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 it safe for your dog?
- Cabin or cargo?
- Pet travel preparation checklist
- Points to consider for interstate or international travel
- Finding the best and lowest fare for you and your dog
- Travel Tip: Saving money on hotels and cars by bidding the "right price"
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
- Boston Terrier
- Brussels Griffin
- Dutch Pug
- English Bulldog
- English Toy Spaniel
- Japanese Pug
- Japanese Spaniel
- 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.
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…
In other words, will your dog fly under the seat in front of you (wink) or in the special cargo compartment down below?
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.
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…
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?
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.
- 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.
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…
- Ensure that it is safe for your pet to fly (review the “Is it safe” section above).
- Make an appointment with your local
veterinarian WITHIN 10 days of pet
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
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.
- Review the “Cabin or Cargo” section above and decide which is best for your dog.
- Purchase the best plane ticket for you and your dog. (More on this below).
- 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|
|We own the following carrier and kennel. Each has worked out great...|
Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier
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.
Marchioro Clipper Cayman Pet Kennel
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.
- 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
to spend time in it frequently for at least a couple of weeks before
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.
- Take a photo of your dog. While very unlikely, if the pet friendly airlines lose your pet a photograph will help to find her.
a collar for your dog that has 2 tags. On one
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.
- 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.
- When preparing the carrier or crate, include your dog’s favorite toy or blanket (as long as there is enough room in the carrier).
- Clip your pet’s toenails so they do not get stuck in the crate doors or windows during the trip.
- 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.
- Most airlines require that your dog be dropped off at least 3 hours in advance, but federal law requires no more than 4 hours.
- 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.
- Just before putting your dog inside the carrier or crate for the flight, try to get them to pee and poop one last time.
- 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.
- Make sure that the attendant at the pet friendly airlines
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!
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.
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.
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...
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.
So, is there a best airline for all of this?
Pet Airways, a new airline that only services dogs and cats, takes pet travel to a whole new level.
The way it works is…
- You purchase a ticket for your dog or cat online through the Pet Airways' website.
- When it comes time for travel day, you are allowed to drop off your furry passenger up to 72 hours before the flight departs.
- Your dog will wait in the Pet Airways designated waiting area, where they will be fed and walked.
- Once the animals are actually on the plane they all fly in safe travel crates, which are placed in the pressurized, temperature controlled main cabin… not the cargo hold like on many domestic airlines.
And get this... these cabins are actually scented to keep the animals calm and happy. Plus there are human pet attendants who watch over the animals throughout the entire flight, refreshing water and offering a soothing voice when needed.
The downside is that Pet Airways is relatively new and does not service many locations (currently services New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles), but they will add new locations as they are able.
Fares start at $149 for a one-way ticket, which is comparable to an animal ticket in the cargo hold of one of the major domestic airlines.
Click here to check out their web site.
If Pet Airways doesn't service your city or if you want your pet to fly with you, the rest of the pet friendly airlines are comparable to each other...
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…
- Go to priceline.com.
- Input your desired itinerary (flights, hotels, rental cars, vacation packages, etc.).
- 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.
- KEEPING THE PRICELINE WINDOW OPEN, open a new browser window.
- 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|
||$69||Do not allow||800.247.8726|
||$100||$100 (if under 150 lbs.)||800.252.7522|
||$100 per segment & only allows one pet per carrier||Do not allow||702.505.8888|
||$125||Must call for pricing||800.523.3273|
|Frontier||Do not allow pets in cabin||$2.55 per pound. Minimum Rate = $230||800.432.1359|
|Hawaiian|| Must call for rates and
(only allow pets on flights leaving the islands or between the islands; no pets allowed coming into the islands)
$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.
||$100||$100 (if under 150 lbs.)||800.252.7522|
||$100||Do not allow||800.538.2583|
| Northwest (now part of Delta)
||See Delta information above|
||$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.
- 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.
If your dog is traveling alone and Pet Airways doesn't service your location, you should still use priceline.com to easily find the best schedules with the fewest layovers. Then call the pet friendly airlines directly to book.
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…
- Go to www.biddingfortravel.com.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
Was this page helpful? If so, please tell your friends about it with a Facebook like or via Twitter, Pinterest, email or good old fashioned word of mouth. Thank you for supporting our efforts!
New! CommentsHave your say about what you just read! Leave a comment in the box below.
For additional research, search for your topic...
In the spirit of full disclosure, we wanted to let you know that we proudly support this website through advertising and affiliate marketing. In other words, when you click on a link that takes you outside of this website, we often earn a small commission. These small commissions allow us to keep the site up and running and to continue offering it completely free of charge to you. Rest assured that all content, recommendations and advice are created before, and are independent of, any sponsorship or affiliate relationship. Click here for more info.