airline pet policy
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Chewy EditorialPet Parenting / Travel

Complete Airline Pet Policy Guide for All U.S. Airlines

For a growing number of travelers, hitting the road without their favorite four-legged friend is unthinkable. The travel industry has certainly taken note, and so have travel providers. Just about all domestic airlines now allow pets to come aboard. But not every airline pet policy is the same. From the types of animals allowed aboard to the size of your dog travel crate, each airline has its own requirements for pets flying the friendly skies.

Here’s the good news: Many airlines are becoming increasingly pet-friendly. Some even welcome pets and their parents with campaigns such as Alaska Airlines’ “Fur-st Class” travel, JetBlue’s “JetPaws” promotion and United Airlines’ “PetSafe” partnership with American Humane. Thanks in part to airline pet policies like these, more than 2 million pets and animals are transported by air each year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

There are a few airline pet policy rules that apply across the board. By law, service animals and psychiatric or emotional support animals fly for free. Today, most airlines require some sort of documentation from physicians and/or veterinarians showing the need for animal support. They may also require veterinary proof of vaccinations and an indemnification or waiver from the traveler.

But there are also plenty of differences between each carrier’s policies regarding service animals and emotional support animals. The Department of Transportation’s guidelines define service animals and emotional support animals as those who are “individually trained or able to provide assistance to a person with a disability” or by providing emotional support. Those regulations give latitude to carriers in the animals they will permit, so travelers should discuss their needs with providers. For example, some air carriers have felt it necessary to single out hedgehogs as excluded from transport.

If you plan to bring your pet along, book early. Space is often limited and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts that the number of airline passengers will continue to grow in coming years. It’s also important to talk with your travel provider about limitations and restrictions. For instance, certain airports don’t allow animal travel between certain dates or as cargo if temperatures climb too high or low, and some breeds are not welcome on various airlines. Before you book, troubleshoot as many issues as you can in advance to reduce the potential for headaches en route.

Here’s what the leading domestic airlines have to say about pets and travel within the continental U.S.

American Airlines

Service and Support Animals Flying American Airlines

American Airlines’ pet policy accepts one service or support animal in cabin per passenger. It must be a cat or dog, or in some cases a trained miniature horse. The animal must fit at your feet, or in your lap if  “smaller than a 2-year old child,” according to the airline website. If in a kennel, its size must be no larger than 18-by-8-by-14 inches and fit under the seat in front. The animal must be 4 months or older.

The animal cannot be seated in an exit row, protrude into or block aisles, occupy a seat or eat from tray tables. According to the airline, if the animal doesn’t fit within the allowed spaces, passengers may need to rebook on a flight with more open seats, buy a ticket for the animal or transport the animal as a checked pet.

In April 2019, American Airlines’ pet policy requirements for emotional support animals were revised. Now, an emotional and psychiatric service document packet , including a medical/mental health professional form, veterinary health form or vaccination record and confirmation of animal behavior form, must be submitted at least 48 hours prior to flight and checked at the ticket counter.

Carry-on Pets Flying American Airlines

For regular carry-on pets, up to two small cats or dogs are allowed per traveler at a $125 fee per airline-approved dog or cat carrier, which must fit under the seat in front of you. The pet must be confined at all times. The pets must be at least 8 weeks old. Capacity is limited to seven carriers per flight on American Airlines and five on American Eagle flights, all on a first-come basis.

Pets in Cargo Flying American Airlines

Travelers can transport cats and dogs in the plane’s cargo hold for $200 with capacity and weather restrictions. About 20 breeds of dogs and four cat breeds are not allowed. Read the airline’s list of restrictions and other information on flying with pets here .

Delta

Service and Support Animals Flying Delta

In the wake of increased complaints about animal behavior, Delta Airlines’ pet policy has been revised to add requirements for emotional support animals. In addition to providing documentation —including veterinary health, medical/mental health and animal training forms 48 hours prior to flight—travelers also must check and sign a form attesting to the animal’s training and accepting responsibility for the pet’s behavior.

Each traveler is limited to one service or emotional support animal. “Pit bull type dogs,” as Delta describes them, are not accepted. The animal should fit within the “footprint” of the passenger’s seat, and during the flight they should be seated on the floor below the passenger’s seat or on the passenger’s lap. Delta reserves the right to refuse service to owners of animals with disruptive behavior.

Carry-on Pets Flying Delta

For passengers with a carry-on pet, small cats, dogs and household birds are allowed. The pet must be at least 10 weeks old and remain in an airline approved carrier at all times, and the carrier must fit under the seat in front of the passenger. According to Delta Airlines’ pet policy, these carriers are each considered your one carry-on item. The fee is $125 each way. Two same-breed animals are allowed per kennel if they fit comfortably and are 10 weeks to 6 months old; a mother with an unweaned litter (10 weeks to 6 months old) is also allowed. Six pet carriers are allowed per flight: two in first class, and four in the main cabin.

Pets in Cargo Flying Delta

Delta also ships animals via Delta cargo . Prices range between $100 to $300 depending on size. Effective March 1, 2019, the airline embargoed pet kennels larger than 32-by-22.5-by-24 inches. Separate booking and itineraries are required and cannot be booked until 14 days prior to departure. Pets are not guaranteed to be shipped on a customer’s same flight and other restrictions apply. There are reduced rates for veterans and foreign service personnel.

Read more about Delta’s pet policies here .

Southwest Airlines

Service and Support Animals Flying Southwest

Southwest Airlines’ pet policy allows service and emotional support animals for customers with disabilities . For service animals, “credible verbal assurance that the animal is a trained service animal” is required. “A service animal vest, harness, ID card, or registration is not accepted as the sole indication,” according to the company. Dogs, cats, and miniature horses are accepted as service animals.

For emotional support animals, Southwest Airlines’ pet policy also requires passengers to provide medical documentation of need. Only dogs and cats are accepted as emotional support animals. The animal must be in a carrier that can be stowed under the seat or on a leash at all times.

Each passenger may bring one service or emotional support animal on the flight. The animal can be placed on the floor in front of the passenger’s seat or on the person’s lap, provided the animal is no larger than a 2-year-old child. It cannot be in an exit row, protrude into or block aisles or be placed in an airplane seat.

Carry-on Pets

Carry-on cats and dogs at least 8 weeks old are allowed to travel with their pet parents for $95 each way. Approved pets must remain in their carrier at all times and be able to fit under the seat in front of their parents. Southwest offers airline-approved dog and cat carriers (17-by-9.5-by-10 inches) for purchase. Up to two same-species animals are allowed per carrier with adequate room to stand and move.

Southwest does not fly pets in the cargo holds of their planes. Only six pet carriers are allowed per flight on a first-come basis.

Read more about Southwest’s pet policies here .

United Airlines

Service and Support Animals Flying United

A year ago, United briefly suspended pet travel operations to conduct a full review and fine-tune policies, says Charlie Hobart, public relations manager for United Airlines in Chicago, Illinois. He adds that the company continually reviews and updates its website.

Under the current United Airlines pet policy, trained service animals and emotional support animals with proper documentation are allowed. (Trained service animals do not require documentation.)

A service animal is limited to a cat, a dog or a miniature horse. It should sit in the floor space in front of the customer’s assigned seat or in a lap and cannot protrude into the aisles or be seated in an exit row. The same rules apply for emotional support animals, which must also be trained to behave in a public setting. Multiple emotional support animals are not permitted.

Carry-on Pets Flying United

United Airlines pet policy allows domesticated cats, dogs, rabbits and household birds (excluding cockatoos) to travel accompanied in the aircraft cabin for $125 each way, plus an added $125 fee if stopovers are more than four hours. The pet must stay in its carrier, which must fit completely under the seat in front of the customer and remain there at all times. For each flight, there may be up to four pets in the main cabin and two in premium, with some exceptions.

Pets in Cargo Flying United

Larger animals can be transported via United’s PetSafe program, which launched May 1, 2018, in partnership with American Humane. Excluded are most brachycephalic (short- or snub-nosed) dogs, strong-jawed dog breeds and certain cat breeds. Rates vary based on weight. There are special exceptions for veterans and foreign service professionals.

Read more about United’s pet policies .

JetBlue

Service and Support Animals Flying JetBlue

JetBlue accepts service and emotional support dogs, cats and miniature horses. Service animals must sit on the floor or in the passenger’s lap. JetBlue does not allow animals to occupy their own seats, and the airline may request documentation of the service animal’s status.

Required documentation for emotional service animals can include veterinary health, medical/mental health and animal behavior forms, as well as vaccination documentation, and should be provided 48 hours in advance. Animals must remain on the floor, unless they fit completely and comfortably in the owner’s lap, and they cannot protrude into the aisles or be seated in an exit row. The passenger should add their service or support animal to the reservation before flying.

Carry-on Pets Flying JetBlue

For regular carry-on pets, JetBlue allows small cats and dogs in the aircraft cabin. There is a fee of $125 each way, and a limit of one pet per person. Animals count as carry-on items. The combined weight of the pet and carrier may not exceed 20 pounds. The pet must remain inside their dog or cat travel crate (17-by-8.5-by-12.5 inches) while at the airport and in the aircraft for the entire flight. Only four pets are allowed per flight.

JetBlue does not transport animals as cargo.

Read more about JetBlue’s pet policies .

Alaska Airlines

Service and Support Animals Flying Alaska Airlines

Service cats, dogs and miniature horses must occupy the travelers’ personal area without obstructing aisles and cannot be in emergency exit rows. Those traveling with emotional support animals—a cat or a dog—must present current documentation , including animal health, animal behavior and mental health forms, at least 48 hours prior to boarding and conform to service animal size requirements. They must be behaved and leashed or in a soft-sided cat or dog travel kennel measuring 17-by-9.5-by-11 inches, or a hard-sided cat or dog travel kennel measuring 17- by-11-by 7.5-inches. Kennels must fit under the seat in front of the passenger.

Carry-on Pets Flying Alaska Airlines

Carry-on pets allowed in the cabin include dogs, cats, rabbits and household birds. Dogs and cats must be at least 8 weeks old and fully weaned. The pets must stay in their carriers and fit under the seat in front of the traveler or in the adjacent seat, when the traveler has also purchased that seat. First Class can take one pet carrier per flight, and the main cabin can accommodate up to five. Alaska Airlines charges $100 each way per pet.

The airline provides information and travel tips through its Fur-st Class Care site.

Pets in Cargo Flying Alaska Airlines

Most pets are also allowed to travel as cargo. The airline’s Pet Connect has information, including breed restrictions and document requirements. The fee is $100 each way, the same cost as for pets riding in the cabin. Read more about Alaska Airlines’ pet policies .

Spirit Airlines

Service and Support Animals Flying Spirit

Service animals are allowed on Spirit flights with the verbal assurance that the animal is trained to help the owner with a disability. For travel booked on or after April 15, 2019, a limit of three service animals per person applies.

Beginning April 15, 2019, the carrier tightened its requirements for emotional and psychiatric support animals to include medical, veterinary and passenger forms 48 hours prior to travel.

Snakes and other reptiles, rodents, ferrets, sugar gliders and spiders are not accepted as service or support animals, and the airline reserves the right to deny service to other unusual animals based on their size, any health or safety threat they may pose to passengers, whether they are prohibited from entering a foreign country and other factors. Passengers traveling with animals may not be seated in emergency exit rows, and animals in carriers may not be seated in the first row of the plane. For the safety of the animal, passengers with lap animals may not sit in any seat with an inflatable seat belt.

Carry-on Pets Flying Spirit

Spirit’s pet policy allows carry-on pets including small domestic dogs, cats, rabbits and household birds. A maximum of two pets and one carrier, with maximum combined weight of 40 pounds, is allowed per passenger, and the carrier (18-by-9-by-14 inches) must fit under the seat in front of passenger. Six containers per cabin are allowed. Pets must be 8 weeks old and fully weaned, and they cannot be seated in front or emergency rows. The fee is $110 per pet carrier.

Spirit does not fly animals in its cargo holds.

Read more about Spirit’s pet policies .

Frontier Airlines

Service and Support Animals Flying Frontier

Customers with a service dog, cat or miniature horse must provide what the Department of Transportation defines as “ credible verbal assurance ” that the traveler is an individual with a disability and that the animal is a trained service animal. For example, if a person’s disability is not readily apparent, the airline may ask questions to determine their need for a service animal. A service animal ID card or service animal registry paperwork is not considered conclusive, according to the company. It is recommended those with trained service animals contact the airline before departure.

Emotional support animals must be a dog or a cat and require documentation , including medical and animal behavior forms , to be submitted 48 hours in advance. The animal may be placed on the aircraft floor or sit on the customer’s lap, provided the animal is smaller than a 2-year-old child. They cannot extend into an aisle, occupy an emergency row, sit on an empty seat or eat off or occupy a tray table.

Carry-on Pets Flying Frontier

For traditional carry-on pets, Frontier accepts, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and small household birds. The animal must fit comfortably in a travel kennel (up to 18-by-8-by-14 inches) that fits under the seat in front of the passenger and must remain in that kennel. The fee is $75 each way.

Frontier does not accept pets as cargo. Read more about Frontier’s pet policies .

Allegiant

Service and Support Animals Flying Allegiant

Up to three trained service animals—dogs, cats or miniature horses—are allowed with a veterinary document . One emotional support animal is allowed per passenger, with medical, veterinary and passenger responsibility forms supplied 45 minutes before departure.

Animals must fit in passenger’s space or on their lap if they weigh 30 pounds or less. They may not extend into aisles or be seated in emergency rows, the bulkhead or in seats. They may not eat off the tray.

Carry-on Pets Flying Allegiant

For carry-on pets, only dogs and cats are allowed. Two pets are allowed per carrier and must fit comfortably in a carrier no larger than 19-by-9-by-16 inches that slides under the seat in front of the passenger. They may not be in emergency rows or one row on either side. The fee is $100 per carrier, per leg of trip.

Allegiant does not transport pets in its cargo space. Read more about Allegiant’s pet policies .


Airline
American Airlines


Allows Pets?

Yes

Animals Allowed

Cats, Dogs


Pet Size

Carry-on: Up to 20 lb.

Cargo: up to 100 lb.

Pet Carrier Size

Carry on: 18x8x14

Cargo:  maximum kennel height of 22 to 63 inches, depending on aircraft type


Pet Fee

Carry-on: $125

 

Cargo: $200

Delta

Yes

Cats, Dogs

Fits in carrier

Carry-on: varies by seat size

Cargo: up to 32x22.5x24

Carry-on: $125

Cargo: $100-$300, depending on aircraft size

Southwest Airlines

 

Yes

Cats, Dogs

Fits in carrier

Carry-on: 18.5x8.5x13.5

No animals allowed in cargo

$95

United Airlines

Yes

Cats, Dogs, Rabbits, Household Birds (except Cockatoos)

Carry-on: Pet must fit in carrier

Cargo: up to 200 lb., including kennel

Carry-on: 17.5x12x7.5

Cargo: up to 40x27x30

Carry-on: $125

Cargo: varies by weight

Alaska Airlines

 

Yes

Carry-on: Cats, Dogs, Rabbits, Household Birds

Cargo: Cats, Dogs, Ferrets, Guinea Pigs, Hamsters, Household Birds, Non-poisonous Reptiles, Pot-Bellied Pigs, Rabbits, Tropical Fish

Carry-on: Pet must fit in carrier

Cargo: up to 150 lb., including kennel

Carry-on: 17x11x7.5

Cargo: 40x27x30

Carry-on: $100

Cargo: $100

Allegiant

Yes

Cats, Dogs

Fits in carrier

Carry-on: 16x9x19

No animals allowed in cargo

$100

Frontier Airlines

Yes

Cats, Dogs, Rabbits, Small Household Birds, Guinea Pigs, Hamsters

Fits in carrier

Carry-on: 18x8x14

No animals allowed in cargo

$75

JetBlue

Yes

Cats, Dogs

Up to 20 lb., including kennel

Carry-on: 17x8x12.5

No animals allowed in cargo

$125

Spirit Airlines

Yes

Cats, Dogs, Household Birds, Rabbits

Up to 40 lb. total

Carry-on: 18x9x14

No animals allowed in cargo

$110

Though many airlines have similar pet policies, details like accepted pet breeds and kennel sizes differ from carrier to carrier. It’s best to contact your airline directly before your flight to make sure both you and your animal will have a stress-free flight to your final destination.

Read More:

9 Secrets for Traveling With a Dog on a Plane

Dog-Friendly Vacations Across the US

Traveling With Your Dog: Expectation vs. Reality

By: Greg Mellen

Greg Mellen is a freelance writer with more than 30 years' experience in newspapers and magazines. Over the years, he won more than 30 writing awards at the national, state and regional levels. Greg has a master's degree from the University of Missouri School of journalism, where he was an assistant professor and sports editor at the Columbia Missourian while earning his degree. Most recently, he has worked for the Orange County Register and Long Beach Press-Telegram in California. Greg is also a life-long and, until 2004, suffering Red Sox fan. He lives in Long Beach where his 14-year-old cat, Cleo, patiently plots his demise. He keeps the cat in check by threatening her with a puppy as a brother.

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