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Important Airline Guidelines to Follow for Flying With a Small Dog or Other Small Pet

Updated on March 20, 2018
Cyndi10 profile image

The former executive director of a successful nonprofit agency now content specialist, Cynthia writes about a variety of researched topics.

Travel has come a long way for pets, especially flying with small dogs or pets.
Travel has come a long way for pets, especially flying with small dogs or pets. | Source

Flying with a Dog or Other Small Pet Can be Easy and Safe

Very few of us like to leave our small dogs or small pets behind when we travel. In the past, if you were flying, the usual option was for your dog or pet to fly in the cargo section of the plane, not always the most accommodating place for your pet, especially not your small pet.

In fact, there can be many reasons you may prefer to fly with your pet rather than leave it behind. Here are a few of the guidelines and the approximate costs for some of the airlines that allow your pet in the passenger cabin:

1. Check with your vet to see if your pet or breed of dog tolerates flying and then start flying with your pet early so that they can become accustomed to flights and being in a carrier for an extended period. It may be difficult to suddenly take a trip with a seven year old dog who has never been on a flight or even transported in a carrier.

2. Once you are onboard with your pet in the proper carrier, be sure the flight attendants are aware of your pet. In recent news, a flight attendant mistakenly instructed a passenger to put their carrier with their pet in it in the luggage compartment for the three hour flight. Sadly, the pet died. If you have made the proper calls in advance, the flight crew should be aware that you have a pet, however, things can slip by. You are your pet's advocate. Be respectful, but be clear that you have your pet with you.

3. Remember to turn the carrier so that your pet faces you. It's less stressful for your pet if he can easily see hear and smell you. The pets are usually so inconspicuous you hardly know they are there. One airline reservation employee mentioned that in all of the times she has traveled, she has never known when there was a pet in the passenger cabin during that flight. I've seen passengers on one flight sitting with their pet in their lap, but I wouldn't have known it was a pet it was so still and quiet. I wouldn't advise doing this - there were obviously special circumstances here.

Domestic flying with small dogs and pets is easier. Who could leave this face behind?
Domestic flying with small dogs and pets is easier. Who could leave this face behind? | Source

Choose the Best Airline for You, Your Pet and Your Wallet

Delta Airlines can have up to four pets that fit in specified carriers on any one flight. When making a reservation, it is best to call the airline and tell them you would like your pet to travel with you. The cost will be $125.00 one way. During the trip, the pet must remain in the carrier, under the seat in front of you.

Southwest Airlines also allows pets to travel in carriers under the seat in front of you. The cost is $95.00. For your convenience, Southwest Airlines has the correct size carrier available for purchase at some ticket counters or it can be purchased at Southwest Airlines’ online store. Again, it is necessary for you to call the airline to let them know you would like to travel with your pet. They will provide instructions to make that happen.

If you choose to fly Air Canada to your destination, the policies mirror those of the other airlines. The cost ranges from $50 - $100 for your pet to fly in a designated carrier placed under the seat in front of you. The pet must remain in the carrier at all times.

According to their website, United Airlines allows a variety of pets in the passenger cabin as long as they fit in an approved hard- or soft-sided carrier. The carry-on pet can include domesticated cats, dogs, rabbits and even household birds with the exception of cockatoos. Call the airlines for question when booking a reservation.

Small pet rabbits will fit neatly in a carrier under the seat.
Small pet rabbits will fit neatly in a carrier under the seat. | Source

Things have changed in our attitude towards our pets and in the airlines attitude about them flying with you. There is now the option for your small dog or pet to fly with you. After all, if it’s a vacation you’re destined for, think of how much fun it will be to watch Fido frolic in the waves on some sandy beach alongside you and the kids.

And if you are moving, it may be impractical to drive to your new home. That means a flight for you and your pet. Besides, boarding your pet for an extensive stay can be costly and not to mention unsettling and stressful for you and your pet.

Check the pet flying policies and then decide which airline is going to be a match for you and your pet. It is also a good idea to check with your vet to see if your breed of dog tolerates the stress of flying.

Also check the rules of entering another country with a pet when flying international. There may be regulations that apply.

The bottom line is that pets, like the rest of us, are mobile, too. Airlines have stepped up to accommodate that reality with a lot more care and consideration for the pet. There can be pets on the plane, in the passenger cabin with you, provided they are small enough fit in a proportioned, airline approved carrier. We don't like to leave our pets behind.

Happy flying!

Pet Flying Costs at Some Domestic Airlines as of January 2017

Delta Airline
Call airline ahead of time
$125.00 one way
Southwest Airlines
Correct carrier available for purchase online; call airline
$95.00 one way
Air Canada
Designated carrier under the seat
$50 - $100.00 one way

Note that airline prices and policies are subject to change.

Do you fly with your small dog or other pet?

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© 2017 Cynthia B Turner


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