Planning travel with your pet can be both exciting and stressful.  There are several things to consider when flying with your pet depending on the airline carrier.  Airlines have their own pet policies regarding charges and restrictions. We researched the top five United States airlines regarding travel with your dog in the main cabin.

In general, almost any airline in the United States does not allow brachycephalic dogs to be checked as cargo.  Their short-snouts compromises airflow especially when at altitude. For this reason, brachycephalic dogs must fly in the pressure-controlled cabin with their owners.

Dogs flying in the cabin must be at least 8 weeks or older but check the airline requirements regarding this policy as some airlines require the dog to be older.  Pets must be in good health, in addition to being well-behaved. Dogs showing aggressive behavior may be banned from flying.  In general, a health certificate is not required for a dog traveling in the cabin but many states require health and vaccination records.  Check your destination state requirements to avoid any surprises during your travels.

Pet carriers are a must, and dogs will need to be in the carrier for the entirety of the flight.  The carrier will need to fit under the seat in front of you but the maximum carrier size could change based on the plane.  For this reason, a soft-sided carrier is always best since you can manipulate it to fit into a smaller area, if needed.  Emotional support animals (ESA) are allowed to be at the owner’s feet, as long as the dog fits within the passenger seat “footprint.”  ESA dogs may be allowed to be in the owner’s lap, as long as the dog is around the same size as a toddler or smaller. (More about ESA dog requirements will be discussed later in this blog).

Pet carriers count towards your online bag restrictions.  All airlines mentioned in this blog had this policy. Travelers may either bring a pet carrier and one personal item or a pet carrier and a standard carry-on bag.  Make sure to pack wisely, and for tips on how to pack for your dog, read our blog: What You Need to Know About Flying With Your Dog.

Alaska Airlines

-$100 charge each way

-Pet carrier maximum size for a soft-sided carrier is 17” x 11” x 9.5”

-Unsure how many pets are allowed per flight but is on a first-come first-served basis (make sure to book in advance)

Southwest Airlines

-$95 each way

-6 pets per flight

-Pet Carrier maximum size is 18.5” long x 8.5” high x 13.5” wide

-Pet Carrier size, if you choose to purchase a Southwest Airlines Pet Carrier: 17” long x 9.5” high x 10” wide (available for purchase at the ticket counter or on their website)

Delta Airlines

-$125 each way

-4 pets allowed in main cabin, 2 pets in first class, and 2 pets in domestic business class

-Check with Delta regarding pet carrier restrictions since planes vary in size.

American Airlines

-$125 each way

-7 pets allowed per flight

-No size restrictions on soft-sided pet carrier but must fit under the seat in front of you.

-Non-collapsible pet carriers cannot exceed 19” x 13” x 9”

Frontier Airlines

-$75 each way

-Unsure how many pets are allowed per flight but is on a first-come first-served basis (make sure to book in advance)

-Soft-sided pet carrier cannot exceed 18” x 14” x 8”

If deemed an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), it allows the dog to accompany the owner on the airplane free-of-charge.  Almost all airlines have updated their ESA policies as recently as May 1, 2018, so read the policies before flying so you are not left behind.  New restrictions require the following documentation be presented at check-in:

  1. Mental Health Professional Form
  2. Behavior Guidelines
  3. Animal Sanitation During 8+ Hours Form (only required if your flight is scheduled to be over 8 hours)

For more details on the requirements of each form, make sure to read the pet policies outlined on the airline’s website.

Flying with your dog can be stress-free with adequate planning.  Making reservations and phone calls well in advance of travel helps to limit surprises and allows time to get health certifications and forms completed, if needed.  It also permits time to order pet carriers, as well as trial of pet carriers, to ensure your dog has a safe and comfortable trip. Read over the airline’s pet policies when booking your ticket, and call the airline in-advance for dog reservations.  It can be a lot to think about but with the proper planning, you can have a fun and stress-free flight with your pet.

Welcome Aboard

NOTE: A particular airline was intentionally left off the list due to the recent death of a French bulldog on their flight.  Please note that no airline should ever ask you to put an animal in the overhead bins.  Due to the lack of airflow in the overhead bin, not to mention the stress to the animal, bad things can and did happen.