What are the Pet Policies for the Top US Airlines?

8 min read

A small tan dog laying down on the sidewalk next to a black carrier bag.
Claudia bensimoun author of Claudia Bensimoun author of What Are the Pet Policies for the top US airlines?

There’s nothing nicer than a pet vacay with your furry best friend. However, thanks to more stringent airline pet policies, you’ll need to keep updated as to each top US airline’s pet policy when flying with Fido.

That said, there are also a few new restrictions that have been implemented over the past year after some in-flight mishaps and disturbances. New airline pet policies allow for a less stressful travel experience, while at the same time making it necessary to comply with all pet policies that may vary with each top US airline. Here’s our take on pet policies for the top US airlines.


AVMA Pet Travel Tips

The  American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommended flight travel tips for both inside and outside the US. The AVMA also recommends that all pets have a complete physical examination before departure, so as to ensure safe air travel. Dogs will face unique stresses when flying, and with airlines’ requirements varying across carriers, dogs have to respond well to changes in temperature, as well as pressure changes in the cabin. They will need to be free ofheart disease and respiratory issues. Here’s what the AVMA recommends:

  • Short-nosed dog breeds (brachycephalic dog breeds) like the English Bulldog, Boston Terrier, Lhasa Apsos, Pekinese and some Mastiff dog breeds should minimize the risks and take proper precautions.
  • Prepare ahead of time.
  • Keep pets healthy, and at a normal weight.
  • Get your pet used to traveling in his crate.
  • Avoid lining the crate with a thick fluffy blanket which could increase the risk of respiratory problems.
  • Try to avoid cargo travel and opt for a cabin
  • Choose flights carefully, and minimize layovers
  • Travel early morning or evening during the hot summer months
  • Fly mid-day during the fall when it’s colder
  • Prepare all documents and health certificates at least ten days before travel
  • If you have a short-nosed dog breed, consult with your veterinarian for the best advice.

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USDA Pet Travel Tips

The  United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) adds that factors to consider when traveling by air with your pet may include tight deadlines for getting health certificates, updating vaccinations, using diagnostic testing, and administering or getting certain medications or treatments before travel dates.

As for international travel, you’ll need to keep in mind that some countries require quarantines, and will also have foreign health regulations which you’ll need to adhere to. This may also apply to you when reentering the US with your pet, and quarantine rules may apply in the US.


Alaskan Airlines

a small dog sitting on a chair in the airpot wearing red glasses.

Alaskan airlines are perfect for pet travel and provide first-class travel for all pets.Their pet travel program offers first-class travel options, as well as free pet-health examinations with Banfield Pet Hospitals at any PetSmart.Alaskan Airlines offers an informative pet travel page with travel tips and information.

Since not all dogs can fly cabins, and larger breeds have to fly in cargo, you’ll need to check pet policies carefully with regards to height and weight restrictions. It’s also important to check for dog breed bans to make sure that your pet is allowed to fly.

Taking your pet on a trip with Alaskan airlines requires the following:

  • Subject to availability requires a reservation
  • Fares start from $75 upwards.
  • Pets can travel in the baggage area but must be reclaimed and rechecked at connection points
  • Service/Emotional Support/Therapy animals travel for free
  • Size of the animal must not exceed the person’s foot-area
  • Dogs must be leashed
  • Dogs must be under control at all times
  • Dogs are not permitted to sit in an emergency exit row
  • During holiday travel pets may not be checked into the baggage area
  • Short-nosed dog breeds aren’t permitted to travel in the cargo area
  • Breeds listed on the website can travel in cargo
  • Cabin-travel pets will be checked in in a similar way to baggage
  • Health and vaccination requirements must be up-to-date

For more about kennel requirements for cargo compartment travel, please click here.

Alaskan Airlines notes that pets are not permitted to travel in the baggage compartment on Airbus aircraft. Contact reservations to confirm your pet can be accommodated.


JetBlue

JetBlue is popular among travelers with pets and offers an exclusive program called JetPaws. This is a free program that offers a free carrier bag tag, a wonderful pet-iquette list, as well as TrueBlue points where pet parents earn an extra 300 points when traveling with their pets.

  • Subject to availability requires a reservation. Best to book early.
  • $125 each way
  • Only one pet per customer
  • Pet and carrier weight cannot exceed 20 lbs nor exceed17 "L x 12.5"W x 8.5"H
  • Your dog will count as a carry-on item  
  • Vaccination records and documents required
  • Tags and vet certification
  • Pets may not be in the emergency exit row
  • Pet must be in carrier for the entire flight
  • One pet per carrier
  • During taxi, the carrier must be placed on the floor under the seat in front of you for safety
  • No pets allowed on interline flights

The JetBlue website offers a complete travel check-list allowing you to be well-prepared and informed. JetBlue also recommends ID dog tags, pet snacks and treats together with pet supplies. Along with that, they are all for a pre-flight workout to get your furry best friend tired before air travel. Take your dog to thedog park for a long off-leash run before air travel so that he can settle down easily in his crate when it’s time to travel.


Delta

Pet travel with Delta also allows for small pet travel in the cabin for a reasonable one-way fee. As is the norm, the carrier needs to be well-ventilated and must be able to fit under the seat in front of you. Here’s Delta’s pet travel deal:

  • $125 each way for carry-on
  • Pit Bulls not allowed in-cabin
  • The kennel must fit under the seat in front of you
  • Dog must stay in the kennel during flight
  • Leak-proof kennel
  • Must be at least 10 weeks old
  • One pet per kennel
  • First come, first-served basis and must be reserved in advance
  • Pets not permitted in emergency rows or in stowage seats, flat-bed seats.
  • Specific seats on specific aircraft (see site)  
  • Pets can be shipped as cargo as well

Passengers traveling with a service or emotional support dog must complete and submit the required paperwork 48 hours before all flights. For more information click here.


 Hawaiian Airline

With more and more pet parents traveling with their pets today, airlines are enforcing new rules for transporting pets safely. This is because of so many risks involved when flying dogs. Hawaiian Airlines are one of the largest airlines in Hawaii and reserve the right to restrict pet transportation. They also limit how many pets you can travel with allowing for one pet or two pups or kittens from the same litter. Pet carriers are also subject to inspection with Hawaiian Airlines.

  • Weight of pet/carrier cannot exceed 25 lbs
  • $225 fee to/from North America
  • Subject to availability, reservations are required
  • Inter-island flights have a $60 fee each
  • Cargo pets may not exceed 70 lbs
  • Pets count like a checked bag
  • Support animals require 48 hr advance notice and a completed form
  • Must also have a form that states the animal won’t need to relieve itself if the flight is 8+hrs
  • Not allowed on flights arriving into the State of Hawaii due to Quarantine requirements. (Exceptions made for service animals only).
  • Your pet must be in an approved carrier that will fit comfortably under the seat in front of you.
  • You may book your pet in the passenger cabin at the same time you make your own flight reservations. (Subject to applicable fees and space availability by calling Hawaiian Airlines Reservations.)

As usual, if you can, it’s always best to fly with your pet in thecabin section and not in the cargo section. If your dog is a short-nosed breed, consult with your veterinarian before making travel arrangements.

For more information for traveling with your pet, please click here.


 Southwest Airlines

All pets are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis until they’re full. With only 6 pet carriers allowed on each flight, it’s best to schedule flight arrangements as soon as you can to ensure space. Pets have to travel with their pet parents with this airline. They also cannot be accompanied by minors.

That said,  Southwest Airlines does not accommodate pet travel in the cabin section on international flights. Two small cats or a small dog is allowed in the same carrier which needs to fit under the front seat. Here’s the deal with Southwest Airlines.

  • Six (6) pets are allowed per flight with a limit of one pet carrier per pet per paying customer traveling on the same flight. However, from time to time, circumstances may allow for more (or fewer) than six (6) pet carriers per scheduled flight.
  • A pet that engages in disruptive behavior may be denied boarding. Examples of disruptive behavior include (but are not limited to):
  • Scratching, excessive whining or barking
  •  Growling, biting, lunging
  • Urinating or defecating in the cabin or gate area
  • Pets must be checked in at the airport ticket counter, however, customers can still secure their boarding pass online, at curbside check-in, the airport kiosk, or the ticket counter. Training your dog  to behave appropriately when traveling is important today, most especially when at airports. That said, working together with apositive dog trainer to help with issues like excessive barking, whining and growling may help allow for a less stressful travel experience with Fido.

Pet parents can purchase pet carriers from Southwest Airlines. A branded pet carrier costs $58 (tax included) at any Southwest Airport Ticket Counter or online (tax not included) at Southwest: The Store (not an affiliate of Southwest Airlines Co.). Pet carriers are nonrefundable.


US Federal Regulations

Us federal regulations do not allow for pups less than eight weeks of age to fly, and they need to be weaned for at least five days before flying. TheFederal Animal Welfare Act Regulations also prohibits all airlines from accepting dogs and cats, if the airlines cannot prevent exposure of the pet to temperatures that are less than 45% F for more than 45 minutes while transferring pets from terminal to plane. That said, if there’s a veterinary letter stating that the pet can be exposed to colder temperatures, then it may be waived.


Air Travel Tips for Pet Parents

Pet parents should also book a direct flight to minimize the chances of pets getting lost. Midweek flights are less busy and are preferable for pet travel. If you’re traveling with your furry best friend, make sure that you arrive early, and also consider your dog’s feeding and exercise schedule ahead of time. Try not to fly your pet in the cargo section during the hot summer months to prevent overheating.

If you have to travel with Fido choose early morning or late evening flights in the summer. The same applies to the winter months when the cargo section may become too cold; choose midday flights when it’s warmer. Dogs should consume a light meal a few hours prior to traveling by air and should have a frozen bowl of water in the crate which should be attached to the crate door.

Pet travel restrictions will vary across airlines, and with seasons and destinations. Whether you’re traveling with JetBlue or Hawaiian Airlines, be sure to be current with all your airlines’ pet travel requirements.Airline pet policies apply to both cabin and cargo pet travel.


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Regardless of where you’re flying to with Fido, you’ll need to first make sure that your furry best friend is healthy and current on all vaccines by visiting your veterinarian. Consult with your veterinarian to discuss thebest CBD products for your pooch during air travel. Taking your dog on a dog vacay is always fun, but it’s got to be stress-free!


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Meet The Author 

Claudia Bensimoun

Claudia Bensimoun is a freelance journalist and author, and specializes in veterinary content, and eBooks. She's a long-time feature writer for Animal Wellness magazine, Fido Friendly magazine, and the United States Dog Agility Association. In addition, Bensimoun has written for numerous pet websites, magazines, newspapers and online publications. Her interests include wildlife conservation, animal welfare, disaster/ humanitarian relief, veterinary research, and veganism.



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