Flying with Pets : Airline rules, Keep your pet safe & comfortable on the plane & at the airport

by ImagineMDD

Airline Pet / Animal Transport Policies : Traveling with Pets Advice from Vets : PetLife Radio : Layovers & Flight Delays : Pet / Service Animal Relief Areas in Airports

Are you planning an airline vacation with your dog or cat? Maybe you're moving or are traveling on business and for whatever reason must bring your animal companion along.

It's sometimes difficult to find information on good ways to travel by air with your dog or cat, ways to make the trip easier for both of you. We're seeing more and more pets on airlines all the time.

This article contains resources regarding animal travel policies of several different airlines primarily U.S.

What obstacles might you encounter during your journey and how might you deal with them? Did you know that several airports have animal relief areas, places designated for pets to relieve themselves? These are often also areas where your pet may get exercise and fresh air.

What advice do veterinarians suggest? Whether your cat or dog is flying in cargo or with you as a carry on, you'll benefit from these suggestions.

An animal may fly as freight and fly separately from you. They're usually sent in the same area of baggage / cargo where they would be were you flying with them. Someone would be on the other end to pick them up when the plane arrives.

A relatively new airline for pets only has begun service. All passengers are animals and they're checked on a regular basis, being kept in the main cabin.

 Image used under Creative Commons from Sadie Shih Tzu (Flickr)

Traveling with Pets : Veterinary Advice : Valuable Information

Carry a photograph of your dog that you can use to help find him if you're separated.

While your pet cannot wear a collar in his crate -- it's not safe, since it can get hung up -- put an ID tag on a piece of elastic around his neck. Be sure the crate has contact phone numbers for both ends of the journey prominently displayed: Your home number will be of little use if you're not there.

Unless you absolutely have no choice, only take a direct flight. If you must change flights, be sure you can collect and then re-check your dog at the layover airport. Try to give yourself a long enough layover to take him out for a walk.

Keep track of your pet: Talk to airline personnel: Remember your pet's life relies on the attentiveness of airline personnel. Most of these employees are excellent and caring, but mistakes do happen. You should be prepared to pester airline personnel to confirm that your pet has been loaded and has made the same connections you have. If your pet is flying unaccompanied, talk to freight-handling personnel at every airport your pet will visit.

Take time to prepare before your trip. The pet will need a certificate from the vet for travel. Consult your airline to know exactly what is needed. When and where you'll be flying may determine other requirements. Consider all fees and temperature restrictions.

Will your pet be traveling with you or flying alone to be picked up by someone else? In cargo (in a pressurized cargo hold beneath the passenger compartment) or with you as a carry on? 

Airlines may not allow certain breeds to fly as checked baggage or cargo in the summer months, June - September. United Airlines places a ban, for instance on "short-nosed dog breeds, or mixed-breed dogs exhibiting the short-nosed characteristics of these breeds." Check if you have a similar pet such as a Persian cat. Weather and seasonal restrictions may cause restrictions at other times.

If you're traveling to another country, check each country's customs office. Will they admit your pet?

Be sure to choose a pet carrier that is airline approved and meets the requirements of the airline you will be taking. If you want your pet to be in the passenger compartment as carry-on baggage, is your pet small enough to fit comfortably under an airline seat? Check on restrictions and rules.

Get reservations, know your airline's rules: Some airlines allow more than one pet in one carrier. Most airlines have a limit as to how many pets may be in the cabin.

Airlines may well have a limit as to number, breeds, sizes, etc. in cargo.


 Pet Travel News The Changes in Air Travel & Tips for Survival Pet Travel - the changes in airline travel.



Image used under Creative Commons from Ally Girl (Flickr)

Airline Pet / Animal Transport Policies

Get current info as needed

Most of the airlines allow your pets to travel in one of two ways, as cargo or with you as a carry-on.

It's suggested that you not sedate a pet who's going to travel in Cargo as this can suppress his or her respiratory system and not allow them to handle changes in temperature or air pressure. Pets in cargo usually aren't checked. -- Animal Planet

Airlines have similar but each has its own rules about how they allow pets to travel with them, if at all. Every airline I researched will only allow vaccinated domestic cats and dogs.

Pets must be carried in an appropriate carrier. Fees for their travel vary. Do not count on airlines having pet carriers. It's a much better idea to have the carrier and any items your pet may need before the trip. If in doubt, check with your vet.

For those traveling in passenger compartment with you, your pet in his/her carrier will count as your carry-on bag.

Dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, rabbits and guinea pigs were mentioned often. Check if you have reptiles or other exotic pets. You're expected to know where your responsibilities begin and end and what the airline's responsibilities are.

Consider when you're expecting to travel as temperature restrictions are significant. In the summer or winter months, animals should not be exposed to extreme heat or cold.

This includes not only their time in the plane itself, but also in any aiport facillities, waiting or holding areas, etc. If travel is in winter, temperatures in the baggage area may get lower than 45 degrees and you may be asked to certify that your pet is able to withstand such temperatures.

Here are some links of interest.

FAA: Pets in the Passenger Cabin

Traveling With Pets - Frontier Airlines

Southwest Airlines Travel Policies - Animals and Pets

United Airlines - Traveling with Pets, Airline Guidelines & Breed Restrictions

Trips With Pets - Pet Travel Tips for the Air

American Airlines Pet Policy On

British Airways - Transporting your pet

Traveling With Pets American Airlines :Temperature Restrictions

Alaska Airlines / Horizon Air Traveling with Pets

Aviation Consumer Protection Division: U.S. Department of Transportation

Tips from the ASPCA


[Image from Public Domain Pictures]

Flying with your pets : Videos

Flying with a Pet : Helpful Hints : Including Service Animals

The safety of your pet's wearing a collar inside the crate or carrier is debated between the veterinarians' and airlines' web sites that I viewed. Adequate identification is very important. -- Several other suggestions and requirements are throughout this lens and may vary by airline.

  • Pack a first aid kit for your pet just in case. Check with airline, FAA, etc guidelines on what you may carry as far as supplies or any medications your pet may need.

    As we saw, it appears that airlines do not have to administer any first aid to pets in cargo or in the cabin with you.

  • Doors must close securely, but don't lock them in case the pet needs to be rescued unexpectedly by you or someone else. Often the airline has specific rules on their web site such as where to place labels, "Live Animal."

  • Obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian. The certificate must meet specific requirements and be obtained with in a certain number of days before the flight. Carry it with you along with a current photo of your pet.

  • It's best to be on the same flight as your pet, to have him or her in the cabin with you and to be on a non-stop, direct flight when it is not too hot. Flying together means if your pet's flight has a sudden delay, you're there with your pet.

  • Lining the carrier with in different ways with absorbent padding in case of an accident is suggested a lot.

    I also saw suggestions of owners who'd pre-trained their dogs (pets and service animals) to go into an airport lavatory and go to the bathroom on a disposable pad such as the popular Mednet Direct Puppy Pads, Choose size and amount

    This can save valuable time if you're running between gates and planes for instance.


  • Exercise the pet before departure.

  • Place complete identification on the outside and inside the crate.

  • Allow your pet to get used to the carrier or crate that will be used on the trip. The same goes for any leash or harness that will be used.

Image used under Creative Commons from agahran (Flickr)

Pets Only Airline

Pet / Service Animal Relief Areas : Dog Bathroom

primarily US Airports so far

You and your pets both need potty breaks.

Your pet may need some exercise or fresh air. Several airlines and airports offer information about designated animal relief areas.

It is usually expected that your pet be on a leash and under your control when using a relief area.

Plastic bag dispensers and drinking water may be there, but don't count on it. Check first and being prepared ahead is best.

Many airports have dogs working there already.

The relief areas may not all be created equal and some of these lists may offer more information. Does anyone have first-hand experience in this area?

Carrying and using disposable puppy pads aka wee wee pads in a carrier may be a good idea.

Ask at a ticket counter for information or directions to the nearest and best location.

Southwest Airlines - Service Animal Relief Areas

Animal Relief Areas - Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air

Pet relief areas are growing in popularity at airports across the nation

Dog Jaunt : Airport pet relief areas

American Airlines : Airport Animal Relief Areas

A link from the TSA web site, information including screening procedures: Passengers with Service Dogs

Service Animal Relief Areas at Airports

Airports more comfortable for you and your pet : from Pet Friendly Travel


[Image from Pubic domain pictures]

Puppy Pads : Place in Pet Carrier, your carry-on for travel, Not just for dogs

Disposable and Washable Eco-Friendly Green Versions of the Puppy Training Pads Available

Mednet Direct Mednet Direct 17" x 24" Small Puppy Pads - 300 Count Puppy Pads are used as a training aid for puppies, for older incontinent pets who are ill or confined, or even if you live somewhere like an apartment when walking your dog might be inconvenient. A great option when nasty weather keeps you and your best friend from being warm and dry indoors! And don't forget, once your puppy pal is accustomed to using Puppy Pads, they can be placed outdoors to encourage them to eliminate outside!

Featured Pages : Disaster Preparedness

How ready are you for a Flood, Tornado, Fire or an Earthquake?

Many items you buy for travel may do double duty for disaster prep

Earthquake Preparedness: Disaster Planning for your Pets

Airline Approved Pet Carrier : In-Cabin

The Original Sherpa (Small; 15 The Original Sherpa (Small; 15" L X 10" W X 8.5" H; Red; For Pets up to 8 lbs.)

The Original Sherpa Small Dog Carriers - Airline Approved Pet Carrier from PETCO


Both of the carriers on this page are airline approved. Check with your carrier for your flight.

 Both have openings at the top so you can help and comfort your pet.


We've been very happy with this bag with multiple cats. Our family used to have a carrier (not brands or bags featured on this page) with a different kind of zip-top opening that has allowed our cats to escape. We had to take measures to re-configure the bag so that the top zipper is inoperable before using it and the bag had to be replaced.


This bag is more secure and gives you peace of mind.


Consider how secure the zippers, particularly the top one are on the bags you're purchasing. If they only zip forward to back, your cats particularly young and energetic or scared cats (like those on their way to the vet) may be able to open the case.


The original and best soft-sided small dog carriers approved for on-board use by most major airlines. These small dog carriers have quality features and functions designed for travel on planes, trains, in the car, or on your shoulder, long distance or just around town. This airline approved pet carrier is the safest and easiest way to carry your pet in style and comfort.


Airline Approved Pet Carrier fits comfortably under airplane seats. Be careful of some carriers that are too tall, and always double check with your airline. Underseat dimensions will vary, so check with airline prior to booking.


Durable quilted nylon.Seat belt/wheel safety strap is perfect for securing the bag to a car's seat belt, roll-aboard luggage, or wheelies.Mesh panels on three sides for adequate ventilation.Front and top entrance with zippered closures.


Reinforced bottom and handles.Removable, washable faux lambskin liner for added comfort. Adjustable shoulder strap doubles as a leash. Inside leash ring. Roomy zippered pockets. Built-in accessory pouch.


Expert construction with heavy-duty stitching. Easy-clean fabric resists stains and looks great even after years of use.


Folds flat for easy storage.


This type of carrier may also be folded flat and kept for emergencies in case the family needs to leave the premises.


Sherpa Bags are recommended by the ASPCA, Delta Society, Humane Society, veterinarians worldwide, and many four-footed friends.

Up to 35% OFF Pet Travel Center at!

The Ultimate Traveler Bike Carrier by Pet Gear

Choose your color

Buddy Dog Bike Basket The Ultimate Traveler by Pet Gear is the most convenient and safe way to travel with your small dog. With high marks from customers who've purchased this carrier, it's a good find. Other pets may travel in this carrier as well.

So many of us are biking as a primary means of transportation and for fun and recreation. We're including our families, including pets, in our activities. Travel, such to or within a camp site, may be done on a bike. Doggie bike basket fun for the whole family

The Traveler features a 600 denier nylon shell with sturdy floor and sides and sleek, modern design. You can carry it over your shoulder while you shop or secure it with the seat belt in your car for a safe trip anywhere.

No tools are necessary. Other colors are available for that dog whose fashion savvy.

A removable pad for easy washing,pouches and zippered pockets to store all of your pet's favorite treats, toys, food and more.


Travel with pets : layovers / flight delays

It's ideal when traveling and especially if you are traveling with your pet or if your pet is traveling alone is to have no plane changes, no layovers. Sometimes this is unavoidable.

There are a few airports that are said to be particularly pet-friendly. Please add to the list if you know of any more. Please see Pet Relief Areas above for information provided by airlines, etc.

Questions to ask before the trip:

Check with your airline and the airport to find out if the pet areas you've heard of are still in operation. Does your airport or the one you're visiting have such an area? Are they in service 24-hours if that is of concern for your scheduled flight. Are they wheelchair accessible?

Check with your carrier to see how your pet will be handled during time on the ground. Will he or she be checked? If there's a change of planes, ask how your pet will be handled and how it's assured that the pet will make your connecting flight so you'll be reassured.

What happens in the event of a flight delay? Is some sort of tracking system used so  your pet and his or her carrier may be located at all times?

If your pet / service animal is traveling with you, are you prepared with some sort of bowl (maybe collapsible), a means of providing him or her with water and food? A plan for a bathroom break?

When traveling with a cat, a layover may mean a walk on a leash in a pet relief area. It may also mean a small amount of litter in a pan in the carrier and any necessary cleaning up before boarding the next flight.

Use common sense and check with your vet on the appropriate way to keep your pet safe and comfortable.

A few Examples: (Many other airports have such areas)

Atlanta International Airport (ATL) has its Poochie Park. 

San Francisco Int'l (SFO) boasts two pet travel areas that are available 24 hours.

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is said to have seven fenced-in areas for pets.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, AZ has two dog exercise areas.

The Bone Yard is at Terminal Four. It's said to be 2,000 square feet. The Grassy Paw Pad can be found near Terminal Three.

Denver International Airport (DIA) has an enclosed exercise area for pets. This area is wheelchair accessible.

A valid concern: when traveling with pets internationally, what do you need for layovers in different countries?

Paw-fect Airports: The Most Pet Friendly Airports In The U.S. | Layover Guide

Indulge in Layover Heaven - The Early Show - CBS

Pet Travel: Layover and Transit Requirements at Airports

[Image from public domain pictures]

Put on Crate : Custom Pet ID Tag with Picture, Name, Phone Number

Personalize with Pet's Photo, your Info

PetLife Radio : Travel Tails : Cat Podcast : Dog Podcast

PetLife Radio's podcast show, Travel Tails has a variety of informative episodes that you can listen to at their web site or download for listening on your MP3 player.

More than one episode discuss flying with your pet. Here's info on Episode 3:

"Fly The Fur-Friendly Skies Join hosts Nicholas Sveslosky and Susan Sims as they talk about all things related to dog travel. This episodes topic is safety when flying the fur-friendly skies with Fido.

Listen to find out what steps to take when preparing to fly your dog in-cabin or cargo and be sure to stick around for the second portion of the show when special guest, Susie Kerwin-Hagen.

She's from Midwest Airlines, and she'll tell why their motto 'The Best Care in the Air' extends to their four-footed passengers as well.

Midwest Airlines offers a Premier Pet Program that allows you to travel with your animal and earn Midwest Miles while your pet will earn free travel and they provide a goodie bag for your best friend too!

Updated: 12/24/2014, ImagineMDD
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