Traveling with Pets

Pets and Planes

With trendsetter celebrities like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears bringing their pint-sized pups along everywhere they go, pet travel has become more and more common. While you don’t need a Louis Vuitton travel crate for your own little Tinkerbell, there are a few things you should keep in mind the next time you decide to fly the friendly skies with a canine (or feline) carry-on.

Most importantly, what kind of pet do you have and how big is he? Most airlines will accept small dogs, cats and domestic birds as carry-on luggage. Your pet will have to fit in an airline approved travel crate, and it must fit under the seat (generally about 10x15x20 inches and weighing less than 40 pounds). He’ll need to be at least eight weeks old, fully weaned and calm. If your pet shows any signs of illness, violence or physical distress airlines won’t allow you to board with him. Most airlines also require your pet’s current health certificates and documentation, so make sure that all shots are up to date.

Once you’ve determined that your pet meets all of your airline’s requirements, its time to make sure he’s comfortable with his newfound jet-setter status. His crate should be large enough for him to lie down comfortably, turn around and stand freely. Trim any long nails so that they don’t snag on the crate door and place a favorite blanket or toy in the crate to make him feel at home. If your little guy is a nervous flyer you’ll need to get him used to his crate before your big trip. Be very careful about using any sort of puppy Prozac, the ASPCA and many veterinarians strongly recommend against using sedatives on pets. In fact, some airlines will not allow your pet to board if they know he has been sedated.

You’ll most likely need to travel domestically with your pet; many countries have strict quarantine requirements for animals arriving internationally. For places such as the Bahamas, you’ll need a special certificate.

Be prepared to pay for your pooch, airlines will charge anywhere from $30 to $150 (each way) for the privilege of letting Fluffy or Fido sit under the seat. Also, note that some airlines will consider your pet a part of your carry-on allowance (in most cases each traveler is allowed one carry-on bag and one personal item such as a purse or a briefcase). Once you decide to bring your little buddy along, try to reserve his space as far in advance as possible. Most airlines allow only one kennel in first or business class and two kennels in the main cabin.

A Word About Shipping

Larger animals can also be shipped in the cargo hold, but be very careful when deciding to have your pet travel anywhere other than the cabin of the plane. Shipping an animal can be dangerous and frightening for a pet. Animals exposed to extreme heat and cold while being shipped run the danger of illness or death and many airlines that don’t have a temperature controlled cargo hold won’t allow the shipment of animals. If you must ship your pet, look for a pet friendly airline, such as Continental, with specific guidelines for animal shipping.


One more important thing to consider when traveling with your pet is the people around you. We’ve all experienced the close quarters of airline cabins, and know how uncomfortable it can be to sit next to someone who practices poor hygiene, talks too much or wears too much perfume. Imagine your seatmate’s discomfort if he or she is allergic to dogs or cats. Make sure your pet is free of odors before traveling, think twice about bringing him if he barks and keep him inside his crate at all times during the trip.

Specifics - Domestic Airlines that Allow Pets

Airline Kennel Size & Weight Cost Each Way Counts As Carry-On Allowance Shipping
AirTran 10x11x21 40lbs $65 No No
Aloha 8x14x22 20lbs 0-50lbs: $35
51-70lbs: $60
71-100lbs: $100
No Yes
American 23x13x9 $80 in cabin
$100 as cargo
Yes Yes
Delta Varies by Flight $125 in cabin
$75 as cargo
Yes Yes-Special Program
Frontier N/A $100 as cargo No in Cabin Pets Yes-temperature restrictions
jetBlue 18x15x8 20lbs $50 Yes No
Spirit 22x13x10 $50 No Yes- with restrictions
United 9x14x22 $100 small/med
$200 large
Yes Yes-with restrictions