American Airlines Pet Policy: Your Complete Guide

Patrick MacFarland Patrick MacFarland · Updated April 17, 2024

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Have you ever dreamed of taking your pup on a flight? Whether it’s for a family vacation or a business trip, traveling with your dog can be an exciting experience. Before you book a pet transportation flight on American Airlines, however, it’s important to understand their pet policy for dogs. In this guide, we’ll provide a comprehensive overview of the rules, regulations, and best practices for flying with your pup on American Airlines.

While you’re researching, be sure to check out our articles on United Airlines pet policy and Delta Airlines pet policy. Learn more about airline-approved pet carriers too!

Pet Travel Rules for American Airlines

No matter the size of your pup, American Airlines has a few rules you must follow if you want to bring your dog on a flight.

Pet Shipping with CitizenShipper

Pet Carry-On

Small dogs and cats are able to travel in the main cabin. You can pay for the one-way fee at the special services check-in counter. Your pet should be in a soft-sided or hard-sided carrier that is ventilated. There is a first-come, first service policy on pets in the main cabin, so you should call well in advance to secure that coveted spot.

American Airlines recently updated their pet carry-on policy. In the past, the pet kennel counted as your carry-on. With the new policy, passengers are allowed to bring both a personal carry-on and a pet carrier when the animal is flying in the cabin. The pet carrier must meet AA’s size and weight requirements to fly cabin.

Kennel Requirements

  • Your pet needs to be small enough to fit comfortably in the carrier and should be able to move without touching or sticking out from the sides.
  • Your  carrier must fit underneath the seat in front of you.
  • Your carrier must be leak proof and have ventilated openings on at least three sides.
  • Your carrier must have the following maximum dimensions: 18” x 11” x 11”.
  • Your pet must be inside of the carrier at all times. 


One-way ticket prices are $125 for domestic travel. For cargo pets, the price will be determined at check in.

Cargo Pets

If you have a large pet, then it will have to go in the cargo hold. Your pet will have to go in a hard sided kennel. You need to call the American Cargo customer service center well in advance. When you are about to check in, you need to drop off your pet at the American Cargo location and you should arrive 4 to 6 hours before your flight is scheduled to take off.

Restrictions and Requirements

  • Your carrier must allow your pet to stand up and move around at all times, be leak and escape proof, must have food and water bowls attached, and not exceed 100 pounds.
  • Your pet should also be used to being in the carrier.
  • Your pet must have a health certificate that states that it is medically fit to travel via air within 10 days of travel and 60 days of return.
  • If traveling internationally, an international health certificate is required, filled out by a USDA-registered veterinarian within 10 days of travel.
  • Your pet will not be allowed to travel if the temperature is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Service and Emotional Support Animals

American Airlines allows service dogs to fly in the cabin with their owners. Service dogs are trained to do tasks that benefit the well-being of an individual with a qualified disability. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Visual impairments
  • Seizures
  • Hearing impairments
  • Mobility impairments
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Service dogs, regardless of breeds, are allowed on American Airlines flights. Emotional support animals of any kind, including checked pets, aren’t allowed in cabin travel.

Breed Restrictions

American Airlines does not allow any pit bull breeds, including American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Bullies and American Pit Bull Terriers, on their flights. Apart from pit bull breeds, they also don’t allow snub-nosed or brachycephalic breeds like French Bulldogs or Boston Terriers. There’s a simple reason for this: they pose health risks that could be dangerous for them to fly. If you have a snub-nosed breed, then unfortunately you’ll be limited to ground transportation. Service animals and emotional support animals are allowed on board with proper documentation and kennel requirements. However, pets are not allowed on certain flights and should be checked in as cargo.

Size and Weight Limits

American Airlines limits pet carriers to one per customer and requires that they fit underneath the seat in front of the customer. The carrier must have enough space for your pets, including service animals and emotional support animals, to stand up and turn around. The maximum weight for both the animal and the carrier is 20 pounds.

American Airlines Cargo is a program for those that have larger dogs that can’t fit in a carrier underneath the seat in front of you and need to go in the cargo hold. There are costs associated with this but it’s not too much different than those dogs flying in the main cabin.

American Airlines currently doesn’t allow pets to be checked as baggage. However, service animals can be transported through American Airlines pet cargo or American Airlines cargo.

Carrier Requirements

  • Your pet, whether it’s a dog or a service animal, should be able to stand up and turn around comfortably in the kennel without touching the top.
  • The cabin pet transport crate should have secure locking with pins that extend past the extrusions above and below the door. The pins should be hardware instead of plastic fasteners, ensuring the safety of your dog during travel.
  • Buy a crate with ventilation on all sides.
  • The crate should have your pet’s name and your contact information for dogs, animals, and pets staying in cabins.
  • Water and food bowls for pets, including dogs and other animals, need to be securely attached to the door of their travel crate and easily accessible from outside.

Training and Socialization

Your dog must be a well-trained and comfortable pet around other people and animals in order to travel with you in the cabin on American Airlines. Additionally, if your dog is an ESA, it must also meet these requirements.

Preparing to Fly with Your Dog

A mother and son holding a toy airplane on a picnic date with their dog sitting on the grass. American Airlines Pet Policy

Once you have familiarized yourself with the American Airlines pet policy, there are a few additional steps you’ll need to take before you can bring your pets on a travel. It’s important to note that the policy applies to all animals, and not just dogs. If you plan to keep your pets in the cabin with you, make sure to follow the airline’s guidelines for cabin pets.

Documentation and Health Certificates

American Airlines Pet Policy requires customers to provide proof of their pet’s age and breed. They also ask for a Rabies Vaccination Certificate. Your pets must be up-to-date on their vaccinations before you can fly with them. You’ll also need to obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian before you can board the plane. Typically you should go to a veterinarian registered with the USDA and they will issue a signed Certificate of Veterinary Inspection for your animals. This is typically done at least 10-14 days before your travel plans. If you have an emotional support animal (ESA), please ensure that you have all necessary documentation for them as well.

Required Vaccines:

  • Canine parvovirus
  • Distemper
  • Canine hepatitis
  • Rabies

Recommended Vaccines:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Borrelia burgdorferi
  • Influenza
  • Leptospira bacteria

Consider Ground Transportation as an Alternative to American Airlines

With many restrictions around pet air travel, ground transportation is often a better solution. If your pet has to fly in the cargo area, you must choose ground transport – you wouldn’t put your children in the cargo area, don’t do it with your pets either! It’s the safest, most humane way to send a pet long distances.

What to Expect at the Airport

When you travel with your pet, you’ll need to check in with your furry companion. If your animal is a service animal or ESA, you’ll need to provide the appropriate documentation.

Tips for Flying with Your Dog

Flying with your pup and other pets can be a rewarding experience, especially if they are an ESA (Emotional Support Animal). Here are a few tips to better prepare yourself and your American animals for the flying process.

  • Get your pet or ESA animal used to their carrier before the American flight.
  • Bring a few treats with you to give to your pet or ESA animal during the American flight.
  • Make sure your pet or ESA animal has an American collar with their contact information.
  • Prepare yourself for unexpected delays.
  • Make sure to stay with your pet pup and other animals at all times, especially if you are an American.

What is the cheapest way to transport a pet?

Typically, ground transport is the cheapest way to transport a pet.  Longer trips using a transportation service, like CitizenShipper, typically average around $1.00 per mile.  Using a pet transportation service ensures your pet arrives in your new location safely, while minimizing stress and overall cost. 

How much does it cost to ship a pet internationally? 

While shipping your pet domestically is a relatively straightforward process, international shipping can be more complicated.  Hiring a pet transport service to help with international logistics can save a tremendous amount of stress and time.  

Each country of arrival will have specific regulations regarding pet health checks, necessary vaccination, and possible quarantine requirements.  The cost to ship a pet internationally can vary, especially if you need to board your pet for an extended quarantine. 

How much does it cost to transport cats?

The cost to transport cats will vary depending on the transport method.  Cats can be transported via ground or air transit, and are often small enough to be considered a “carry on” item.  Transporting a cat can cost as little as $25 on Amtrak, or as much as $125 to fly in the main cabin of an airplane.

How much does it cost to travel with a small pet?

Traveling with a small pet, compared to a large pet, is much cheaper.  Smaller pets can fit under the seat in front of you and can often qualify as a “carry on” item.  Traveling with small pets on Amtrak can cost $25, while airlines can charge around $125.  Keep in mind certain companies will only allow cats and dogs to travel.  

What does it cost to ship a puppy?

While puppies are small enough to fly in most airline cabins, they can incur additional costs.  Puppies generally require more attention, and therefore can be more expensive than shipping an adult dog or cat.  

Many breeders will utilize an air nanny service to accompany your puppy.  If the air nanny is experienced, or a regular, certain airlines may provide discounted rates or waive certain fees.  Breeders regularly ship puppies to their new homes and are well-versed in arranging transportation.  

Bottom Line on American Airlines Pet Policy

Traveling with your pup or other animals can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s important to familiarize yourself with the American Airlines pet policy before you book a flight. Make sure to follow the rules, provide the necessary documentation, and prepare your animals for the flight. With the right preparation, you and your animals can have a comfortable and enjoyable experience flying with American Airlines.

If you are unable to fly with your pet, CitizenShipper can help you find an American pet transporter or flight nanny to safely deliver your animal to your destination. Even if we are an online marketplace, we specialize in connecting you with experienced professionals who can transport your pet across the country.