Traveling with your dog is sometimes necessary. If your dog is under 25 pounds, they can fly with you in the cabin. If your dog is above that limit, they will have to fly as a checked pet or as cargo. My dog Tucker has flown three times as a checked pet, and once as a carry-on as a puppy. Checking a pet is very expensive and it can be dangerous during the summer months, so consider driving if the temperature is expected to be above 80 degrees.
The Basics to Flying With Dogs
Carry on- You can carry on your pet if they are under about 20-25 pounds and will fit inside a soft-sided kennel that can fit under the seat.
Checked Dog Restricted Breeds
Airlines will restrict certain breeds and mixes thereof from flying as a checked pet. These are breeds with short noses or short skull.
- Requirements: Cannot be above 85 degrees or below 10 degrees, so early morning or late at night flights are generally better options in the summer. Health certificate within 10 days of travel or 60-days of a return trip on the same itinerary (checked/cargo pets). A hard-sided plastic kennel that is ventilated on at least three sides with two attachable bowls for water and food. You also need some sort of bedding inside the kennel and attach a plastic bag of food to the top of the kennel. Your dog needs to be at least 8 weeks old, but it is not recommended that puppies travel until they are at least 16 weeks.
- Breeds that can’t fly: Affenpinscher, American Staffordshire Terrier, Boston Terrier, Boxer (all breeds), Brussels Griffon, Bulldog (all breeds), Cane Corso, Dogue De Bordeaux, English Toy Spaniel, Japanese Chin, Lhasa Apso, Mastiff (all breeds), Pekingese, Pit Bull, Presa Canario, Pug (all breeds), Shar Pei, Shih Tzu, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and Tibetan Spaniel. (This is the list of American Airlines. It will vary by airline, but the list will likely be very similar).
- Cargo vs. Checked– For a checked pet, you need to travel on that same flight as your dog. Whereas with cargo, you don’t have to travel with your dog, but have someone at the other end who can pick them up.
- Tips: Book well in advance since space can be limited. Book a direct flight if possible even if it costs extra. The longer your dog is in the kennel, the more chance that something could go wrong. Try to take your dog to doggie daycare or on a very long hike the day before you travel. You want them very tired before the flight. Additionally, it can be a very troubling experience for both you and your dog. I remember seeing Tucker’s crate sit on the tarmac for about 15 minutes in 80-degree weather. I was really worried about him, but I couldn’t do anything about it.
Service Animals do fly for free. Service animals also include emotional support animals, which is a really easy qualification to obtain, but airlines are cracking down due to abuse. Most airlines now require a doctors note rather than just a certificate that you could purchase online for about $100. The dog needs to sit in between your legs, so I would recommend that you purchase a first class or extra legroom seat (not an exit row).
Airlines Policies for Dogs
- Fees: $125 for carry-on and $200 for a checked pet. If you want to ship your pet as cargo, it depends on the weight of the carrier. (e.g. Charlotte to Los Angeles was $217 for 50 lbs and $292 for 51-70 lbs, and $356 for 71-100 lbs.
- Restrictions: Checked pets cannot travel on A321, A321S, A321H, A320, A319 aircraft (call as soon as you book your ticket to verify that the flight works). Must be traveling with the pet.
- Fine Print
- Cost: $100 each way for carry-on or checked. You can also ship your dog by cargo, but it seems very expensive compared to checked dog price.
- Aircraft Restrictions: Pets may not travel in first class or the baggage compartment for flights on Airbus planes (about 22% of their fleet).
- FAQs; Fine Print
- Carry On Fees: Travel within the U.S. or to Canada is $125 one-way for carry-on pets. ($200 for the Virgin Islands, $125 to Puerto Rico, $75 to Brazil, and $200 for outside the U.S.)
- Cargo Fees– You can price it out on the Delta Cargo website. (e.g., Atlanta to Los Angeles was $194 one-way, but Charlotte to NYC was $329 for the direct flight). However, for larger kennels above 40 x 27 x 30, the following aircraft cannot accommodate them: 737-700-800-900, 767-300-300ER-400ER, A330-200, MD-88, 717-200, CRJ-200-700-900, ERJ-145-170-175.
- Fine Print
- Fees: $100 for carry-on pets. (You also get 300 JetBlue points per segment)
- Requirements: Pet and carrier cannot exceed 20 pounds. No vaccination document requirements needed for domestic travel.
- Pet Guide
- Fees: $125 for carry-on pets. For United’s PetSafe (cargo) program, you would have to call 1-800-575-3335 to get a quote (expect about $250-350 for a midsize dog; you do get 500 points for flights within the U.S.)
- Fine Print for PetSafe; Fine Print for carry-on.
- The PetSafe program has come under a lot of scrutiny and was suspended for several months for United to get its act together. For example, in 2017, United transported 138,178 animals and reported 18 deaths, 13 injuries, and 31 total incidents. Whereas, the other airlines transported 368,816 animals, and reported six deaths, two injuries, and nine total incidents. They also had some high-profile mess-ups such as sending a dog destined for Kansas to Japan (and chartering a jet to send him back), a flight having to divert to Akron after it was discovered the wrong pet was boarded, and the bulldog who died in a overhead bin due to a flight attendant telling the passenger to put the kennel up there (now all carry-on pets must have big yellow tag on the kennel).
Other Airlines: List of Policies
Tucker before a Flight from St. Louis to Los Angeles