benches and biodegradable waste bags.
  5. Reno Tahoe– has two dog parks for service canine companions. Opening in 2004 and 2012, the dog parks are fully-fenced, have running water, clean up stations, a fire hydrant and a canopy for bad weather.
  6. San Diego– has several pet relief stations inside and outside the airport, and a special “Ready Pet Go” program where therapy dogs comfort passengers, providing stress relief.
  7. Washington Dulles– there are four designated Service Animal/ Pet Relief areas; two inside post-security and two outside pre-security.
  8. Phoenix Sky Harbor– has five areas for pets to walk and relieve themselves, however, all are pre-security.
  9. Philadelphia International– has SEVEN “Pet Ports” located in every terminal with additional relief areas outside the airport on the Departing Flights road and outside the baggage claim area.
  10. New York JFK– Terminal 4 has its own pet bathroom located right next to the human restroom.

 

New York JFK is in the process of building a terminal, especially for pets. The project will cost $48 million and include pet boarding, a grooming spa, hay-lined stalls for horses, and a veterinary clinic.

 

For other questions regarding traveling with pets on an airline, visit the Federal Aviation Administration. Here is a fun link from TSA: Taking Your Human On a Plane: What Every Pet Needs to Know.

 

As mentioned, some airlines require vaccination records when traveling with pets on a plane. An easy way to access these documents is through a Pin Paws membership with an online pet profile. Take the hassle out of fumbling for medical documentation papers and access their records just as you access a boarding pass on a phone. Both owner and pet(s) will get through security in a jiffy.

 

Daphyne Lovejoy

Daphyne Lovejoy has been the lead content writer for Pin Paws since 2017. She is passionate about providing pet owners with informative and fun pet facts, has volunteered for various pet rescues and has five 4-legged dogs of her own.