Walking Doggies

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AIRLINES, GEAR, TRAVEL

AIRLINE PET POLICIES: A GUIDE TO DOG TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS FOR FLYING


As people around the world start to travel again, dog owners should be aware that many airlines have changed their rules on pet travel during the past year. So what do you need to know before flying with your dog, and what are the various airlines’ requirements? We’ve got you covered.

Note: These guidelines are for dogs considered pets. Most airlines allow fully-trained service dogs to ride in the cabin without a carrier. Airlines are no longer required to accommodate emotional support animals (ESAs) and they must travel as pets.

Should You Fly With Your Dog?

The first question is, should you fly with your pet at all?

Though air travel is sometimes unavoidable, it can take a toll on dogs’ health and emotional wellbeing. Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer for the American Kennel Club, notes: “Traveling by air can be stressful to people and to dogs,” adding that the strange sounds, sights, and smells of airports and new destinations can be challenging for pets. Meanwhile, changes in diet and water on arrival can affect dogs’ gastrointestinal health, and the upheaval of traveling and time-zone changes could lead to dehydration or interruptions to strict medication schedules, such as insulin for diabetic dogs—leading to potentially serious consequences.

As those warnings suggest, air travel is most likely to be challenging for older dogs or those with an underlying medical condition, impaired immune system, or heart condition. If your dogs fits into one of these categories, consider flying with them only when absolutely necessary, and always make sure to prepare well to make sure their needs are met.

No matter how young or healthy your dog is, check in with your veterinarian before taking a flight. Here’s more on that:

Preparing to Fly With Your Dog: Health Checklist

If flying is definitely the way forward for you and your pup, make sure to set aside time to gather the necessary paperwork, get your dog’s medical records up to date, and fulfill any other requirements.

See below for our airline-specific information on flying with dogs. Aside from complying with these requirements, make sure to:

  • Schedule a vet appointment 7–10 days before departure, to have an examination and make sure they’re healthy enough to travel, as well as getting any necessary vaccinations and boosters, plus a rabies certificate. Dr. Klein advises that even if such a certificate isn’t necessary at your destination, it’s a good idea to have on hand, in case anything goes wrong.
  • Medications! Buy and pack any medications your dog will need during the trip, including heartworm and flea/tick preventatives. If your dog is on any prescription medications, it’s also a good idea to bring a copy of the prescription and keep a photo of it on your phone, in case you run out or the medication gets mislaid in transit.
  • Similarly, if your dog is on a prescription diet or has food sensitivities, make sure they’ll be able to eat at your destination. This might mean packing enough food for the duration of the trip, taking a signed copy of a prescription for their food, or checking online for places you’ll be able to buy the food at your destination.
  • Worried about anxiety? “Most dogs do not require sedatives to travel,” Dr. Klein notes. He advises discussing your plans with your veterinarian to find a way to manage any doggy nerves during travel, and considering alternatives to medication such as calming collars and anti-anxiety T-shirts. If you and your veterinarian decide that your dog does need medication and you have to try a new-to-pup med, make sure to test it out for adverse effects or unusual reactions a few days before you travel.
  • Take particular care if traveling with a brachycephalic (or short-muzzled) breed. “These breeds can run into respiratory challenges in increased temperature or humidity. Confinement in a carrier could cause anxiety which could exacerbate these conditions,” notes Dr. Klein. Discuss your travel plans with your veterinarian—it may be safest not to fly with your dog. Note, too, that most airlines will not allow these dogs to travel in cargo.
  • Don’t feed your dog for about six hours before travel, but do give them bottled water.

Preparing to Fly With Your Dog: Airline and Travel Requirement Checklist

  • Quarantine, vaccinations, vaccination records, and health certificates: what are the requirements at your destination, your airline, and your point of origin if it’s a return trip? Make sure to check well in advance, gather the relevant records, and leave time to make appropriate arrangements—and to check any regulations for the journey home, too.
  • Get a well-ventilated, size-appropriate carrier that meets your airline’s requirements. Your dog will have to remain in the carrier for the duration of the flight, so they must be comfortable and should be able to stand, sit, and turn around in the carrier. Carriers for dogs traveling in the cabin will have to fit beneath the seat in front—check your airline’s specifications for the correct dimensions.
  • If you’re bringing your dog into the cabin, the carrier will count toward your carry-on baggage allowance on most airlines.
  • Most airlines specify that your pet must be well behaved (not growling, barking excessively, or making disturbing noises or smells) and that they reserve the right to refuse travel to disruptive pets. Consider earning your dog’s CGC title before travel.
  • Advise your airline prior to traveling that you’ll be bringing a dog. It’s always a good idea to be in direct contact with the airline about bringing a pet, since some airlines have a cap on the amount of animals allowed per flight. It’s also a good chance to check whether there are any regulations you might have missed.
  • Try to find direct flights whenever possible.
  • In summer, try to fly in the early morning or later in the evening, especially if you’re traveling to and/or from someplace hot. In winter, try to book flights in the middle of the day. At certain levels of heat and cold, dogs may not be allowed to fly in cargo or checked baggage.

Choosing the Right Pet Carrier Allowed in Cabin

In general, if your pet carrier (with your pet inside) can fit under the seat in front of you, your dog can ride in the cabin on flights that permit it. Typically, this would be a dog weighing up to about 20 pounds. Check with your airline to confirm specific requirements.

Follow these common guidelines when selecting a pet carrier:

  • Pets should be able to stand and sit, turn around normally and lie down in a natural position in their carrier without touching the sides or top of the carrier.
  • Hard-sided, non-collapsible kennels can’t exceed the under-seat dimensions of any aircraft on your journey. The reservations desk can verify your maximum dimensions based on your airplane.
  • Soft-sided, collapsible kennels can be slightly larger but still need to fit under the seat without having to excessively collapse the carrier. These carriers should be secure, padded, water-resistant, and have ventilation on at least two sides.

Flying With Your Dog: An Airline-by-Airline Guide

The following guidelines are up-to-date at the time of writing, and offer a distilled version of airline rules. Always check your airline’s own materials before booking a flight, and communicate directly with your airline before traveling.

Alaska Airlines Pet Travel Guidelines

Health and vaccine requirements: Dogs traveling in cargo must have a health certificate dated within 10 days of the outward journey and 30 days of the return journey. No health certificate needed for pets traveling in the cabin—but all pets must be in good health, and the airline reserves the right to refuse travel to pets in obvious distress.

Are dogs allowed in the cabin? Yes, as long as they’re at least eight weeks old and weaned.

Are there other restrictions on dogs in the cabin? Yes. The main cabin can accommodate up to five pet carriers per flight; first class can accommodate one. A customer can have a maximum of two pet carriers in the main cabin, provided that the adjacent seat is also part of their own booking. Up to two dogs can travel in the same carrier, provided that they’re not in distress and they fit properly with no body parts protruding.

Are dogs allowed in cargo/the baggage compartment? Yes, as long as they’re at least eight weeks old and weaned.

Are brachycephalic dogs allowed in cargo? No.

Are there other restrictions on dogs in cargo? Pets may not travel in cargo November 15–January 10. There may also be specific check-in requirements at your departure airport.

Is there a fee to travel with your pet? Yes: $100 each way to travel in both cargo and the cabin.

Alaska Airlines’ full pet policy.

American Airlines Pet Travel Guidelines

Health and vaccine requirements: No certificate requirements listed for dogs traveling in the cabin, but check with airline.

Are dogs allowed in the cabin? Yes, on most flights up to 11 hours and 30 minutes traveling within the US (excluding Hawaii) or to Canada, Mexico, Central America, and some other destinations. Dogs must be at least eight weeks old.

Are there other restrictions on dogs in the cabin? Yes: depending on the flight, there’s a maximum of five or seven kennels allowed on the plane, excluding service animals.

Are dogs allowed in cargo/the baggage compartment? Yes, dogs are allowed to fly in cargo. Due to pandemic-related flight changes, checked pet service is currently unavailable but the airline will accept checked pets at the ticket counter only for active-duty U.S. Military traveling on assignments.

Is there a fee to travel with your pet? Yes: $125 for carry-on, $200 ($150 for Brazil) for Military checked pet, and prices vary based on size and destination for cargo.

Delta Airlines Pet Travel Guidelines

Health and vaccine requirements: No certificate requirements listed for dogs traveling in the cabin, but check with airline.

Are dogs allowed in the cabin? Yes, as long as they’re at least 10 weeks old for domestic travel, 15 weeks old if traveling to or from the European Union, and 16 weeks old if traveling to the US from other countries.

Are there other restrictions on dogs in the cabin? The amount of pets permitted per flight varies depending on the aircraft, up to a maximum of four. Pets are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. One pet is permitted per kennel, with some exceptions for puppies.

Are dogs allowed in cargo/the baggage compartment? No. Due to pandemic-related flight changes, at the time of writing, dogs may not be checked in cargo.

Is there a fee to travel with your pet? Yes: $125 to U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico.

Delta’s full pet policy.

Frontier Airlines Pet Travel Guidelines

Health and vaccine requirements: Frontier does not require a health certificate for dogs traveling in the cabin on domestic flights (but your destination state might). Health certificates are required for international flights.

Are dogs allowed in the cabin? Yes—on all domestic flights, plus flights to/from the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

Are there other restrictions on dogs in the cabin? Frontier requests that you do not give your dog food or water during the flight.

Are dogs allowed in cargo/the baggage? No.

Is there a fee to travel with your pet? Yes: $99 each way.

Frontier’s full pet policy.

Hawaiian Airlines Pet Travel Guidelines

Health and vaccine requirements: Health certificates are required for dogs traveling in the cabin as well as in cargo/the baggage compartment. The airline also recommends contacting the Hawaii Department of Agriculture before travel, for information on quarantine and vaccines.

Are dogs allowed in the cabin? Yes, on certain flights.

Are there other restrictions on dogs in the cabin? Yes: the total weight of the pet and carrier must not exceed 25 pounds. Hawaiian asks travelers with pets in the cabin to check in one hour before general check-in. And unlike many other airlines, Hawaiian doesn’t count your carry-on pets toward your carry-on luggage. The airline also asks passengers to give 48 hours’ notice if they’re planning to bring a pet on board.

Are dogs allowed in cargo/checked baggage? Yes, but the weight of the pet and carrier must not exceed 70lbs.

Are brachycephalic dogs allowed in cargo/checked baggage? Hawaiian notes that traveling with brachycephalic breeds in cargo and checked baggage is “highly discouraged and not recommended,” but does not state that it’s disallowed.

Are there other restrictions on dogs in cargo/checked baggage? Yes: check the airline’s website for crate and weight specifications. Additionally, pets may not be checked in cargo on many flights between April 15 and October 15 every year, and pets are not allowed to travel as checked baggage or cargo if the temperature is below 20F or above 85F at the origin, destination, or connection airport.

Is there a fee to travel with your pet? Yes: for travel between Hawaii and North America, there’s a fee of $125 each way for pets in the cabin and $225 each way for pets traveling in cargo or checked baggage.

Hawaiian’s full pet policy.

JetBlue Airlines Pet Travel Guidelines

Health and vaccine requirements: Your dog will need ID tags and a pet license. JetBlue doesn’t require any health or vaccine certifications for its own purposes, however the airline does note that passengers are responsible for complying with the animal import requirements at their destination.

Are dogs allowed in the cabin? Yes, on all domestic flights and some international ones.

Are there other restrictions on dogs in the cabin? Yes: a maximum of four pets are allowed per flight. The combined weight of the dog and carrier may not exceed 20 pounds, and only one pet is allowed per carrier.

Are dogs allowed in cargo/checked baggage? No.

Is there a fee to travel with your pet? Yes: $125 each way.

JetBlue’s full pet policy.

Southwest Airlines Pet Travel Guidelines

Health and vaccination requirements: Southwest doesn’t list any health certification requirements, but as ever, passengers are responsible for complying with any health or quarantine requirements at their destination.

Are dogs allowed in the cabin? Yes, on domestic flights—but not on international flights or any itinerary that includes an international flight. Dogs must be at least eight weeks old in order to travel.

Are there restrictions on dogs in the cabin? Yes: Southwest only accepts up to six pet carriers per flight and one pet carrier per customer. Up to two pets of the same species may travel in a single carrier.

Are dogs allowed in cargo/checked baggage? No.

Is there a fee to travel with your pet? Yes: $95 each way per carrier.

Southwest’s full pet policy.

Spirit Airlines Pet Travel Guidelines

Health and vaccination requirements: Spirit doesn’t require a health certificate for dogs traveling in the cabin, except for travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands. A rabies certificate is required for pets traveling to Puerto Rico.

Are dogs allowed in the cabin? Yes, on domestic flights only, and provided that they are at least eight weeks old and weaned.

Are there other restrictions on pets in the cabin? Yes: one pet carrier is allowed per guest, with up to two pets per carrier. The combined weight of the pet and carrier can’t exceed 40 pounds.

Are dogs allowed in cargo/checked baggage? No.

Is there a fee to travel with your pet? Yes: $110 per pet container, each way.

Spirit’s full pet policy.

United Airlines Pet Travel Guidelines

Health and vaccination requirements: All animals entering the US must have a valid certificate of rabies vaccination, with vaccinations completed at least 30 days before arriving in the US.

Are dogs allowed in the cabin? Yes, on all domestic flights except to and from Hawaii, and some international flights. They must be at least 16 weeks old.

Are there other restrictions on dogs in the cabin? Yes: there’s a maximum of four pet carriers per flight in economy and two in premium classes. Your pet carrier will not count toward your carry-on baggage. And pit bull breeds are not allowed in the cabin.

Are dogs allowed in cargo/checked baggage? No: at the time of writing, United’s PetSafe cargo program for pets has been suspended due to the pandemic.

Is there a fee to travel with your pet? Yes: $125 each way, plus an extra service fee of $125 for certain (lengthy) stopovers.

United’s full pet policy.

Courtesy of American Kennel Club