The Truth About (Flying With) Cats and Dogs

According to the ASPCA, there are an estimated 70 to 80 million dogs and 74 to 96 million cats owned in the United States. Approximately 37-47 percent of U.S. households have a dog, and 30-37 percent have a cat. The airlines have put rules in place to make the process as easy and painless as possible. Below is a summary of pet carriage rules for the top seven U.S. carriers.

 

  • 01 of 07
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    ••• American Airlines Airbus A321. Photo courtesy of American Airlines

    The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier charges $200 for checked pets within and between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean, and $150 to/from Brazil. It will cost you $125 to carry on a pet within and between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central America, Colombia and the Caribbean. Checked pets are not allowed on flights to Hawaii. The airline does not charge for service animals.

    Carry-on and checked pets must be at least eight weeks old. Carry-on pets are required to stay in their kennel and under the seat in front of you for the entire flight. Checked pets can be taken on a first-come basis, they must be check in at the ticket counter and owners must provide a health certificate from a vet. On connecting flights, checked pets can only connect through one of the carrier’s 10 hub cities. Checked dogs not accepted by American Airlines include brachycephalic or snub-nosed breeds. 

  • 02 of 07
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    ••• Delta jets at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

    The Atlanta-based carrier charges $125 for carry-on pets for flights in the U.S., Canada, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico; $75 for flights to Brazil; and $200 for flights outside the U.S. The cost for checked pets is $200. Delta allows cats, dogs, household birds, guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, marmots.  

    Kennels for checked pets must: display labels with the words "Live Animal" in 1-inch letters on the crate's top and on at least one side; have wheels that can be removed or made inoperable (applicable to wheeled kennels only); and display upright arrow labels indicating kennel's correct position (Delta Cargo can provide these labels).

     

     

  • 03 of 07
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    ••• United Airlines Boeing 747. Photo courtesy of United Airlines

    Chicago’s home-town airline charges $125 each way for a carry-on pet. It also requires a $125 service charge for each stopover of more than four hours within the U.S. or more than 24 hours outside of the U.S.  Puppies traveling within the U.S. and Puerto Rico must be at least eight weeks old, while puppies weighing less than one pound must be at least 10 weeks old. The airline accepts brachycephalic breeds, but they must fly in a kennel one size bigger in reinforced crates. They include: American Bully; American Staffordshire Terriers; Ca de Bou (or Perro de Presa Mallorquin); Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff); Dogo Argentino; Fila Brasileiro; Perro de Presa Canario; Pit Bull Terriers; and Tosa (or Tosa Ken).

    Carry-on pets must be in kennels that fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times. With the exception of birds, there may only be one pet per kennel, and the animal must be able to stand up and turn around comfortably. Two birds may travel in the...MORE same kennel.

     

     

  • 04 of 07
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    ••• Southwest Airlines at BWI Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

     The Dallas-based carrier charges a $95 pet fare each way per pet carrier. The carrier allows up to six pets per flight, with a limit of one pet carrier per paying customer traveling on the same flight. It does not require a health certificate or any other documentation from the customer's veterinarian for pets to travel. Pets are not allowed to travel in-cabin on international flights or any itinerary that includes an international flight. 

    A customer may not board the aircraft with a pet carrier, a regular size carryon bag, and a personal item. A pet counts as personal or carry on bag. The carrier maintains the right to refuse acceptance of a cat or dog exhibiting aggressive behavior or any other characteristics that appear incompatible with air travel.

     

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  • 05 of 07
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    ••• JetBlue tails at Boston Logan International Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

    The New York-based carrier has a free program called JetPaws. Benefits include: a special bag tag attached to a pet carrier at check-in so everyone knows your pet is ready to fly; Travel Petiquette, a list of all the social graces for pet travel; and the ability to earn 300 TrueBlue points on each flight segment when traveling with your pet.

    The airline charges a non-refundable pet fee of $100 each way. Only four pets are allowed per flight, and pets are not accepted on interline bookings (single itinerary containing both JetBlue and partnership airline segments). For carry-on pets, their carrier can not exceed 17"L x 12.5"W x 8.5"H and the combined weight of the pet and the carrier must not exceed 20 pounds. The pet and carrier count as one carry-on bag onboard. The airline cannot accept pets going to Jamaica, Barbados, St Lucia, the Cayman Islands and Trinidad and Tobago. The airline has no breed restrictions, but does not ship live animals as cargo or in the bellies of...MORE any aircraft.

     

  • 06 of 07

    Alaska Airlines

    ••• An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737. Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines

    Space on the Seattle-based carrier for pets in the cabin or as cargo is subject to availability. The airline doesn't carry brachycephalic or "short-nosed" dogs and cats are not accepted for travel in the cargo compartment. Dog breeds include: Boston terrier, boxer (all breeds), bull dog (all breeds), bull terrier, Brussels griffon, chow chow, English toy spaniel, Japanese spaniel/Japanese chin, mastiff (all breeds), Pekingese, pit bull (all breeds), pug (all breeds), Shih Tzu and Staffordshire terrier. Cat breeds include Burmese, exotic shorthair, Himalayan and Persian. It costs $100 to transport pets in the cabin or as cargo each way.

  • 07 of 07

    Spirit Airlines

    ••• Photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines

    The Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based airline allows small dogs, cats and small household birds in the cabin. Because only four pets are allowed in each aircraft cabin, Spirit Airlines urges travelers to call its Reservations Center at 801/401-2222 to add pets to a reservation. It costs $110 to transport pets in the cabin or as cargo each way.