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How to Take Your Pet on a Plane!

petsonaplane

Air Travel Tips for Pets: Airline Pet Policies

Read this in-depth pet air travel guide for tips and a detailed list of pet travel policies for major U.S. airlines and some international air carriers.

I've been flying with my cat in the airplane's main cabin for thirteen years. I don't have experience with shipping pets in a cargo hold or international travel, but I've got links below to resources where you can find more information. Most importantly, I've got links to to the pet travel pages for almost all U.S. airlines and some of the most popular international airlines in the English-speaking world like Quantas, Air New Zealand, British Airways.

Disclaimer: I am not a pet travel expert, just a cat owner with a lot of pet flying experience. Double-check pet policies with your airline and reserve a spot for your pet well in advance.

UPDATE April 2014: Samhain is now 18 years old -- WOW! and stopped traveling with me by air about 4 years ago. So please double-check with your airline to make sure their rules haven't changed. The last I checked, JetBlue appeared to be the most accommodating carrier for pets within the U.S., although I usually used Delta because its hub happened to be my parents' airport.

Here's the soft-sided airline pet carrier I used for seven years of airline travel, and still use for transport to the hated vet.

I recommend it or a Sturdibag pet carrier, which was recommended to me by someone who shows dogs.

Air Travel Pet Tips: BEFORE You Fly - Prepare Yourself and Your Pet For Air Travel

  1. One month before: Get your pet's vaccinations up-to-date. Many destinations require you to carry your pet's vaccination record. If they don't, you want to protect your pet from catching something from other pets on the plane!
  2. As soon as possible: Check the animal transport polices for country and state/province (if applicable).
    • For travel within the U.S., get a licensed vet's
    • health certificate no more than
    ten days before travel. Not all airlines check for it, and not all states require it, but you don't want to be be turned away by a persnickety check-in agent.
  3. For international travel from the U.S., the USDA requires a Stamped Certificate of Health NOT from your vet, in addition to the vet's health certificate. See the U.S. Dept of Agriculture's resource center on pet travel for regulations.
  4. Each country has pet travel guidelines. Many require special forms, quarantine, and/or pet transport services. See Delta's excellent guide to international pet travel, pettravel.com's international pet travel policies guide, and/or petfriendlytravel.com's International Travel Guide for Pets to look up your destination country's policies and forms.
  5. Get a good pet carrier! If you don't have one, see my reviews of good airline-approved cat carriers, including sizes. Measure your pet carrier to make sure it fits your airline's bag size restrictions. Soft-sided pet carriers usually squash an inch or two.
  6. Check airline policies for pet travel: in-cabin if your pet is small (up to about 15 pounds), in the hold if larger. I've listed most U.S. airlines' pet policies and the pet travel policies of some popular international air carriers below. Also check pet travel fees. Many U.S. airlines charge $100 each way.
  7. Call to reserve a spot for your pet on the plane. Most airlines limit the number of pets per flight. Review the airline's pet policies with the agent when you make your reservation. (A few airlines let you reserve spots online...see below.)
  8. Add luggage tag and/or a label to your pet carrier with your name, address, phone # (cellphone you're travelling with is best).
  9. Get your pet used to your carrier and do a trial run of putting them in, carrying them, taking them out. I leave mine out for a few weeks before hand and will sometimes give my cat treats or feed her in it.
  10. US regulations limit pet travel (even on-board) to destinations whose current temperature is between 45° and 85°F, or down to 20°F with a Certificate of Acclimation from your vet. That said, I've never been stopped when flying my cat to Utah at Christmas. ;)
  11. Many countries and airlines restrict transport of snub-nosed pets due to respiratory issues. In the U.S., you can't transport these animals when temperatures are higher than 75° F. Review airline's pet policies for rules on snub-nosed breeds, ask your agent when making reservations, and/or check your country's pet transportation policies. I suggest contacting exhibitors who show those breeds for advice, since they've probably had to deal with this issue.
  12. Have a backup plan in case you're not allowed to transport your pet for whatever reason (haven't gotten necessary permits, weather is too extreme for animals in hold on day of flight, kennel doesn't meet regulations, pet is a snub-nosed animal).

3 Kinds of Pet Air Travel

Different airlines offer one or more different options for transporting your pet:

In-cabin (take pet onboard as carryon luggage)

Checked luggage (on your flight, in the hold)

Cargo/air freight (on a NON-passenger flight; pick up and drop off at airport)I recommend soft-sided pet carriers as carryons, but checked luggage/cargo must be hard-sided kennels.

I've scoured the web to save you time! Here are links to airlines' web pages covering travelling with pets. I've covered major US carriers plus a few popular international carriers.

Notes: I've summarized pet travel information from air carrier websites, but they or I may have outdated info. [Last update: Jan '09]. Call to double-check your airline's animals policy and reserve a spot for your pet (most planes limit the number of on-board pets per plane). Watch out for connections with partner airlines that may have different rules/size requirements. Many countries including the U.S. require airlines to allow service animals in the cabin, but call to make arrangements.

  • Air France
    In-cabin up to 6kg (carrier included) or up to 75kg in hold. $200 from US or Canada, 80euro in Europe. Call Air France (800 375-8723 in US/Canada) to confirm availability and carrier size restrictions. See EU's rules for pet travel within EU or inter
  • Air Canada / Air Canada Cargo Live
    Pet transport within Canada must use Air Canada Cargo. It looks well-organized. For US and international flights see this page on main Air Canada site. Pets to Canada need a certificate proving rabies vaccination or to be from a country Canada consid
  • Air New Zealand
    No pets allowed in-cabin except for service animals. Pets may only travel as cargo. Within New Zealand, you just need an airline approved pet carrier. Call Air New Zealand Cargo 0800 737 737. Pet travel from New Zealand requires a special Pet Transpo
  • AirTran Airways
    Small on-board pets permitted with advanced reservations; 6 pet slots available per flight, 1 pet per owner, $69 as of 1/10. Call 1-800-AIR-TRAN to reserve. Dimensions 8.5" high x 17" long x 12" wide. No animals in baggage hold.
  • Alaska Airlines / Horizon Air
    Both on-board (max. size 7.5"H x 12"W x 17"L) and checked luggage/cargo (max 30" x 27" x 40") pet travel permitted. Call Alaska Air (1-800-ALASKAAIR) to reserve spot.
  • American Airlines
    In-board cats and dogs permitted, limited slots per flight, call reservations to book. Under-the-seat dimensions 19"x13"x9", 2 small animals permitted per carrier! Pets may travel as checked luggage. Good info on website.
  • British Airways
    Pet travel must be booked through British Airways World Cargo, pets only in hold. Webpage has info on pet quarantine to UK and some other countries.
  • Continental Airlines
    In-cabin permitted, limited spots available per flight. Continental lets you book pet spots online-- a good sign-- or call Reservations. Under-the-Seat dimensions: 17x12.5x9". Their pet cargo services appear well-organized and include online tracking
  • Delta Airlines
    Limited onboard slots available; call Delta at 800-221-1212 for availability and size restrictions. Pets allowed in checked luggage, but NOT between May 15th and Sept 15 due to temperature concerns. Delta has another pet cargo transport service that
  • Express Jet
    They used to permit in-cabin pets, but their website is stripped down as of 1/10 so I can't tell what their policy is. It's now a private charter company, so just call and ask.
  • Frontier Airlines
    On-board pets permitted on most flights; check webpage for dimensions since it varies by aircraft. Limited pet spots available per flight; call 800-4321-FLY (800-432-1359) for reservations. Pets may travel with checked baggage; again, call to verify
  • Japan Airlines
    Their website has guidelines for on-board pets, but international flights allow only pets only as checked luggage. Call for info and reservations. Rules for bringing pets to Japan sound pretty strict.
  • JetBlue's JetPaws Program
    JetPaws Program encourages pet travel; go to site to get their brochure. Reserve a spot for your pet by calling 1-800-JETBLUE. Health & vaccination documentation required for travel outside or to the U.S., not within U.S. Maximum pet carrier dime
  • Lufthansa
    In-cabin transport for small pets; checked luggage and cargo options also available. call Lufthansa when you make reservations. Under-the-seat dimensions 55x40x20cm, and free "transport boxes" are available at check-in. Check international pet travel
  • Midwest Airlines
    It looks like they no longer allow in-cabin pets, but have a special pressurized compartment in the hold for them. Call 800-452-2022 to make pet reservation. Small airline, but they sound pet-friendly. Also have pet cargo option: 800-892-6580.
  • Northwest Airlines
    Small pets permitted in-cabin; limited number of pets per plane, no health certificate required in continental US. Call for pet reservation or book pets online. Maximum kennel size: 17x12x8". Advanced reservations also needed for "Pets Travelling wit
  • Qantas
    Pets must be in a "Pet Pack" and can only be transported as freight, not on-board. Contact Telephone Sales for in-Australia services or Freight for travel from the US. See Importing Cats and Dogs to Australia for permit, quarantine, and other info.
  • Skywest Airlines
    Their website info boils down to: "Same rules as our partners, but only one pet per cabin." Basically, when you book with Delta, Midwest or United, watch out for Skywest connections-- the planes are small. I avoid them to avoid any problems.
  • Spirit Airlines
    Limited number of small pets allowed in-cabin; call 800-772-7117 for reservations. Under-the-seat dimensions 18x14x9". No pets allowed as checked luggage.
  • United Airlines
    In-cabin and baggage compartment animals permitted; call 1-800-864-8331 (1-800-UNITED-1) when making reservations. In-cabin carrier 17x12x8. Certain snub-nosed dog breeds not allowed in hold June 1st - Sept 30th.
  • US Airways
    Limited pet spots available in each cabin on a first come, first served basis; call 800-428-4322 for info. Hard-sided carriers up to 17x16x8 inches; soft-sided up to 17x16x10. $125 fee. No pets allowed in luggage hold, because their hubs are Vegas an
  • Virgin Atlantic
    No in-cabin pets. Pets can only travel in the hold to and from: Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York-JFK, New York-Newark, Orlando, San Francisco, Washington. Call for reservations/info: UK 08450 701 701 | US 1 800 828 6822

Pet Travel Tips: On the Day You Fly - Taking Your Pet on the Plane

Here's my tips to help you get your pet ready for the trip in the airplane cabin. I don't have experience with transporting pets in the hold, but see the excellent tips on TakeYourPet.com.

  1. To repeat, because it's the most important pet travel tip: Schedule an appointment with your vet several days before travel to get a health certificate and make sure your pet's rabies shot is up-to-date. Have a backup plan in case your vet can't give Fluffy a clean bill of health.
  2. Pack towels, wet wipes and/or a few spare carrier liners for accidents.
  3. Bring a small plastic bowl in case you get stuck. Pets can get by without food for a while, but dehydration is dangerous. You'll have to fill it inside security, since you can't take water through.
  4. Most airlines require pet owners to check in at the desk, not curbside or online. DON'T PANIC if you look for your reservations online and get "Reservation Not Found!" Apparently someone forgot to make a separate "Sorry, passengers with pets must check in at airport" error message. (I hiss at you, Delta.)
  5. Most airlines issue a pet carrier tag at check-in which you'll need to show during boarding.
  6. Be prepared to take your pet OUT of its carrier at security and hand-carry your pet through the metal detector while the carrier is X-rayed on the luggage belt. If you're afraid your pet might bolt, consider a pet harness. Its rivets might set off the metal detector, but at least you'll have a handle.
  7. Some airline and official websites discourage the use of sedatives, since animals could have bad reactions. For many years I successfully used kitty valium, the same mild sedative my vet gives pets when trimming nails, but last year Samhain was cranky, wobbly, and seemed to have a hangover for hours after arrival, so I've decided to stop.F
  8. You can find more detailed information than I can give you from TakeYourPet.com's Free Pet Travel Tips guides.

Fan Mail and Guestbook

Katarina on May 26, 2015:

Awesome, that I found this site. I will read all about air travel, because we will take our 9 month Siamese cat that we adopted to Germany with Airberlin. I am a little nervous about it and need advice on how to feed her before the flight. Good thing is she is can walk on a leash. THank you for making this wonderful website.

Merry Citarella from Oregon's Southern Coast on October 16, 2013:

Good to know information! The airlines vary so much too. Thanks for sharing.

seodress on July 26, 2013:

Great tips. Great lens!!!

lilantz on February 07, 2013:

I think traveling with pets are a little hard. I have never travel with pets before but I did travel with my 1 month old baby. It was really stressful for me. He cried a lot and having a hard time changing him.

UniversalCats on January 30, 2013:

Thanks for the great article. It has some very useful tips.

---

Cindy

UniversalCats

dustytoes on January 13, 2013:

What a great page to help those who travel with pets. I've honestly never thought about taking my cat on a plane and didn't even know they could be onboard with me.

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on August 21, 2012:

@anonymous: Eep! Stephanie, I'm afraid that when I wrote this, I only researched small-sized pet carriers.

Suggestion: look up dog show and dog enthusiast clubs in your area that show dogs, and ask them what carrier they use and where they get it! A lot of them take their dogs to shows far away, so they may have a kennel they use.

anonymous on August 20, 2012:

I am desperate! I am trying to find an air plane-approved (plastic) kennel for my 36 inches height dog and I can not find anywhere where to buy it! HELP..

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on August 14, 2012:

@anonymous: Try looking for Sherpa Roll-Up Bag?

anonymous on August 13, 2012:

is there any chance you have found a pet carrier with the Air Tran dimensions? 8 x 12 x 17?

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on July 11, 2012:

@anonymous: Good luck to you and kitty!

anonymous on July 10, 2012:

THANK YOU FOR THESE TIPS. IM SUPER NERVOUS ABOUT TAKING MY CAT ON A PLANE FOR BOTH HER AND MYSELF. HOPEFULLY I WILL BE PREPARED WHEN WE FINALLY MAKE THIS TRIP.

Kim from Yonkers, NY on June 09, 2012:

Great Idea! I've included your lens on my lens SULLYCAT

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on May 31, 2012:

@anonymous: I don't have any information on a private charter company, sorry! Try Googling "pet charter transport" for companies, then searching for online reviews of those companies. Here's one that looks promising, but I don't know anything about it:

http://www.tlcpettransport.com/

anonymous on May 31, 2012:

I am trying to find private transport for myself and 8 cats from US Virgin Islands to Daytona Beach or Orlando FL. Does anyone have any information on a private charter company, etc.

anonymous on May 12, 2012:

does anyone know how much it would cost to fly a cat to the uk by cargo? getting really mixed reviews about additional fees and wildly varying prices.

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on May 12, 2012:

@anonymous: Eek, I know how to do in-cabin travel with cats, but I'm afraid I don't have experience with large dogs in the cargo hold.

I suggest looking for your local dog show association and calling them for advice, since they take dogs in the hold all the time.

Sorry I couldn't be more help!

anonymous on May 12, 2012:

Does any have tips on what I should attach to my 65lb dog's carrier if she growls at men? She has never bitten or showed her teeth in the past, but should I put a warning that she growls in both languages since she will be transported overseas?

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on May 06, 2012:

@anonymous: Eek, sorry about that! Fixing now. Policies keep changing; I need to check all the airlines again and make sure this page is up-to-date.

anonymous on May 06, 2012:

Spoke to a USAirways agent last night abouy getting my cat from Fl to DC. They do not take reservations for pets in cabin, it is done on a first-come, first-served basis and the cost is now $125.

anonymous on April 05, 2012:

Nice lense, but I miss regulations outside the USA. My dog needed a a lot of shit for his transport. Including blood tests and a chip. Maybe a warning is at place. People take in an impulse stray dogs and cats home from their vacation.

Bill Armstrong from Valencia, California on March 26, 2012:

Hmmm I need look into getting Yoshi over to see his Grandmother "Wee Maggie" of Scotland :-) some good info here on where I should look, thanks for sharing

Chazz from New York on December 20, 2011:

Very informative and helpful as my family will be traveling with a service dog (which may have different requirements) but this is an extremely useful start to navigating the regs. Blessings.

TopToysForKids on December 06, 2011:

This is a great lens, thank you!

BlueStarling on November 09, 2011:

Terrific and thorough advice. The pet harness is an excellent idea, especially for cats who often don't do well in "scary" environments. Some airlines do not allow snub nosed dogs, such as Pugs, to fly (at least not in the hold) because of breathing problems. The hold can also get quite cold. I once had a dog flown to me. She traveled in the hold area. Fortunately, she did fine, but I would never let a dog fly in the hold again. It's too dangerous, as I later learned.

Heather B on October 16, 2011:

My cats flew from Canada to the UK a few years back. We were dreading the day, but thankfully, all went smoothly!

Mosoma on August 26, 2011:

Very informative lens. Thank you.

grifith on August 24, 2011:

Very Good Lens

anonymous on August 13, 2011:

Thanks so much, this led me to the exact info I needed :)

anonymous on August 10, 2011:

Great info for anyone planning to travel with their pet. Angel Blessed.

ziggyzane on July 22, 2011:

Very thorough and helpful. The specifics on each airline's regulation are especially nice. Thanks.

phoenix arizona f on June 27, 2011:

If only my dogs weren't so big.......z

pawpaw911 on May 11, 2011:

Just did a fun lens on "Top 20 reasons you might be a Crazy Cat Lady", and thought I would check out some other Cat lenses. Nice lens. Useful information.

MargoPArrowsmith on March 31, 2011:

Lensrolled to Born to Be Angelic because I have Blessed this lens

And my two Xander lenses because I will travel with him.

Joyce T. Mann from Bucks County, Pennsylvania USA on March 08, 2011:

A wealth of info for pet lovers who travel. thanks

nancymcconnell on February 05, 2011:

Nice lens!!!

anonymous on January 26, 2011:

this is great information and thank you for posting it. i might want to re-locate to hawaii in a couple years but i've always been paranoid about bringing my cat anywhere, especially on the plane!

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on July 29, 2010:

@anonymous: Oh, thank you for the info! I'm afraid I haven't traveled with JetBlue yet to confirm this; I was only going by the JetPaws guidelines on their website. I saw that their guidelines said they required vaccination and documentation, and hadn't clicked on the link to see that no, actually, they don't require either for U.S. travel. I will correct that.

I have not traveled on the planes to confirm the size requirements. It's possible they really are that low, but if you can get a 9-10 inch tall SOFT sided carrier, it should squish down. I've done that with Samhain on a few planes.

I haven't tried JetBlue, but it looks to me -- simply based on their "JetPaws" site with the detailed info -- like they are more pet-friendly than many airlines.

anonymous on July 29, 2010:

This is very informative, thank you. I have a comment and a question. First, the comment. Jet Blue doesn't require any documentation when traveling within the US (according to their website, their phone person, and the TSA). And the question...have you flown Jet Blue with a pet? They seem to have the strictest carrier requirements (8.5" high, which seems ridiculously small). I'm just wondering if there is really such a teeny amount of space under the seat, because the only carrier on the planet that small seems to be the one they make. I actually found one on eBay for 1/2 of what they charge on the website, but that just seems so tiny! Thanks.

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on June 10, 2010:

@anonymous: jb -- the seats vary by plane, and the airline doesn't seem to pay any attention to the fact that you've got a pet when assigning you a seat. Then again, I've almost always flown Delta; other airlines (yay Jet Blue!) may be more clueful.

On the MD-90s I've flown, I use the aisle seat because it's easier to slide the carrier in from the aisle. HOWEVER, I have a soft-sided bag that can contract a bit if the space is too narrow. The middle seat usually has the most space in front of it. Don't get the window; it's often curving inward and smaller than the other two.

I would ask the flight agent when booking, or call the airline, for advice about which are the widest seats on your particular flight.

I'm afraid I have only done 2 hour flights where my cat slept through the whole flight, so I don't know about taking a pet to the washroom! I think people just put extra absorbent padding in the bottom of the carrier and hope for no poop, but eek, 9 hours plus airport time is a loooong time.

Rather than give you bogus information, let me recommend that you look up show dog organizations in your area. They often take pets long distances for shows, so they may have better advice.

Sorry I don't have all the answers!

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on June 10, 2010:

@anonymous: jb -- the seats vary by plane, and the airline doesn't seem to pay any attention to the fact that you've got a pet when assigning you a seat. Then again, I've almost always flown Delta; other airlines (yay Jet Blue!) may be more clueful.

On the MD-90s I've flown, I use the aisle seat because it's easier to slide the carrier in from the aisle. HOWEVER, I have a soft-sided bag that can contract a bit if the space is too narrow. The middle seat usually has the most space in front of it. Don't get the window; it's often curving inward and smaller than the other two.

I would ask the flight agent when booking, or call the airline, for advice about which are the widest seats on your particular flight.

I'm afraid I have only done 2 hour flights where my cat slept through the whole flight, so I don't know about taking a pet to the washroom! I think people just put extra absorbent padding in the bottom of the carrier and hope for no poop, but eek, 9 hours plus airport time is a loooong time.

Rather than give you bogus information, let me recommend that you look up show dog organizations in your area. They often take pets long distances for shows, so they may have better advice.

Sorry I don't have all the answers!

anonymous on June 10, 2010:

can you recommend a good area to sit in the plane, ie aisle, window middle?

does the airline usually put you where they think would be good to have a pet, where there might be more room?

also, what do you do if the pet has to go to the washroom? i'm going on a long haul flight about 8-9 hours.

anonymous on May 30, 2010:

Wow, thanks for this info, I've got a bunch of cats with my little family here, and will probably travel in the future. this gives me something to look into instead of having to just get rid of all of our little friends. I appreciate you sharing this a lot because I've been worried about this for a few years now.

VarietyWriter2 on April 14, 2010:

Another great lens by you. Blessed by a Squid Angel :)

Oosquid on January 03, 2010:

Nice job. You have a lot of very useful information on this lens. I never knew that some countries will not allow the transportation of snub nosed pets!

5 stars and stumbled.

Annette Geiger on August 03, 2008:

Thanks for the great lens! I wish I would have had this information awhile ago when I was booking travel to and most recently from Malaysia. The only point I would add to the above is that when we were traveling internationally, the USDA required a Stamped Certificate of Health...NOT from your vet, a separate one that is given after the vet has checked out your pet- when you are traveling internationally. You need this to get your pet on the plane, so don't forget! Also, it has to be done within a relatively short period of time before travel.....5*

turbocat on July 25, 2008:

Great lens! Even if we are competitors!

Ellen Brundige (author) from California on April 03, 2008:

Thanks for the feedback! I'll leave a note in the body of the lens above.

Drat Amazon for not carrying them... I rather like affiliate sales. But keeeping kitties safe and snug is more important, eh?

Animalmedical on April 02, 2008:

All the carriers above are great but Being a breeder/exhibitor I travel a lot with my show cats and most breeders prefer Sturdibags. Also we all use DryFur pads for keeping our Champions clean, dry and ready to show.

Ruth Coffee from Zionsville, Indiana on March 18, 2008:

Wonderful information! My cats are totally unaccustomed to travel and I would definitely need these tips/resources to get further than my front door.

inbal on February 25, 2008:

i love cats and dogs

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