The ins and outs of flying with pets

Flying with Pets
Several years ago, I wrote an article about flying with pets. Since that time, there have been many changes to the rules and regulations for flying with pets, especially if they fly in cargo. Recently I tried helping a friend arrange travel for her Saluki to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the trip never occurred because of the difficulty in finding a flight. Based on that experience, I decided to share some of my latest discoveries along with my original tips for flying a dog. This article focuses primarily on flying dogs in the baggage compartment.

Currently, none of the airlines will fly a dog in cargo if temperatures go below 45 degrees or above 85 degrees. Do not argue with the airline on this issue because your dog’s safety, welfare, and well-being come first.

As more airlines start using the Airbus series of airplanes, it is essential to check with each airline to determine if cargo is temperature-controlled. Recently, I discovered that the Airbus series 319–321, the aircraft many airlines utilize today, is not temperature controlled.

Each airline’s standards for flying with pets both inside the cabin and in cargo differ. Check with each airline to determine their policies. Most airlines require a health certificate from a veterinarian issued within ten days of departure. It varies with the airline regarding the return trip. If traveling internationally, check the regulations and requirements of the country you are visiting.

Air Canada Staff cuddling Daisy
Flying with pets – Air Canada Staff cuddling Daisy

Flying with Pets on Delta

Flying with pets in the cabin is not allowed in first class, Delta One, or business class. The cost is $125 each way within the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.  It is $200 each way to fly international but $75 to Brazil. In addition, pets cannot fly in cargo on the following aircraft; 767, 330 – 200.

If you decide to fly Delta with a larger dog, you book your pet’s reservation with Delta Cargo. Dogs must be dropped off and picked up at Delta’s Cargo facility unless the location is closed. In that case, you pick your dog up at baggage claim. Drop off is three hours before departure. Snub-nosed dogs and cats are no longer permitted to fly. These breeds include the American Bulldog, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Brussels Griffon, Bulldog, Chinese Pug, Chow Chow, Dutch Pug, English Bulldog, English Toy Spaniel, French Bulldog, Lhasa Apso, Japanese Boxer, Japanese Pug, Japanese Spaniel (Chin), Mastiff (all breeds), Pekinese, Pit Bull, Pug, Shar Pei, Shih Tzu, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Tibetan Spaniel; and cats, such as Burmese, Exotic, Himalayan, and Persian. Contact Delta Airlines Customer Service Team at 1-800-352-2746 for more information.

Flying with Pets on United

As of June 18, 2018, United has resumed flying pets. United has partnered with the American Humane to form Petsafe and now has a list of 50 breeds of cats and dogs they will not fly.

These breeds include the Affenpinscher, American Bully, American Pit Bull, Terrier/Pit Bull, American Staffordshire Terrier/”Amstaff”, Belgian Malinois, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Brussels Griffon, Bulldog, American Bulldog, English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Old English Bulldogges, Shorty Bulldogs, Spanish Alano/Spanish Bulldog/Alano Espanol, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chow Chow, English Toy Spaniel/Prince Charles Spaniel, Japanese Chin/Japanese Spaniel, Lhasa Apso, Mastiff, American Mastiff, Boerboel/South African Mastiff, Bullmastiff, Ca de Bou/Mallorquin Mastiff, Cane Corso/Italian Mastiff, Dogo Argentino/Argentinian Mastiff, Dogue de Bordeaux/French Mastiff, English Mastiff, Fila Brasileiro/Brazilian Mastiff/Cao de Fila, Indian Mastiff/Alangu, Kangal/Turkish Kangal, Neapolitan Mastiff/Mastino Napoletano, Pakistani Mastiff/Bully Kutta, Pyrenean Mastiff, Presa Canario/Perro de Presa Canario/Dogo Canario/Canary Mastiff, Spanish Mastiff / Mastin Espanol, Tibetan Mastiff, Tosa/Tosa Ken/Tosa Inu/Japanese Mastiff/Japanese Tosa, Pekingese, Pug, Dutch Pug, Japanese Pug, Shar-Pei/Chinese Shar-Pei, Shih-Tzu, Staffordshire Bull Terrier/”Staffys”, Tibetan Spaniel. Cats include the Burmese, Exotic Shorthair, Himalayan, and Persian.

United’s new policies include providing a frontal photo of your pet’s face as well as a picture of your pet standing in front of their crate. The latter shows the airline that the kennel is the correct size for your dog.

A health certificate should be issued within ten days of travel. If you travel for more than ten days, United requires a new health certificate issued for your return.

After booking a flight with a pet, United sends out a Petsafe pre-travel informational packet. Between five and ten days before your trip, you must send in for approval the health certificate, two photos, and a signed Customer Acknowledgement Form. If you do not resubmit these forms, United will not confirm your flight.

For those flying with carry-on pets, the cost is $125 each way.

Flying with Pets on American Airlines

American Airlines accepts two pets per passenger. The cost to fly a pet one way is $125 for carry-on pets.  A health certificate must be issued within 10 days of departure, 60 days of your return if on the same ticket, or 10 days prior to return on a single ticket. The following aircraft types will not allow pets in cargo: A321, A321S, A321H, A320, or A319. Snub-nosed pets are not accepted.

The unacceptable dog breeds are the 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. Cat breeds include the Burmese, Persian, Himalayan, and Exotic Shorthair.

Flying with Pets Chloe 's crate
Chloe loves her crate so much she sits on top, enjoying the vista.

Flying with Pets on Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines will accept pets both in the cabin and in cargo. The fee is $100 each way. A health certificate must be issued within ten days of departure and 30 days of return travel. On Alaska’s Airbus series, pets cannot fly in first-class or the baggage department. Brachycephalic or “short-nosed” dogs and cats are allowed in the cabin but not in cargo. These dogs include American Pit Bull, American Staffordshire Terrier, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Brussels Griffon, Bull Mastiff, Bulldog, Bull Terrier, Chow Chow, Dutch Pug, English Bulldog, English Toy Spaniel, French Bulldog, Japanese Boxer, Japanese Pug, Japanese Spaniel, Pekingese, Pug, Shih Tzu, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The excluded cats include the Burmese, Exotic Shorthair, Himalayan, and Persian.

Other Airlines

Air Canada allows carry-on pets and also pets in cargo depending on the type of plane. However, there are restrictions in the winter. Costs range from $59 to $118 for carry-on pets, depending on whether you fly within Canada or internationally. For pets flying in cargo, the cost is $120.75 within Canada and the US and $318.60 for international flights. Please check with the airlines for pet requirements.

Frontier Airlines allows carry-on pets only, and they do not require a health certificate on domestic flights. However, health certificates are required on international flights. The cost is $99 each way.

Hawaiian Airlines allows pets as carry-on and also in cargo.  Health certificates are required.  Please check with the airline and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture for all requirements.  Weight for pets and carriers inside the cabin shall not exceed 25 pounds.  Please check with the airline for weather restrictions.

Jet Blue allows carry-on pets only and does not require a health certificate on flights within the United States. However, they do require passengers to comply with the health and quarantine requirements at their destination.  The maximum weight of the pet with the carrier is 20 pounds. The cost is $125 each way.

Southwest Airlines allows carry-on pets only.  Although they do have health certificate requirements, they expect passengers to comply with health or quarantine requirements at their destination. The cost is $95 each way.

Spirit Airlines allows carry-on pets only.  They do not require a health certificate except when traveling to the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The combined weight of the pet and its carrier is 40 pounds. The cost is $110 each way.

Flying with Pets on International Airlines

Many international airlines will allow pets to travel both as carry-on and in cargo. In addition, most European airlines accept pets, including Lufthansa, Air France, Swiss Air, and  KLM. Please check with each airline for their international requirements.

The Crate

Make sure you purchase a crate that is permitted by the airlines. Wire kennels are not allowed. Most airlines approve durable plastic ones from brands such as Vari Kennel or Petmate, but it is best to check with the individual airline.

Airlines require that your dog can stand and turn around in the crate.

Crate Training Your Dog

If your dog does not readily acclimate to the crate, try setting the kennel up in your home with a comfy mat and lots of their favorite toys inside. Leave the door ajar all the time, allowing your dog access in and out of the crate at its leisure. Start closing the door for short periods of time once you find your dog sleeping and appears to feel comfortable in its surroundings. Soon you will be able to leave your dog for long periods in the crate.

Flying with Pets - Crate Training Chloe
Flying with pets – Crate training Chloe with her toys.

The Crate Prior to Takeoff

In addition to the labels, airlines require, I recommend affixing a note about your dog to the crate. Place a typed note introducing your dog to the airline staff. For example, the blurb on Zoe’s crate might read, “Hi, my name is Zoe, and this is my first flight. I am a very friendly 11-month old Saluki but am a little nervous. Please talk to me. My human mom is on board the plane and would appreciate your taking good care of me.” Most people love dogs, and attaching a note on your crate adds the human touch needed. Once flying a dog to Texas, the airline saw the pup’s mom coming and said, “You must be Raja’s new mommy.” They read the note taped to the top front side of the crate near the door.

Items to include are shredded newspaper inside the crate to absorb any accident that might occur. In addition, bring Lysol wipes and a trash bag to clean up after you land.  Also, bring releasable cable ties to secure your crate.  I always carry a pair of scissors in my luggage to cut the ties in the event a problem occurs opening the ties.

Your Dog’s Wellbeing

Many people think they should sedate their dog. That is not always the best idea. Your dog will arrive very disoriented. There are homeopathic formulas you can use that are very safe. I suggest Calms Forte or the pet/human versions of Rescue Remedy, which are available at most health food stores. Jackson Galaxy’s Solutions are holistic remedies explicitly made for animals. Easy Traveler and Stress Stopper are two remedies worth trying. Besides putting these products in your dog’s water, food, or a few drops directly into their mouths, there are two other ways to administer remedies. One is to spray throughout the crate. The other is to place a few drops in your hands and rub them down your dog’s back, body, and bottoms of their paws.

Boarding the Plane

Before boarding or as you take your first step onto the plane, make sure your dog has boarded. Most flight attendants and pilots are happy to check on your pet.

Depending on your seat locations, sometimes you can hear your dog in cargo. On my dog, Zoe’s flight to St Louis, I heard her barking as the plane taxied down the runway, but it subsided once we were airborne. The hum of the engine is like music. On another flight, as we neared LAX, our hometown, I heard Ami scratching the crate. Perhaps he knew we were about to arrive at his new forever home.

Flying with Pets Ami Arriving LAX
Ami, after arriving at LAX.

Please note, I am highlighting mostly the American carriers’ programs for flying with pets within the United States. Please check with each airline for more details.

Remember that taking the extra precautions will make flying with pets more comfortable for you and your dog or cat for those who like to travel with your pets.

This article was updated in June of 2021.