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Tips For Traveling With Pets On Planes

The prospect of bringing your pet aboard a commercial flight may sound like a nightmare!  The idea of leaving your most vulnerable family member at home, however, is often unthinkable, and it is becoming more common for pets to travel in the passenger cabin on international and domestic flights!

In fact, it is estimated that 2 million pets take to the skies each year – and that’s just in the US & Canada alone!

I honestly was not aware that airlines allowed pets to travel within the passenger cabin, but sure enough, upon their return from a recent around the world trip, my parents told how they warily shared their business class cabin with not one, but two handbag dogs!  And, according to the airline staff, this was not uncommon!

While pets traveling as carrying on baggage get to experience the same flying conditions as we do, they do it from inside their carrier at their owners feet.  While this means they’re not running amok the plane, if they happen to bark a lot when forced into confined spaces, be ready to put up with hateful glares from other travelers.

You may think that these pets are truly pampered – however you would be surprised at the growing popularity of private chartered flights as a more expensive alternative to flying with your pet.  One company, Companion Air, even offers pet friendly flights with specially designed passenger cabins available for your animal!

Airlines will also allow you to ship unaccompanied pets year round as cargo, however when considering flying with a pet, airlines strongly recommend that a pet be at least 8 weeks old as well as properly weaned before they take to the sky.  Often it may not be a good idea for an animal to fly – some have trouble breathing, and some dog breeds like pugs, overheat really easily which is not ideal.

Here are the details on in-cabin pet travel on some of the most popular airlines, starting with Air Canada. Get ready to pack that Toronto Pet!

Air Canada

www.aircanada.com

  • Type of pets allowed: Small cats and dogs.
  • Max. weight: 22 pounds including carrier.
  • Cost: $50 or $100 each way depending on destination.
  • International?: Yes

Air France

www.airfrance.com

  • Type of pet allowed: Dogs and cats
  • Max. weight: 13.2 pounds including carrier
  • Cost: $200 for flights departing from the U.S.
  • International? Yes

American Airlines

www.aa.com

  • Type of pets allowed: Cats and dogs
  • Max. weight: 20 pounds including carrier
  • Cost: $125 each way
  • International?  Yes but no in-cabin pets on transatlantic flights

Delta

www.delta.com

  • Type of pets allowed: Dogs, cats (domestic and international) and household birds (domestic U.S. only)
  • Max. weight:No limit, but pet must fit comfortably in carrier under seat.
  • Cost: $125 in North America and $200 international, one way
  • International? Yes

Jet Blue

www.jetblue.com

  • Type of pets allowed: Cats and dogs
  • Max. weight: 20 pounds with carrier
  • Cost: $100 each way
  • International? Yes.

Southwest

www.southwest.com

  • Type of pets allowed: Cats and dogs
  • Max. weight: No limit but must fit comfortably in carrier under seat.
  • Cost: $75 each way
  • International? No.

United

www.united.com

  • Type of pets allowed: Domesticated cats, dogs, rabbits and birds
  • Max. weight: No limit but must fit comfortably in carrier under seat.
  • Cost: $125 each way
  • International?: Yes, but contact United Reservations for more information. United does not permit in-cabin pets for transatlantic travel.

US Airways

www.usairways.com

  • Type of pets allowed: Dogs, cats and birds
  • Max. weight: No limit but must fit comfortably in carrier under seat.
  • Cost: $125 each way
  • International? Yes, but no in-cabin pets for transatlantic routes.

Virgin America

www.virginamerica.com

  • Type of pet allowed: Cats and dogs
  • Max. weight: 20 pounds with carrier
  • Cost: $100 each way
  • International? Yes

What is your opinion on pets traveling in the passenger cabin of a flight?

 About Megan Claire

Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure!  Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Follow their journey on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

    49 Comments

  1. I suppose a dog barking won’t be much worse than a baby’s crying, would it?

    • Probably not honestly – about the same on the scale of 1 – annoying :D!

  2. These tips are very helpful and advantageous for all pet owners, who wants to take our pet within a tour. Really, taking a pet in travel is a big tension for all pet owners, but your tips will be helpful.

    • Thanks Chris – glad we could provide some info to help :) Happy travels!

  3. Leaving behind my pets when I travel is the hardest thing I have to do! I am soon moving abroad for a year and leaving my cat and dog with my parents and I’m so sad! One day I will bring them with me, but putting my very skitish big dog (65 pounds) in cargo will be a hard decision. HOWEVER! I recently met some people who brought their big dogs on the plane with them and just had to buy them a seat! They had a special note from the Vet that said the dogs had anxiety and they had to sit with their owner in the cabin! I have never seen this, but if its for real, i would do it!

    • I can imagine how putting a pet into cargo would be an incredibly difficult decision. It’s very cool that airlines are starting to realize and take care of passengers traveling with pets!

  4. I really appreciate now airlines are also thinking about traveling with pets. But still have doubts about international travel with pets and the documentation.

    • Had never really thought much about the documentation required to take a pet with you internationally – maybe that’s another research topic for me for a follow up blog post! Thanks Alexander :)

    • Documentation varies a lot by country, but for going from the US to other first-world places like Europe it’s usually pretty straightforward.

  5. My mind is blown! I never knew or would have even thought it an option (unless you’re Paris Hilton is first class).

    Is this only in Business or above? Or do they allow it in economy also?

    • I believe it’s available in economy class as well as business. May depend on the individual airline though.

      If you head on over to the website of each airline, they have pet policies displayed for more information. Kind of cool that so many have this as an option!

    • It’s actually economy more often than business (in some airlines, business class doesn’t accept in cabin pets). :)

  6. i would love more pets onboard planes.
    Much more preferable to kids and babies!
    It really is cruel to put pets in the hold.
    They should only travel in the cabin in my opinion

    • Very true – pets probably are a lot better to deal with than children or babies – though I guess in all scenarios you can have one which is badly behaved.

      I think it’s a true comfort for both the pet and their owner to be able to travel with them in the cabin, so I’m very impressed a lot of airlines are beginning to step up and recognize this :)

    • Thanks Marina! Just checked it out and you have a great guide there – really useful tips and advice – thanks!

  7. I am a pet lover and this thing is quite appreciable that the companies are allowing the pets in the cabin. I just cant imagine my pet in cargo. That must be a night mare for the pets who are shipped like this. Just think of your kids all caged up and flying in cargo area. Thanks God now people are thinking about the pets as well.

    • Glad you found the post informative – it’s definitely starting to emerge as more and more important for an airline to be able to offer pet friendly services; those who do stand our above the rest :)

  8. I’ve have been taking my little pet dog Finn on flights abroad with me for years. I often get a funny look when I tell people, but it just makes most sense for me. We truly hate being apart from one another.

    • Absolutely! And it’s becoming more and more common, so hopefully you’ll soon stop getting funny looks!

  9. For anyone looking for more info (under-seat carrier sizes, paperwork, etc. etc. etc.), Dog Jaunt is a great blog and resource. I travel full-time with my dog and it was one of the most helpful online resources I found before I started.

    • Awesome thanks for the info Gigi!

    • Thanks, Gigi! So appreciate the shout-out, especially from a veteran traveler-with-dog like you.

  10. Oh man! When my trip is with my family, we always bring with us our little cute puppy donnie. We never left him behind whenever the whole family leaves for a couple of days to weeks away from home.

    • Glad to hear you take good care of him! Hopefully this post was helpful to point you towards some of the more pet friendly airlines then :)

  11. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful post. I learned a lot from it. Hoping to see more of your great post here on your blog.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post Unica – happy travels with your pet :)

  12. Will a charter flight allow you to travel with pets? This question came to my mind after my wife told me that no body in her family wanted to take care of her cat. For me, it was something that got me nervous about so it seems like we’ll have to find a charter flight that maybe will accept a cat aboard.

    • Hi Andre, a lot of charter flights and private jets will allow you to travel with a pet, it’s just going to depend on the individual company and what their policies are. Alternatively though you can also perhaps look into house/pet sitting as an option. Companies like Trustedhousesitters put vacationers in touch with travelers who will come and live in your home while you’re away and make sure your pets are taken care of.

      Another option to think about if your family members can’t do it anyway :)

      Hope that helps!

  13. I read your post while I was traveling to Australia. I was traveling with my dog for the very first time. I took care of all the tips and information you have shared in your post and it really helped me a lot. nice post, thanks for sharing.

    • Welcome to Australia Olliver! So glad our tips were helpful for you. I hope you enjoy your time in our beautiful country :)

      Happy travels!

  14. I’ve never tried bringing a pet on a commercial flight. However, I want to take my dog on vacation with me to Yellowstone. I’m going to try flying Delta. Thanks for the tips about each of the airlines. Delta works best for me!

    • Have a wonderful trip Westly! I had no idea that so many airlines were so pet friendly until I started research for this post. You should be treated very well on Delta. Glad we could help :)

      You’ll have an amazing time at Yellowstone … happy travels!

  15. I think a short flight is fine if you choose the right airline, but if it’s longer than 2 hours, it can be very dangerous for your pet’s health. I would avoid it at all costs!

    • Thanks for your input Diane – it’s definitely something to consider. I am not aware of the health effects a long flight would have on an animal, though it’s a very good idea for a post so I should do some research :)

  16. Great tips Meg,

    Now every dog owner will not worry about leaving their dog alone in the house, just take them beside you :-)

    • Thanks Jay! Absolutely – it’s so easy nowadays to take your pet with you :)

  17. Looks like things have improved significantly on this front. I took a cat from Canada to Scotland and back about 10 years ago. It was difficult, stressful and expensive. She had to fly as cargo. Happy to say she made it on piece, even if her carrier didn’t.

    • Sorry to hear you had a bad experience Alison. From your experience to what things are like now though, it does sound like the experiences has improved a lot and become a lot more smooth. I hope you have a better flight the next time you both fly together :)

    • You’re welcome – I am glad you enjoyed the post :)

  18. Hi Meg,

    Great article! I m traveling a lot so information like these help a lot.
    Keep up with a good work!

    • Thanks Olivia! Glad we could help :) Happy holidays!

  19. Glad to have seen this article. Always wondered how to go about bringing pets on planes but your work surely helps out!

    • Glad we could help Larisse! Happy travels :)

  20. My mind is blown! I never knew or would have even thought it an option (unless you’re Paris Hilton is first class).
    Is this only in Business or above? Or do they allow it in economy also?

    • I’ve been on planes where pets have been allowed in economy – each airline has different rules, but definitely an option!

  21. Woah! 2 million pets fly during the year?! I wonder when they travel the most. Thanks for providing all the information right here!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Sara – it’s a crazy amount right! Definitely becoming a big travel trend.

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