Pet Policy Comparison Guide for Major U.S. Air Carriers

If you’re planning to fly with your pet this summer, it can be financially advantageous to comparison shop airlines. Some airlines charge as much for Fido’s one-way ticket as the cost of round trip airfare for passengers. A little research can lead to big savings and ensure your pet’s space is reserved.

I recently had a need to transport a Yorkshire Terrier from one state to another. I had no idea there was so much to learn about putting a dog on an airplane. Fortunately, my Yorkie is small and can fly in the cabin, but dogs over 15 pounds are stored in cargo and their tickets are almost twice as much!

I didn’t realize that airlines limit the number of onboard pets, so it’s best to make reservations as far in advance as possible. When booking the ticket make certain to reserve your dog’s seat. Most airlines require passengers to purchase the ticket at the airport instead of in advance.

Tickets aren’t actually for a seat. Instead, pets are stored in a pet carrier under the seat in front of you. Soft-sided carriers are the best choice for transporting animals in the cabin, while hard-side carriers are best when animals fly in the cargo area.

If you plan on flying to Hawaii or other rabies-free countries it’s best to leave pets at home. Otherwise, pets must be held in quarantine according to state and country regulations. The exception to the rule is if pets are service animals. If so, they must adhere to strict guidelines and obtain health certificates up to 2 weeks prior to the flight.

I found the process of comparing air carriers cumbersome and kept thinking it would be nice to have the information compiled into a guide. As a writer, my natural instinct is to write about information that has benefited me. I figure if it helps me, it will help someone else. The following guide compares the major U.S. airline carriers that allow pet transport. I hope the information helps you quickly locate an affordable airfare for your pet.

Airtran

Airtran accepts cats, dogs, and birds that fit into pet kennels no larger than 8.5″ high x 17″ long x 12″ wide. Pet carriers are considered as carry-on luggage, so passengers will need to pay baggage fees to transport suitcases in the cargo bay.

Airtran allows a maximum of 6 pets per flight with a limit of 1 pet per passenger. The cost of a one-way ticket is $69, which is non-refundable. Airtran does not transport pets as checked baggage, nor do they allow pets onboard International flights.

Reservations for pet companion airfare can be made by calling Airtran reservation desk at 1-800-AIR-TRAN. Details of Airtran’s pet policy are published at Airtran.com.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines offers pet companion airfare for pets in the cabin and in baggage and cargo compartments. Hard-sided carriers must be no larger than 7.5″ high x 17″ long x 12″ wide and soft-sided carriers cannot exceed 9.5″ high x 17″ long x 12″ wide.

Alaska Airlines allows a maximum of 5 small pets per flight with a limit of 2 pets per passenger. The cost of a one-way cabin ticket is $100. Cargo flight costs vary based on weight. All pets crossing state borders must obtain a valid health certificate 30 days in advance.

Advance reservations for pets can be made by calling Alaska Airlines reservation desk at 1-800-252-7522. Details of Alaska Airlines pet policy are published at AlaskaAir.com.

American Airlines

American Airlines only accepts domesticated cats and dogs for domestic travel. AA offers cabin and cargo flights. Pets flying in the cabin are not required to have a health certificate, while those flying as checked baggage are required to obtain a health certificate issued by a veterinarian within 10 days of originating travel and within 60 days of the return flight. Dogs and cats over 12 weeks old must have proof of current rabies vaccination.

American Airlines allows a maximum of 7 small pets per flight (2 in first class, 5 in Coach) with a limit of 1 pet per passenger. The cost of a one-way cabin ticket is $125 per kennel. Cargo flights are $175 per kennel.

Advance reservations can be made by calling American Airlines at 1-800-433-7300. Details of American Airlines pet policy are published at AA.com.

Continental Airlines

Continental Airlines offers their exclusive PetSafe program which only allows pets to travel in the cabin. Accepted pets include domesticated dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds. Soft-sided kennels must be no larger than 11″ high x 18″ long x 11″ wide and hard-sided kennels cannot exceed 7.5″ high x 17.5″ long x 12″ wide.

Continental Airlines allows a maximum of 4 pets per flight with a limit of 1 pet per passenger. The cost of a one-way ticket is $125.00 per kennel.

Reservations can be made online or by calling 1-800-523-FARE. Passengers will be charged $25 fee for booking reservations over the phone or at a ticket office. Continental offers a PetPass program that allows frequent flyers to earn reward points when traveling with pets. Complete details of Continental Airlines pet policies are published at Continental.com.

Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines offers pet companion airfare for cabin, cargo, and checked baggage. Delta limits the number of pets transported in the cabin to a maximum of 8 (2 First Class, 2 Business Elite, 4 Main Cabin) and 1 pet per passenger. The exception is when 2 pets of the same size and species can fit into one carrier. In this case, passengers pay the same fee as if transporting one pet.

Carry-on dimensions are determined by flight and must be confirmed when making reservations. The cost for a one-way cabin ticket is $125 or $200 for checked baggage. Cargo prices are based on weight and travel destination and will be assessed a minimum $60 fee. Pet companion reservations can be made when flights are booked; however, pet tickets are purchased on the day of travel.

Reservations can be made by calling Delta Airlines at 1-800-221-1212 or 1-800-323-2323 for SkyMiles members. Details of Delta Airlines pet policy is published at Delta.com.

JetBlue Airlines

JetBlue accepts small dogs and cats in the cabin on both domestic and international flights. The combined weight of the pet and carrier cannot exceed 20 pounds. Carriers must be no larger than 8″ high x 17″ long x 12.5″ wide. A limit of 1 pet per passenger is strictly enforced.

Pet reservations cannot be booked online and there is a non-refundable pet fee per flight segment. The cost of a one-way ticket is $100. JetBlue offers an exclusive JetPaws program that allows passengers to earn 300 TrueBlue points when flying with their pets.

Reservations can be made by calling JetBlue Airlines at 1-800-JETBLUE. Details of JetBlue’s pet policy and JetPaws program is published at JetBlue.com.

Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines only accepts domesticated cats, dogs, and birds and pets must be small enough to travel in the cabin. Spirit Airlines does not allow cargo or checked baggage transport of animals. Pet carrier dimensions cannot exceed 9″ high x 18″ long x 14″ wide. Pet companion fees are paid at the time of reservation and are non-refundable.

Spirit Airlines limits the number of pets in the cabin to a maximum of 4 containers on domestic flights. The cost of a one-way ticket is $100. Passengers must check-in at the reservation desk, as curbside and self-service check-in are prohibited when traveling with pets.

Spirit Airlines does not require a health certificate for domestic flights. Passengers can transport 2 pets per carrier, but only one carrier per passenger. Reservations can be made by calling Spirit Airlines Customer Service at 1-800-772-7117. Details of Spirit Airlines pet policies are available at Spirit.com.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines accepts small domesticated dogs and cats for in-cabin travel only. The maximum number of pets allowed per flight is 5, with a limit of 1 pet per passenger. Carrier dimensions cannot exceed 8.25″ tall x 19″ long x 14″ high.

Pet companion airfare must be booked through Southwest Airlines reservations desk by calling 1-800-435-9792. The cost of a one-way ticket is $75 per pet carrier. Airfare is collected at the ticket counter and is non-refundable. Passengers are allowed to check-in online, curbside, self-service kiosk, or the ticket counter.

Southwest allows a maximum of 2 pets per carrier as long as they are of the same species and both can stand up and move around inside the carrier. Details of Southwest Airlines pet policy is published at Southwest.com.

United Airlines

United Airlines accepts dogs, cats, rabbits and birds to fly in-cabin or as checked baggage. Pets that are not accompanied by a paying passenger must fly as cargo. United limits the number of pets according to destination, so passengers must call ahead to determine if space is available.

Soft-sided pet carriers cannot exceed 11″ tall x 18″ long x 11″ wide and hard-sided carriers cannot exceed 7.5″ tall x 17.5″ long x 12″ wide. The cost of a one-way cabin ticket is $125 and $250 for checked baggage.

Pet companion reservations must be made by contacting United Airlines Customer Service at 1-800-864-8331. Fees are paid at the reservation desk upon check-in and cannot be paid in advance. Details of United Airline pet policies are provided at United.com.

US Airways

US Airways transports domesticated dogs, cats, and birds via the passenger cabin only. The number of pets allowed in the cabin is limited based on destination, so it’s important to call ahead to determine availability.

Soft-sided pet carriers cannot exceed 10″ tall x 17″ long x 16″ wide and hard-sided carriers must be no larger than 8″ tall x 17″ long x 16″ wide. The cost of a one-way cabin ticket is $100. US Airways restricts pet companion travel to one pet per carrier and one carrier per passenger.

Pet companion airfare can be reserved in advance, but pet tickets must be purchased at the reservation desk upon check-in. Reservations can be made by calling US Airways Customer Service at 1-800-428-4322. Details of US Airways pet policies are published at USAirways.com.

Airlines that Prohibit Pet Companion Travel

Airlines that do not allow pet companion travel include: Frontier, Southwest, and International flights originating on Aer Lingus, AeroMexico, Air New Zealand, Bangkok, Emirates, Icelandair and Qantas.

Sources:
BringFido.com: Ten Tips for Flying with Fido
PetsOnTheGo.com: Rabies-Free Countries