Pet Travel: How to Clear Airport Security with a Pet

Pet Travel - Clearing Airport Security with a PetYou and your pet are traveling in the cabin of an airplane together. You have checked in at the reservation desk, your pet is quietly lying down in their airline compliant pet carrier, you have tickets and possessions in hand. Everything is going according to plan. You proceed to the TSA security checkpoint. As you wait in the line, you wonder – what is coming next? How will TSA officials deal with your furry traveling companion?

PetTravel has received many questions about how people traveling with pets will be treated once they get to the front of the security line. Certainly, with all the confusion at security checkpoints and the flow of passengers intent on clearing the line and proceeding to their gate as quickly as possible, it is helpful to know how you and your pet will be cleared through security.

According to TSA: “Our security procedures do not prohibit you from bringing a pet on your flight. You should contact your airline or travel agent, however, before arriving at the airport to determine your airline’s policy on traveling with pets.”

Security Screening

More from TSA: “You will need to present the animal to the Security Officers at the checkpoint. You may walk your animal through the metal detector with you. If this is not possible, your animal will have to undergo a secondary screening, including a visual and physical inspection by our Security Officers. Your animal will NEVER be placed through an X-ray machine. However, you may be asked to remove your animal from its carrier so that the carrier can be placed on the X-Ray machine.”

There is a good chance that you will be asked to remove your pet from the carrier so that the carrier can be run through the x-ray machine. You will walk through the upright metal detector with your pet. If you are traveling with a pet who is high spirited or scares easily, you can request a room so that your pet will not escape should you not be able to contain them when out of the carrier.

There has been a lot of news lately regarding the introduction of the controversial body scanners in many airports. If the old stand up metal detectors have been replaced with body scanners, both the pet and the owner are subject to pat down. Again, you will remove the pet from the carrier and make it available to security officers should they decide to inspect your pet. Should you require a pat down, you should put your pet back in the carrier first.

Being prepared is key to traveling with your pet. Give yourself plenty of time to get to your gate. Keep your accessories (coat, purse, laptop or other items you must carry) at a minimum so you will have free hands to handle your pet at security checkpoints. Take your pet out of the carrier after you have removed your shoes, belt, etc. and put your items on the table to be scanned. Be sure and carry a leash in the carrier to loop around your wrist to be sure that your pet cannot escape when you remove them from the carrier. Even calm pets can get nervous and scared when around groups of people and in unfamiliar environments.

We would welcome your feedback about your experiences at security checkpoints. Please make a comment so that you can help others who are traveling with their pet. We appreciate your time.

More information on pet travel by air


Pet Travel: How to Clear Airport Security with a Pet — 661 Comments

  1. Hi Mary – your pet should be able to stand up and turn around in the carrier. Enforcement of this rule depends on the gate attendant who checks you in. A medium carrier does sound a bit small for a 16 lb dog and there are larger pet carriers available. You can call Air France and find out how much room there is under the seat in front of you. That will give you a good idea whether you can up the size of the carrier. Air France requires that you recheck your pet on every leg of your flight (to collect another pet fee). As for customs clearance at EWR, you will claim your baggage and clear customs with your pet at the international terminal.

  2. Mary- i’m planing to travel to egypt next july. I booked with air france, i plan to take my 16 lb maltese dog. I got a medium pet carrier measuring 46cm/25cm/28cm but my dog is a little bit taller than that, in many pet stores and online i was told to measure my dog from the floor to his shoulder because he is supposed to lay down or sit in the carrier. He could turn in the carrier but it is not too much wide for him. There will be any problem in this?I will have a connection in CDG for about three hours. My pet should be checked there also?
    In addition, this is the first time for me traveling with a pet, what will be the steps to check in here in the EWR airport?

  3. Samantha – it would depend on what type of carrier you have, but they are certainly great for affording extra space for your pet while “squishing” down to fit under the seat in front of you. Your cat falls within the general weight restriction that the airlines have although you will want a light carrier so the total weight does not exceed 8kg (this varies by airline). Saudia does not specify a weight, but recommends that carriers not exceed 52.5 cm x 32.5 cm x 40 cm or (21 in x 13 x 16 in).

  4. Hi Mario – the issue will be finding a pet carrier that will accommodate your dog’s length and satisfy airline requirements to be able to stand up and turn around in the carrier. SturdiBag makes an XL bag that may accommodate your pet (, but it will need to fit crosswise under the seat in front of you, so you will need to have enough width to work with. You can contact your airline and ask them how much room there is under the seat on the aircraft that flies your specific route.

  5. Will a soft-sided carrier fit under the airplane seat? I have a 4 kg cat so will she be allowed to be in cabin? We are going from Saudi Arabia to Philippines with Saudia Airlines

  6. Hello,

    I am travelling from Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam to Rome Italy next July and I’m trying to arrange for my dog to travel with me.
    I went to a Turkish Airlines office today and I was told that I can bring my dog with me in the cabin as hand luggage.
    The only specification they made is that the dog and it’s container must weigh under 8kg. They were not concerned about the dog’s size.

    As my dog weighs only 6 kg, she satisfies the weight requirement.
    However she is 15.7 inches in height and 22 inches in length, which is a little larger than the size limit you mention on your website regarding travelling with a dog in the cabin.

    Do you think I will have a problem? I would very much prefer to be able to take my dog with me in the cabin.

    Thanks for your help.

  7. Always best to travel in the cabin with you unless you feel your cat will not adapt well to being in the carrier for the duration of the flight. She would ave to fly in a carrier similar to these: As for TSA screening, ask for a private room so if she attempts to escape, she will be in the confines of a room. Allow extra time for the provision of this.

  8. I am moving from Honolulu HI to Seattle. I am getting a direct flight. Am I better off having my cat fly in cargo or under the seat? She does NOT like the carrier and I am afraid she will escape when I have to take her out at the TSA security checkpoint. Also what is the best softsided carrier for under the seat, she’s about 15 pounds. I have a hard sided one if she goes cargo. Will be either Delta, Alaska or Hawaiian airlines. Thanks

  9. Hi I have a 1year old maltese terrier. I’m in Istanbul. If I fly home to London Heathrow will my dog have to go into quarantine? What paperwork do I need to show? He will be travelling in I need to buy him a ticket to fly too? Example..If I booked flight 1st September for UK…when should I start my dogs rabies vaccine and getting paperwork in order. End
    of May?

  10. Mila – you will not need another health certificate for the next leg of your flight unless the airline will require it. If this is the case, then the health certificate you used to clear customs in MIA will be fine.

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