So you want to travel with your pet!?

Look no further. All your most pressing questions about flying with your furry friend answered below!

Can I travel with my pet?

It really depends. First, consider whether you absolutely need to bring your pet on a plane. Air travel is extraordinarily stressful and potentially risky for many animals. Certain breeds known as ‘brachycephalic’ — those animals with the cute pushed-in faces, such as Pugs, Persian cats, or Pekingese — are almost never recommended to travel as their short nasal passages leaves them susceptible to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke.

Pug waiting for flight dressed as airline captain.
Not all pugs look as chill before a flight like Boo Lefou in his pilot costume.

If your pet is too young or in poor health, they may not meet the health and immunization standards required to fly. You should also consider whether your pet meets the airline’s stipulations to travel in the cabin or cargo hold. As a general rule, most pets traveling in the cabin will need to be a certain size. Many airlines place limits on the number of pets that can travel via cabin, so make sure to call your airline of choice in advance.

Which airlines are pet-friendly?

Several airlines are pet-friendly in that they allow pets to fly. But some airlines truly go above and beyond to make flying with a pet not only easy, but pleasurable.

Three notable standouts for best travel airlines include:

American Airlines

American Airlines created ‘Cuddle Class’ for passengers with pets flying from LA or San Francisco to NYC, which allows pets to sit in a special compartment next to their owner’s seat (instead of being stuffed underneath).

Dressed up dog and old film camera sit on top of old-fashioned leather suitcase against a sequenced wallpaper backdrop.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines was named ‘Best Airline for Pets’ in 2018 by Veterinarian’s Money Digest. This airline also doesn’t discriminate! They allow dogs, cats, and even household birds in the passenger cabin—as long as they can fit under the seat in front of you.

JetBlue

Looking for more a bit more bang for your buck? JetBlue comes in strong offering affordable pet fares, and additional points for JetBlue members. They even have a free special JetPaws program designed to help those with jet-setting pets.

And three airlines to avoid for pet travel:

United Airlines

Has the worst track record for animal safety, with the most deaths and animal incidents of any major airline. This high level of incidents with pets has led to UA implementing specific bans on the types of pets that can fly in their cabins.

Delta

Delta is known for their many pet restrictions. For starters, animals aren’t allowed in the cabin on international flights at all, and domestic flights have a limit on the total number of pets allowed.

WOW

Looking to bring Fluffy on a trip to Iceland? Not so fast — WOW airlines does not allow ANY pets on their flights.  

Should my pet fly in the cargo or in the cabin?

It really depends on the size of your pet!

If your pet is under a certain weight and meets your airline’s specific size requirements, they’ll likely be allowed to travel in the cabin for a fee.

Whenever you have the option you should choose the cabin. It’s a safer and less stressful environment for your pet. Chances are if your animal companion is over 20 lbs., they will need to travel as pet cargo.

If you have to put your animal in cargo, plan your travel around any extreme weather (avoiding super hot or cold temperatures) as these can put them at increased risk. The Humane Society offers more tips on how to have a healthy and safe flight via cargo, as well as other modes of transportation.

How much will my pet fare cost?

Flying with your pet adds up fast! On average, most airlines will charge between $100-125 for a one-way fee for pets to travel in the cabin.

Generally, the fee for animals traveling in the cargo is much higher, ranging from $200-1000! As always, check in with your airline of choice for their specific policies as they reserve the right to change fees without notice.

When planning your epic vacation, keep in mind you’ll also need to cough up some extra dough for an airline-approved carrier, a vet visit, and perhaps even microchipping your pet.

How can I travel with my pet overseas?

Do your research! Traveling internationally with your pet is difficult, but doable. Once you know your destination, review the country’s vaccination requirements. Most countries are adamant about a rabies vaccine, but some may require additional immunizations, such as distemper and canine influenza.

For a full list of requirements for each country, as well as information on possible quarantine times, visit the USDA’s pet travel page. Next, schedule a visit with your local veterinarian. To fly abroad, it’s essential that your pet be in good health and receive a Veterinary Health Certificate, also known as a ‘pet passport.’ Even if you’re not traveling internationally, a health certificate is great to have as it is proof your animal has had all their necessary shots and vaccinations.

Are there any experts that can help me with animal transport?

Absolutely! If you have a complicated trip planned or just need a little extra help getting your beloved pet from point A to B, specialists can help. PetRelocation is one company devoted to aiding you in the process of pet transportation and relocation anywhere in the world! Their detailed blog has all the answers to your most pressing questions about pet travel.

What kind of animals can fly in the cabin?

It varies depending on the airline, but typically most airlines allow dogs, cats, rabbits, and households birds.

Be sure to double check with your airline’s individual allowances though as some are quite specific! For example, United Airlines allows birds but not cockatoos!  

So what is the difference between an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and a pet?

An emotional support animal acts as a companion to their owner, supplying relief and comfort in difficult or stressful situations. An animal serving as an ESA must be prescribed by a licensed psychiatrist or therapist and their owner must be certified as emotionally disabled. The Air Carrier Access Act allows ESA owners to fly with their pets for free.

What are the most unusual animals that have flown?

Although most airlines are relatively strict on the type of pets that can fly in the cabin, many passengers travel with exotic pets as their emotional support animals. Some of the craziest animals that have been taken on planes include snakes, ducks, peacocks, tarantulas, pigs, a kangaroo, and even penguins!

In fact, two penguins flew first class to NYC to attend the premier of the Discovery Channel’s Frozen Planet documentary series. Watch them waddle in the video below.


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Photo Credits:

Featured Image: “Cute in a Carrier” by Roxanne Ready via (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“Boo the Pilot Pug” by DaPuglet via (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“Prison Break” by frankieleon via (CC BY 2.0)

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Isis-Maya Nissman

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central America. Three months of backpacking and surfing through Nicaragua quickly turned into two years. She fell in love, both with surfing and the traveling lifestyle. Today she works as a freelance writer, residing in Canada with her Nicaraguan puppy Keanu.