Every Airline sets their own policies. The most important 3 policies airlines have for flying with pets are: Size, Breed and Length of flight. There are other policies on carrier size, temperatures at the airports you fly from, to and through, whether you book a direct flight or book separate segments. We discuss all of these.
There are three ways to travel with your furry friend: In-Cabin, as Checked Baggage and in Cargo. Size and Breed determine which of these options your pet may travel on airplanes.
CABIN, CHECKED OR CARGO.
Cabin is physically with you at your seat. The difference between checked and cargo is the protocol including the hold area. Also, a checked pet is usually on the same flight as the passenger and cargo is if the pet is flying without someone.
In 2021, few airlines are allowing pets as checked baggage and must fly in cargo.
a. In Cabin
Pets are limited to small dogs, cats, and household birds. If your animal fits comfortably, into an approved size carrier under the seat in front of you, there is availability for a space on the flight, and your pet does not display bad behavior, they usually can fly in cabin.
Most pets over 11” tall or over 15 pounds, unhealthy or too young are not likely to qualify. There are exceptions for Service Dogs, US Military and Foreign Service Officers.
Just because you can book your seat does not mean you have a spot for your pet. Most airlines only allow between 2 and 6 pets on each aircraft.
Search for and list what flights are available for your preferred routes and then contact the potential airlines by phone or Facebook and ask how many spots/slots are left available for pets in that cabin (Economy, Business ect.).
Usually, you must book your pet separately from your ticket and book directly with the airline. See our full guide on Booking Your Pet in Cabin.
Airlines are no longer are required to accommodate ESA’s and must travel as pets.
Book your seat and your pet’s spot directly. If you choose to book through a consolidator (Expedia, Kayak, Skyscanner ect), it is still the best practice to contact the airline directly to ensure a spot for your companion.
You can buy an adjacent seat for your companion pet on many airlines; however, on the airlines that allow you to book an extra seat, you must have your pet in their carrier at all times and they must be under the seat in front of you for take off and landing.
Otherwise, you can keep your pet’s carrier on the adjacent seat or your lap. When you do, see our guide for 4 Best Pet Carriers for Airlines 2021-In Cabin. Plus, you get more room for yourself.
b. In Checked Baggage (aka in the Hold) or Cargo.
Pets who do not qualify to be In-Cabin, because of their breed or size (usually larger than 11″ or 15lbs, can fly in Checked Baggage. Pets flying in “Cargo” are usually larger than 75lbs or of what some consider an “aggressive breed.
Cargo areas for pets are temperature-controlled and are not treated a baggage. The carrier must be approved by the airline, DOT and TSA sets the standards and the airline sets their policies according to those standards.
To begin, the pet must be able to stand up and turn around comfortably, the carrier must be properly ventilated and meet sturdiness requirements.
Many airlines follow IATA, (International Air Transport Association), requirements for an approved carrier. See Pet Cargo Crate Requirements for Airlines-A Complete Guide
These include size of pet, ventilation, and construction material. Some airlines will rent a proper carrier; however, your pet will not be familiar with that environment.
Most airlines limited the duration of each segment of the flight to 11 or 12 hours or less. You must book your trip with the same airline and its partners when you have more than 1 segment.
Difference between checked baggage, cargo and manifest cargo when flying with pets.
Logistics! All animals flying in either checked baggage, cargo or manifest cargo all travel in the same compartment on the aircraft–Cargo.
The difference is: Size and Breed restrictions whether you are flying on the same flight as your pet (or within 5 days) and where you hand over your pet to the airline. Checked Baggage=at the ticket counter, Cargo=at the cargo area.
- Checked Baggage-You bring your pet to the ticket or special reservation counter, in their carrier, they may be weighed, checked for any signs of ill health, their crate is tagged or scanned and are then given to the airline personnel at the counter.
- You are traveling on the same flight as your pet.
- Cargo-Pets too large to fly in-cabin or of a certain breed, often snub nose breeds, you bring your pet to the cargo area, they will be weighed with their carrier and wait in the holding area for transfer to the aircraft.
- Manifest Cargo-larger pets and pets not flying with their companion or handler, usually through a pet shipper, fly as manifest cargo.
- All countries accept pets shipped via manifest cargo. This way provides more options for moving your pet. It is much more expensive;however, you have many more options for airlines and routes.
- Also, you can arrange your flights separate from your pets. It can be difficult to schedule everybody on the same flight or within 5 days of each other, so manifest cargo allows more options.
You may be interested in our guides on How to Book your Pet in Cabin or Pet Cargo Crate Requirements for Airlines-A Complete Guide.
How Much Does it Cost to Fly with a Pet?
Most airlines allow Service Dogs to fly free. A few airlines allow your pet to fly as a carry-on for free, but most charge a fee. The cost for in-cabin pets is between $25 and $200usd. The cost for Cargo is between $125 and $400usd.
RESTRICTIONS BY DESTINATION COUNTRY AND LENGTH OF FLIGHT
Each Country has their own Pet Import Laws as well as the policies of the Airline you are considering.
Just because you can board in the US doesn’t mean you can enter another country with your pet. For cargo or pets as checked baggage, most US airlines restrict the length of travel to under 12 hours, there are restrictions as to breed, size, weight, and behavior.
PREPARATION FOR TRIP
Once you know if and how your pet can travel, you can choose your airline and begin preparing for the trip with a health check-up, vaccinations, and selection of an approved carrier and supplies.
Skip ahead to your Country’s Step-by-Step Guide for how to import your pet on our Pet Passport Page.