Pet Friendly Airlines, Pet Travel Checklist & Safest and Cheapest Fares

Looking for pet friendly airlines for you and your dog?

Trying to Find a Good Place to Stay?

To find your perfect vacation spot, see our Dog Friendly Vacation Rentals page.

On this page we’ll get into which airlines allow it, what their requirements are and what they cost.

But hold your horses...er...dogs!

Let’s take the pet travel decision one step at a time…

Is Flying Safe for Your Dog?

First things first.  Your dog should NOT fly if they are:

  • In heat or are pregnant
  • Under 8 weeks old or are not fully weaned (required by federal law)
  • The flat faces of pug-nosed breeds can make it difficult for them to breath during flight.  If your dog's breed is any of the following and you think they can handle it, talk with your vet first to be sure:
    • American Staffordshire
      pet friendly airlines
    • Boston Terrier
    • Brussels Griffin
    • Dutch Pug
    • English Bulldog
    • English Toy Spaniel
    • Japanese Pug
    • Japanese Spaniel
    • Pekinese
    • Shih Tzu
    • Staffordshire Bull Terrier

You should also think twice if your dog is old or in poor health.  These are loose terms, but use your and your vet’s best judgment here.

If none of the above applies to your dog, bring ‘em along!  Depending on your plans, your dog could make the trip much more fun.  Plus you won’t be constantly worrying about how they’re doing back home.

A quick note about sedatives...

It may be tempting to sedate your pet with a pill during a cargo flight, but most holistic vets warn against it.  A sedated dog’s body has a more difficult time regulating body temperature, which could pose a problem during loading and unloading in hot and cold weather.

If your pet is especially rambunctious when confined to a crate, get your vet’s opinion about whether sedatives will be safe.

pet friendly airlines

If you'd like to run your dog's situation by our veterinarians to get their opinion about whether it's safe for your dog to fly, you can do so now through My Online Vet. We'll get back to you right away.

Assuming you’re ready to move forward, it’s time to choose…

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Pet Friendly Airlines - Cabin or Cargo?

In other words, will your dog fly under the seat in front of you (wink) or in the special cargo compartment down below?

Cabin

In order to fly in the cabin of pet friendly airlines, you must be flying with your dog.  In addition, most airlines only allow a certain number of pets to travel in the cabin of each flight.

Generally, the combined weight of your pet and kennel cannot be more than 15 pounds (6.8 kg) and the carrier must fit underneath the seat in front of you.

pet friendly airlines

Two small pets of the same species are usually allowed to share a kennel as long as they can fit comfortably.

While you will not pay for your dog’s ticket until you arrive at the ticketing counter on the day of the flight, you still need to reserve a space for them with your airline (we have their contact info further down the page).

Regardless of whether your pet travels in the cabin with you or in cargo, most pet friendly airlines will require them to remain in their carrier or crate for the entire journey.

If you know you want your dog with you in the cabin (for small dogs under 15 pounds only), click one of the following to jump down the page:

Otherwise, let’s move on to cargo…

Cargo

Pet friendly airlines cargo will be your only option if your pet cannot fit comfortably into a carrier that will fit underneath the seat in front of you or if their weight (including the carrier) exceeds 15 pounds.

During our research, our first cargo concern was with the level of comfort for our dogs.

Are they just tossed in with the other luggage?  How is the temperature regulated?  Will they have access to food or water?

pet friendly airlines

You’ll be happy to know that federal law, enforced by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, has several requirements for both you and the pet friendly airlines in order to keep your pet as safe and comfortable as possible during their trip.

Here are some of the federal requirements for pets traveling in cargo, as paraphrased directly from the federal web site (if you just want to take our word for it, click here to jump down the page):

  • The owner or responsible party must:
    • Drop off the pet no more than 4 hours before the flight (up to 6 hours if appropriately coordinated with the airline)
    • Sign documents stating you offered the pet food and water during the 4 hours before delivery to the cargo desk (unless directed otherwise by a licensed vet)
    • Provide the airline with a health certificate from a licensed vet that was completed no more than 10 days prior to departure
  • The animals’ container must:
    • Reasonably be expected to safely and comfortably contain the dog without causing suffering or injury
    • Have handles that allow the container to be kept level and allow the handlers to move the container without direct contact with the animal (in other words, no fingers grabbing the cage and getting bitten)
    • Have a leak-proof bottom
    • Be able to be opened easily in case of emergency
    • Contain proper ventilation and labeling, including “Live Animal” tags
    • Be cleaned and sanitized by dog owner before each use
    • Be large enough to allow pets to turn around normally while standing without touching the sides of the container
  • Airline animal holding areas must meet temperature and animal comfort and safety guidelines.
pet friendly airlines
  • The cargo space in which the pets are transported must:
    • Be designed, constructed and maintained in a manner that at all times protects the health and well-being of the animals
    • Ensure the animals’ safety and comfort
    • Prevent the entry of engine exhaust
    • Have a supply of air that is sufficient for normal breathing
    • Be heated or cooled as necessary to maintain an ambient temperature and humidity that ensures the health and well-being of the animals
    • Be pressurized
  • Airline handlers must:
    • Observe the dogs or cats no less than once every four hours or upon landing and departing to ensure that all of the minimum standards are being met
    • Offer food to the animals at least once every 24 hours and water at least every 12 hours
    • If necessary, arrange veterinary care as soon as reasonably possible

There are pages and pages of requirements on top of this summary, but I think you get the point.

We have transported our dog both in the cabin (when she was a puppy) and in cargo (after she was too big for the cabin) of pet friendly airlines and had absolutely no problems.

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Pet Travel Preparation Checklist for Pet Friendly Airlines

pet friendly airlines

Now that we’ve explained the basics of which pets should not travel and considerations for cabin and cargo accommodations, let’s get into the preparation checklist…

  1. Ensure that it is safe for your pet to fly (review the “Is it safe” section above).
  2. Make an appointment with your local veterinarian WITHIN 10 days of pet travel to confirm that it is safe for your pet to fly and to obtain a travel health certificate (don’t worry, your vet will be very familiar with this request).

    Most pet friendly airlines will require you to present this certificate at check-in for cargo.  Some also require it for cabin travel.  The certificate must be dated no sooner than 10 days before the trip.
  1. Review the “Cabin or Cargo” section above and decide which is best for your dog.
  2. Purchase the best plane ticket for you and your dog. (More on this below).
  3. Purchase the right carrier or kennel based on the federal and individual pet friendly airline's guidelines, along with the necessary items that will go inside...
Carrier (cabin) Checklist Kennel (cargo) Checklist
  1. The carrier itself 
  2. Bottled water
  3. A small sealable water bowl with ice inside                  
  4. A small sealable food bowl or bag with your dog’s favorite natural organic dog food
  5. Your dog’s favorite organic treats to encourage good behavior en route.
  1. The crate itself
  2. Food and water bowls that can attach to the crate door (can be one bowl with a separator)
  3. Ice (to put in the bowls when you drop off your pet)
  4. If your dog is on a strict diet, tape a sealable bag of food to the side of the kennel along with feeding instructions.  Be sure to share the instructions with the cargo check-in attendant.
  5. Absorbent dog bedding
  6. Your dog’s favorite blanket
  7. Your dog’s favorite toy
We own the following carrier and kennel.  Each has worked out great...
Sherpa Original Deluxe - Large 5551 in Black
Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier

Features

Durable, quilted nylon with mesh panels on three sides for ventilation; front or top entry, reinforced bottom and handles; adjustable shoulder strap (doubles as leash).

Zipper pocket for essentials; soft, removable, washable lining, inside leash ring and photo ID tag. Approved on major airlines and fits comfortably under airline seat and folds flat for storage.

Sizes

  • Small - 16"L x 9-1/2"H x 10"W (Holds up to 8 lbs.)
  • Medium - 18"L x 10-1/2"H x 11"W (Holds up to 16 lbs)
  • Large - 20"L x 11-1/2"H x 11-3/4"W (Holds up to 22 lbs)
TopDawg Pet Supply Marchioro:Clipper Cayman 1 Beige-green
Marchioro Clipper Cayman Pet Kennel

Features

Cayman Carriers are a superior quality pet carrier, made of polypropylene copolymers with plastic vents and a metal door. Spring latch door stays securely closed but is easy for the owner to open. Airline Approved.

Sizes

  1. 19.5 In x 13 In x 12.5 In
  2. 22.25 In x 14.5 In x 14.5 In
  3. 25 In x 17 In x 17 In
  4. 27.75 In x 19.5 In x 20.25 In
  5. 32.25 In x 22.25 In x 23.5 In
  6. 36.5 In x 25.25 In x 26.75 In
  7. 41.5 In x 29.25 In x 31 In
  1. Train your dog to be comfortable with the carrier or crate they will be traveling in.  If your small dog will be in a carrier, allow them to spend time in it frequently for at least a couple of weeks before the trip.

    This is especially effective when in your car.  Give them their favorite organic dog treat when they are in the carrier and acting calmly.

    If your dog will be in a crate, allow them to spend at least a few nights in it before the trip.  Place the same blanket and toy in the crate that they will be flying with.
  2. Take a photo of your dog.   While very unlikely, if the pet friendly airlines lose your pet a photograph will help to find her.
  1. Buy a collar for your dog that has 2 tags.  On one tag, write your pet's name, your name, address and home phone number. On the other, include your destination contact, address and phone number.

    Breakaway tags (pictured right - notice the special latch) can be purchased to ensure that the collar will not snag on the crate during travel.
  2. Unless you enjoy poop-scented fur, do not feed your pet a large meal during the 12 hours before your flight.  Federal law requires that you offer your pet food and water within 4 hours of dropping off your pet.
  3. When preparing the carrier or crate, include your dog’s favorite toy or blanket (as long as there is enough room in the carrier).
  4. Clip your pet’s toenails so they do not get stuck in the crate doors or windows during the trip.
pet friendly airlines
  1. Exercise your pet well just before they leave for the trip.  This will help make them naturally tired to encourage sleep during the trip and will help to stimulate a nice pre-flight bowel movement.
  2. Most airlines require that your dog be dropped off at least 3 hours in advance, but federal law requires no more than 4 hours.
  3. Prepare ice before you hit the road for the airport.  Fill the water bowl in the cargo crate with the ice before leaving your dog.
  4. Just before putting your dog inside the carrier or crate for the flight, try to get them to pee and poop one last time.
  5. Remember that you will have to pay for your pet’s airfare when you check in (cabin) or drop your dog off (cargo).  You usually cannot pre-pay because weather conditions or inappropriate preparations (i.e. forgotten health certificate) may prevent the pet friendly airlines from accepting your dog.
  6. Make sure that the attendant at the pet friendly airlines cargo desk carefully tapes all necessary documents to the kennel, including your contact information, destination information and the health certificate.

Drop Off & Pick Up for Cargo

For cargo flights, you will typically drop your dog off at the cargo desk of the pet friendly airlines.  This is often at a location that is completely separate from the passenger terminal, so be sure to get the address for and directions to your pet friendly airlines cargo desk.

It also often takes at least an hour after arrival to get your pet from the plane to the cargo desk.   Ask the airline the arrival details so your contact knows where to be and when!

natural dog food diet transition

Taylor Tips!

While I may be a good girl during the trip, I don’t want to be in the crate any longer than necessary! My owners don't put me in 'til the very last minute.

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Points to Consider for Pet Friendly Airlines Interstate or International Pet Travel

Even if you’re traveling with your pet in the cabin, many states and foreign countries require a health certificate. Additional requirements may also apply.

Click one of the following for more info...

If you are traveling internationally, failure to comply with all  requirements may result in your pet being refused entry, placed into quarantine or returned to the origin at your expense.

It's always safe to contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate General office for each country on your itinerary at least four (4) weeks before you leave.

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Selecting the Best and Least Expensive Pet Friendly Airlines Fare for You and Your Dog

We have a few more important comfort and safety tips to discuss before moving on to choosing the right airline for you and your dog...

pet friendly airlines
  1. Comfort, safety & price range
  2. Major domestic airlines

Comfort, Safety & Price Range

By law, the pet friendly airlines must make the flight comfortable and safe for your dog according to federal regulations.  However, you can do a couple of things in addition to what we discussed above to ensure that your pet’s trip carries the lowest level of stress possible.

First, try to book direct flights or at least the flights with the fewest connections.  The shorter the trip and the fewer the takeoffs, landings and air pressure changes the better.  If that means that you or the person picking up your pet has to drive to an airport that is further from home, it may be worth it.

Second, try to book take-off and landing times when the weather will be the most pleasant.  Remember, even though the cargo is air-conditioned, your pet will still be outside during loading and unloading.

Pet friendly airlines (and federal regulation) require that the outside temperature at any destination including layovers/stops to be no more than 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4 C) and no less than 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 C) in order for your pet to travel, but you can take it one step further...

If traveling to/from cold places, book the take-off/landing in the middle of the day when it is warmest.  Similarly, if it is hot, book the trip time in the mornings or evenings or at night.

The fares for pets range from $69 to $175 for the cabin and from $100 to over $1,000 (depending on airline and dog + kennel weight) for cargo.

Major Domestic Pet Friendly Airlines

If you are traveling on the same pet friendly airlines flight as your dog, your air fares will range wildly as any seasoned traveler knows.

We have found the best process with the lowest fares to be a combination of priceline.com for you and direct booking with the airline for your pet.  Here is how we do it…

  1. Go to priceline.com.
  2. Input your desired itinerary (flights, hotels, rental cars, vacation packages, etc.).
  3. You will be presented with the options that fit your desired itinerary. Find the lowest fares and prices with the best itinerary for your dog, but don't do anything with them yet.
  4. KEEPING THE PRICELINE WINDOW OPEN, open a new browser window.
  5. Using the links below, go directly to the animal transportation pages of the pet friendly airlines for the flights you found on priceline and review their pet travel policies (Note: The following prices are subject to change - check with each airline to confirm)...
Airline One-Way Carry-On Cost One-Way Cargo Cost Phone Number
AirTran

$69 Do not allow 800.247.8726
Alaska

$100 $100 (if under 150 lbs.) 800.252.7522
Allegiant Air
$100 per segment & only allows one pet per carrier Do not allow 702.505.8888
American $100 $150 800.433.7300
Continental

$125 Must call for pricing 800.523.3273
Delta

$150 $275 800.221.1212
Frontier Do not allow pets in cabin      $2.55 per pound.  Minimum Rate = $230 800.432.1359
Hawaiian Must call for rates and availability
(only allow pets on flights leaving the islands or between the islands; no pets allowed coming into the islands)     
Between $150 and $1,1108 depending on weight (cheaper between islands).

NOTE: Pets are loaded into baggage compartment (not separate cargo compartment), so we advise against cargo with this airline.
800.367.5320
Horizon
$100 $100 (if under 150 lbs.) 800.252.7522
JetBlue
$100 Do not allow 800.538.2583
Northwest (now part of Delta)
See Delta information above
Southwest
$75 per pet carrier Do not allow 800.435.9792
Sun Country
$75 per flight Do not allow 800.359.6786
United $175 $175 or $250 depending on size 800.864.8331
US Airways $125 Do not allow 800.428.4322

Assuming you are okay with your selected airline's requirements and fees, call them to make sure that the flight you want has room available for your pet.  Be sure to specify cabin or cargo.  If you want the cabin, you may need to book your own ticket first.

  1. If there is room on your selected flight for your pet, go back to the open priceline.com window and purchase the fare of your choice.  If the airline required you to book your ticket first, contact them immediately after reserving your flight to secure a space for your pet.

This is the easiest way to search the most flights for the best schedules and fares while ensuring that you will be on the same flight as your dog.

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Travel Tip: Saving on Hotels & Cars by Bidding the "Right Price"

If you are interested in booking a hotel or car at your destination, priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” tool can save you money at some of the nicest hotels in town.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t make sense to use this tool for flights because there is no way to know if the flight you “win” will have room for your pet.

Priceline.com's Name Your Own Price Tool

If you’ve never used this tool before, go to priceline.com then click on the "Name Your Own Price" section to see how it works.  Long story short, it allows you to input a low (but realistic) price that you are willing to pay, then it goes out to all vendors in an area and attempts to get that price for you.

For example, let’s say you want to book a four-star hotel that is charging $200 a night.  Through priceline, you may be able to get that or a similar 4-star hotel in the same area for as low as $100 per night.

The trick is to pick the lowest possible price that will be accepted, because if you go too low you will have to wait a while or change your parameters to try again…

We learned a neat trick to help you figure out the lowest bid that will have the highest likelihood of being accepted…

  1. Go to www.biddingfortravel.com
  2. Scroll down the page until you find the state and city that you are interested in and click on it (be sure to read any special comments below the city and state link).
  3. Search through the listings to find a hotel and price that looks attractive.  Click on the link to review other people’s experiences.  It will usually lead you to the lowest bid possible.
  4. Cross-check the biddingfortravel.com price with the price that priceline is showing (click here to re-open priceline.com if you don't still have it open from the previous section).
  5. Go back to priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” tool and input the lowest of the two prices.

It may take a little reading and experimenting, but before long you’ll be a priceline/biddingfortravel pro and will be saving a ton.

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