Airline Pet Travel

Airline pet travel, although it may seem traumatic to a caring pet owner, whether in-cabin or cargo, is oftentimes the best way (or the only way) to travel. Dogs, cats and all pets get to their destination quicker and as safely as possible. It should be noted that millions of animals travel safely aboard aircraft every year. Airline personnel make every effort to handle these animals with the care they deserve.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets and enforces regulations for the transportation of live animals. These regulations apply to the pet owner, the shipper, as well as to the airlines. If you decide to transport your dog or cat by air, there are some things to check for in order to be in compliance with applicable laws, and to assure the safest and most comfortable trip for your pet.

If you are traveling with a smaller dog or cat, generally under 13 pounds and 12″ from floor to front shoulder, you should be able to bring the pet into the cabin with you. Always check with the airlines to find out the dimensions under the seat in front of you. An airline compliant carrier is a must. It should have a waterproof bottom, secure fasteners, (zippers) and ventilation on all sides. (These carriers are available at PetTravelStore.com.)

If you cannot accompany your pet, or they are too large to fly in the cabin, dogs and cats typically are transported as cargo or as checked baggage. Sometimes these terms create confusion, but both describe humane means of shipping animals. What is important to know is that you may only transport your pet as checked baggage if you are a passenger traveling on the same flight as your pet and the combined weight of your pet and its crate is under about 70 pounds. (This weight varies by airline.) If flying cargo, your pet may travel unaccompanied, either through the regular cargo channels or through an especially expedited delivery service that several airlines have developed. Many airline cargo departments have specialists in the movement of animals who can assist you with answers to your questions. They are trained to handle your pet with care and are experienced in doing so.

What is important for you to know is that pets traveling as cargo are transported in the same pressurized holds as those in the checked baggage system and this area is temperature and pressure regulated similar to the cabin.

Each airline has its own pet policy, but one thing remains the same. You should call the airline before you book and tell them that you are traveling with a pet. Most airlines will only allow a certain number of pets in the cabin. Additionally, there will be a cost to bring your pet in the cabin with you. If your pet is traveling unaccompanied, then contact your airline’s cargo department.

For more tips on traveling with a pet on an airline, visit airline travel tips.

For airline pet policies for every airline that we can find worldwide, visit airline pet policies.


Comments

Airline Pet Travel — 137 Comments

  1. Hello Sandra – United Airlines will not fly your puppy in the cargo hold if the temperatures are under 45 degrees F anywhere along the route. In the case of a puppy, there are no exceptions to this regulation. It would be far preferable to have someone carry the puppy in the cabin if at all possible.
    Jason

  2. I want to ship a 9 week old Puppy from Albany NY to Sacramento. It is a 7 hour flight. He would Transfer planes one time at O’Hara. It is an United Airlines. I am feeling this may traumatize or do physical harm. Scheduled for 2/28/17 it is Cold in the North!

  3. Liz – English Bullies are the hardest breed to transport due to their breathing problems. Best to arrange ground transport if you can, but if that cannot be done, then you may have to look into a cargo only airline.
    Susan

  4. Hi I want to travel from mexico to Washington DC or any city near DC, I have an English bulldog, does anybody know which airline allow this type of dogs? I’m moving to DC and I don’t want to leave my dog in mexico

  5. Hi Nicole – last we checked, the only airline that flew animals into Hawaii in the cabin was Alaska Airlines. Not sure if they still do. If your cats will need to travel as cargo, the airlines will not accept them if temperatures are lower than 45 degrees F. This puts a strain on owners looking to book airline tickets, but you need to find a time when the weather in Boston is warmer. Fly in the hottest part of the day if you can. It is not the cargo area that is the problem. It is the holding area and loading procedures that can bring risk to an animal.
    Jason

  6. Hello, I have to fly from Boston or Providence to Honolulu with two cats. (I’m moving. I’m completing Hawaii’s 5-day or less program to avoid quarantine.) Can I take two cats in the cabin with me, or will I have to fly them as cargo? If cargo, are all airlines cargo holds climate controlled? It being winter, I’m concerned they will freeze or be very cold.

  7. Mikayla – United flies the route non-stop, but the length of the flight is too long for them to accept pets in the cabin and not be in violation of animal welfare regulations. American is the same as the leg from SYD to LAX is over 8 hours. The Australian-based airlines that fly the route do not carry pets in the cabin and Hawaiian Airlines does not fly pets in the cabin into Honolulu. Sorry we could not come up with an alternative for you.
    Phil

  8. Hello! Does anyone know if you can take (small) dogs IN-CABIN on American Airlines from New Zealand to Los Angeles? Are there any other airlines that allows in-cabin dog travel that takes that route? I would really like to know.
    If you do know the answers to my questions and reply, THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH!

  9. Krystina – almost all major airlines accept cats on board. Most will allow your kitty in the cabin with you on domestic flights. Find the airline that flies your specific route most efficiently and contact their reservations department for details.
    Phil

  10. I’m planning on flying to Minnesota from Arkansas and I want to bring my young cat with me. Do all airlines allow pets or just certain ones? And if so, are there any airlines from Arkansas to Minnesota that will allow me to bring my cat?

  11. Hello. Have anyone traveled with pets in cabin on a KLM flight? I’m worried because my cat is a big one, and fits in the kennel a little bit tighter than I expected, and the total weight including him and the kennel exceeds 8kg in 400g. My domestic flight in Brazil allows pets until 10kg in the cabin, so my problem will be when I check-in to my international flight with klm. If anyone can share how it was passing through the company’s check-in, I really appreciate. Thank you! Gabriela

  12. Gabriela – you will claim your baggage and clear customs with your pet when arriving in Germany assuming you are flying in and out of Amsterdam on the same airline. As long as you have conformed to German regulations, there should be no problems entering Germany. You can find them here: http://www.pettravel.com/immigration/Germany.cfm. Note that Brazil is considered a high-rabies country by the EU so the titer test in step #3 will be required.
    Phil

  13. Hi everyone! I’m traveling with KLM and I will carry my cat in the cabin with me, from São Paulo (Brazil) to Hanover (Germany) with a connection flight in Amsterdam. I already checked all the informations about bringing an animal to EU, especially because the animal is from a non-EU country. It’ll be my first time traveling with an animal, and my question is regard to how it works after arriving in the first country in EU, where should I take the animal for the Veterinary Border Inspection to show all the documents, and do I need do declare the animal at customs? I’ve talked to other people who brought animals in the cabin from Brazil to the EU, and they said it was the same as traveling alone, just passing through immigration, baggage reclaim and then customs in the non-declare line. But I am afraid of doing something wrong or forgetting about something during the process. Thanks in advance for your help! Gabriela

  14. Amit – it is much better for your pet to travel in the cabin than in the cargo hold. The cabin will be pressurized and your Pug’s ears should adjust.
    Jason

  15. I want to know is it safe for pug to travel in cabin, how to adjust the pressure on his ears while traveling

  16. Rosina – the airline depends on your specific route, but Lufthansa is based in Germany and likely offers the most routes there from the US.
    Susan

  17. Hi, I want to bring my shih tzu from USA to Germany. Which airlines can I take ? Thank you very much!

  18. Denise – the airlines are more strict with international flights and the weight of your dog must include the carrier. Enforcement is very hard to predict and it will depend on who checks you in. Avianca is pretty pet-friendly, though. They may charge you a surcharge if your pup is over the mark. Be sure and confirm that you can book the transport directly and do not need to go through an agent.
    Phil

  19. Hello! We are flying to Colombia in December with our french bull dog. I’ve already checked their weight and she is really close (they say 22 lbs and she’s 24) I have purchased the airline approved carrier and she will fit fine. My question is do you have any experience with pets to/from Colombia, with security and customs? We are flying on Avianca. Thanks for any feedback you have.

  20. Jase – Pugs are noted for breathing problems and are best flown in the cabin of an airplane. Make sure your pet is not overweight as that can prevent that type of travel. Also, if they must travel in the cargo hold they should not be flown in the summer at all. High temperatures leads to dehydration quickly in this breed. There is no way to improve their breathing; it is how they are built. As for ear adjustment at higher altitudes, the hold is pressurized like the cabin. How their ears clear is a good question for your veterinarian.
    Jason

  21. Hello! My dog is a pug. He is 11 pounds. I was wondering how I can prevent my dog from breathing problems and how my dog can have ear adjustion. Thank for your anwser.

  22. Damaris – American Airlines offers the most flights between Orlando and San Juan. However, the longer you wait, the higher the temperatures get. American honors the Summer Heat Embargo and it will get difficult after mid May.
    Jason

  23. Hello. What airline you recommend to bring a 60 pound golden retreiver from Puerto Rico to Orlando this month of May?

    Best regards, Damaris

  24. JJ – get a luggage cart from curbside checkin. The attendant should help you load your dog. Your dog must be in the crate when in the airport.
    Phil

  25. Hi My husky/border collie mix boy are going to be flying home to DFW from Portland. We will be flying Alaskan airlines and this will be his first time. He’s 45 lbs. but because of the mix he is. He’s actually pretty tall so the kennel will be a large (36″). My question is about going from being dropped off to getting us checked in, baggage, when I drop him off that kind of thing. I’m an average size girl and I’ll have of course my luggage and him to checkin. So what’s the step by step process of this? How can I make it easier? I don’t know how I’d be able to roll my luggage, carry on and carry a bulky kennel. Any ideas to help?

    Thank you

  26. Hello, I am supposed to be moving to St Thomas in the U.S Virgin Islands very soon but am having difficulties getting my 150lb+ French Mastiff there. Can anyone help? I have contacted several pet services and they’re all priced over my budget. I would take a boat, cruise ship or plane from anywhere on the East coast if the price is right.

  27. Marlene – requirements will vary from one airline to another, but most do not require a health or rabies certificate when flying within the continental US. You should ask your airline whether these certificates are required.
    Phil

  28. Hello Melanie – dogs, cats and ferrets from Mauritius need a microchip, then a rabies vaccination at least 21 days before entering France. You will also need an Annex IV form completed within 10 days of travel and endorsed by the Ministry of Agriculture. No rabies titer test is required when entering France from Mauritius, but if you are transiting Turkey, you will need an affidavit from the airline stating that your pet has not been exposed to other animals during the transit. This is assuming that you are flying in and out of Turkey on Turkish Airlines. If so, you can transit Turkey and avoid the titer test requirement.
    Susan

  29. Hello,

    I am travelling from Mauritius to France with my mauritian cat. As I understood I don’t need the rabie serology from Mauritius. However, I am travelling with Turkish Airline so my cat can be in cabin with me. When I will land in Turkish to transit, do I need a transit permit? And do I need the rabie serology which should be done 3 months before?
    I am worried cause I am leaving in a month and I thought every thing was ok. He has his rabie vaccination but not the exam to verify it. Is it ok ?
    I don’t find the writen proof in any Turkish government / ambassy website.
    Thank you very much!

  30. I want to carry the cat to America from Ukraine. She has a passport and a vaccination against rabies. I need it any more documents? Do I need a chip to my cat?

  31. Hello – the airlines will not allow your dog to wear a life jacket if traveling in the cargo hold. If your dog is very small and traveling with you in the cabin, it is OK as long as your dog can stand up and turn around in the carrier.
    Susan

  32. I am traveling America next month and I want to take my dog with me. It will be my first ever experience in flight with my dog. Should I go for dog life jackets for him during the air travel?

  33. Maya – you seem to have the requirements to bring your kitty to France down pretty well. As you are traveling with your kitty, you will need an Annex IV form completed by your vet within 10 days of travel and endorsed by the USDA. As for the chip, this one from Datamars, a Swiss company, is ISO compliant and will be accepted in France: http://www.pettravelstore.com/pet-microchip/ It comes in a syringe ready for your vet to implant and registration is included. BE SURE and have your vet scan your kitty after the chip is implanted to be sure it was implanted properly.
    Phil

  34. Hello! I am moving to France (with Air France) from the US with my 4 Years old kitty. I was wondering if besides rabbies she needed to have any other vaccines up to date? I called the USDA and they said only rabbies was required and not FELV or anything else but some people told me that she might need then anyway. She is definitely not up to date as she has not been vaccinated in the past 3 years. I did not see anything on the health certificate implying that she need any other kind of vaccines either besides rabbies but I want to make sure. My plan was microchip and THEN rabbies the same day and come back three month later for the health certificate a few days before departure and finally USDA.
    Also, I am looking for the right microchip, my vet has HomeAgain but I heard Microfindr was better. I know there are two kinds of HomeAgain Microchips and I know France is strict on the ISO compliance so I want to make sure I won’t have any problems. sorry for the long message!

    Sincerely,

    Maya.

  35. Hi, has anyone have an idea about transporting a shiatzu about 5 lbs 2 year old from Philippines to Chicago? Please help. I only know one airline that transport in cabin, but I already missed the opportunity. I need to do something like jet a pet. My dog is a short nosed being a small shiaztu.

  36. Sophie – normally, we recommend getting your pup to its destination as quickly as possible. Layovers are stressful on pets; they are being handled by strangers and they will always look to be with their owner. The possibility for escape and mis-handling are increased. However, it also depends on your airline and the facilities that are available in the layover city. If the layover is in your airline’s hub city, there may be excellent facilities available. Just make sure that the airline will not make you claim and recheck your pet during the long layover because that will cause you to clear customs and enter your layover country.
    Phil

  37. Hi,

    I’m looking at moving my dog from NZ to UK. I’m torn between 3 flights, 1) that’s basically direct, there’s a 2 hour stop in LAX where she wouldn’t get off the plane, another flight where theres a 3-4 hour stop over where she changes planes but wouldn’t get let out from the crate, and a third option where there’s a long layover and she would get “excersized and fed”.
    PLEASE if anyone had done any of these options, or any other options I would LOVE to hear from you.

    She has already flown from Australia to NZ last year and was sweet 🙂

    Thanks!

  38. Jim – try Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa or Finnair for the cost as they fly the Madrid to Vilnius route pretty efficiently. (not sure of your exact route) If you are not traveling with your dogs, contact their cargo department. Your dogs will travel under commercial regulations for live animals unless you are traveling either with them or within 5 days of them, in which case they can travel under the rules of the Pet Travel Scheme. If you need regulations for importing your pets to Lithuania, you can find them here: http://www.pettravel.com/immigration/lithuania.cfm.
    Susan

  39. I am looking to move 5 small dogs from Spain to Lithuania in early December, can you please give me some information on which airline would do this and at what cost. as a road journey is over 4,00 km

    Thanks

    Jim

  40. Maya – the process for importing your kitty to France depends on the originating country. What country does your kitty live in currently? Will it be entering France from that country?
    Susan

  41. Hello, I am moving back to France this Christmas and I am taking my kitty with me. I will be traveling with Air France. I know she needs a microship and vaccinations with a certificate but I was wondering how early do I need to get her vaccinated? She is 4 years old and she has not received any kind of vaccination since she was a tiny baby after I adopted her (basically she got 2 or 3 different shots, over the course of a couple of months when she was 3 months old but nothing since). your help would be much appreciated.
    Best,
    Maya.

  42. Allycatz – the only airline that we know that will allow you to purchase a second seat so you can carry another kitty on board is US Airways. American has always allowed only one pet per carrier and one carrier per passenger, but perhaps they have modified their regulations. If you are in the US, you can contact them at
    1-800-433-7300.
    Phil

  43. We will be moving 3 11-year-old cats to Mexico within the next few months, planning to fly them on American Airlines and then driving them the rest of the way. These are indoor cats, litter mates, who do not like traveling. I have to decide on carriers and harnesses, etc. How can 2 of us take 3 cats on the plane if they don’t guarantee spots for them on the flight ahead of time? I’m overwhelmed right now. Any help will be appreciated. Thanks.

  44. Jeannie – did you try Delta Cargo to MIA? If they have a late night or very early flight, it may be able to travel as air cargo on Delta. Else you can contact Amerijet for their schedule to MIA. They are pet friendly on many of their routes.
    Susan

  45. Most airlines allow one pet per carrier and one carrier per passenger unless your dogs are very small or puppies. It depends on the pet policies of the airline.
    Phil

  46. Hello. Is it possible to travel with 2 cats in the cabin?

    Thank you for your answer.

    Best regards,
    RMV

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