Dr. Mike Paul Excited by New Airline Travel Option for Pets

If you travel by air much at all, you have undoubtedly noticed a significant increase in the number of animals traveling by air with their guardians. If you are considering traveling with your pet there are several regulations you should be aware of. All major airlines have policies and guidelines that regulate the travel of pets.

Dog on an airplaneTraveling with service animals
Increasingly, people travel with ‘service animals’ whose service role may vary from physical needs such as guide dogs to emotional needs such as support or psychiatric support animals. According to the American Airlines website, they allow service dogs on flights at no charge. My experience has shown that this is true of many airlines. If you are traveling with a legitimate support pet, contact your airline ahead of time.

Traveling with non service animals
Some airlines allow only dogs and cats to fly and some restrictions apply. Airlines might allow domesticated cats, small dogs, rabbits and birds to travel accompanied in the aircraft cabin. In my experience, for non service animals traveling as companions in the cabin, there is generally a charge. This is the case for United, according to their website.

You should always check with your airline and veterinarian before traveling with pets. I travel frequently and here are some general expectations I have:

  • There is likely a charge for each pet carried on
  • The pet must be at least 8 weeks old
  • As a rule, pets, other than service pets traveling in the cabin, regardless of class of travel, must be carried in an approved carrier.
  • Pets traveling with their care givers must remain under the seat as is the case with any personal carry-on item. Some newer designs of planes may not allow for adequate under seat-storage space.
  • The pet must remain in the kennel and under the seat in front of you for the entire flight
  • Not including service animals, the number of pets on a flight is limited as space is limited.

Some airlines are making more room!
Some planes have been modified to provide compartments for pets in first class, thereby eliminating the issue of a lack of space under the seat ahead. Unfortunately, the first-class seating in some planes, like Airbus 321s doesn’t allow for under-the-seat storage of pet carriers during takeoff and landing, so American Airlines came up with a solution.

For those willing to pay extra to travel with their pets, American Airlines is now offering specially designed, in-cabin travel compartments for small dogs and cats on some of its routes. According to Harriet Baskas of CNBC, the pet cabins—two per plane—are at the front of the first-class section of the 17 Airbus 321 aircraft. The service costs $125 each way.

Other airlines I’ve traveled allow pets to fly in the cabin, but pets are required to remain in their carriers during the flight, and weight and size restrictions are in place.

Regardless of how you transfer your pet or which airline you fly with, there are a number of documents that may be neded and precautions you will need to take to protect your pet. Remember to check with your veterinarian and airline before going anywhere.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Reviewed on: 
Wednesday, October 7, 2015