Airline Policies for Emotional Support Animals in 2024

Patrick MacFarland Patrick MacFarland · Updated April 17, 2024

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2023 Airline emotional support animal policies.

When you are traveling with pets, one of the important questions that arise is if you can bring support dogs or emotional support animals. It’s important to know the policies of the airline you’ll be flying. There are also guidelines for support dogs, as well. This blog post will provide an overview of the airline policies regarding ESAs, service dogs and other airline requirements so you’ll be able to make an informed decision on which airline to use for dog transportation.

Do Dogs Used as Emotional Support Animals Have Different Requirements?

Unfortunately, emotional support animals have been banned by most airlines. You can still bring them in the cabin if they are a small dog that fits in a carrier underneath your seat, but you’ll have to pay a pet fee. If you have a large dog, you may need to look for other options for animal transportation.

Flying with Service Dogs

All airlines accept trained service dogs and service animals on flights, which means they can travel in the cabin with you. If you have the proper documentation to prove that your dog is a trained service dog, then all is good to go. The fees are also waived for service animals on flights, too, which means you don’t have to worry about paying for your dog to be on the flight.

Ensure you have your Certificate of Veterinary Inspection and all vaccination documents with you, because that is a requirement for your dog to be on board.

Airline Requirements for Pet Travel

Breed

When it comes to breed, about 99% of breeds are accepted by all airlines, but if you are the unlucky 1% that have brachycephalic (or snub-nosed) dogs, like boxers, bulldogs or pugs, they are not allowed on flights at all. The flight poses a significant health risk to your dog.

Weight and Size

The weight and size of your dog (or pet in general) will determine whether they can go in the cabin. If you have a small dog that can fit inside a carrier under the seat in front of you, then you are in luck. The fee is usually between $90 and $125 for a one-way ticket.

If the dog cannot fit under the seat in front of you — for example, large dogs like golden retrievers or Doberman pinschers — it is seen as a checked pet and will be required to go in the cargo hold. This will increase the cost substantially. Keep in mind only a few airlines allow pets in the cargo hold for domestic flights and they are: Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines. American Airlines Cargo accepts large dogs too, but this is a different program from checked luggage.

Airline Approved Pet Carriers

There are two types of carriers that you must consider when buying them. Most airlines do not allow dogs in cargo, and so the pet carrier that you must buy must be small enough that it will fit under the seat in front of you. All airlines mandate that the pet carrier should be ventilated on all sides, as well. These carriers usually cost around $100.

Unlike Delta Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines who only allow pets to fly in the cabin, pet-friendly airlines like Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines do allow domestic checked pets (not just dogs and cats) in their flights. These larger crates can run up to about $200 and there are pet carrier size requirements that you must follow.

Pet Cargo Crate Requirements

  • Your pet should be able to stand up, turn around in the crate and ensure they do not touch the top.
  • The pet carrier 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.
  • The crate should be ventilated on all sides.
  • The crate should have your pet’s name and your contact information.
  • Water and food bowls need to be attached to the door and accessible from outside the crate.

What is the Cost of Flying with a Dog?

We’ve come to the juicy part of the article. The cost of flying with a dog is fairly simple. Most airlines, if you are traveling in the main cabin, usually have a pet fee of $125 one way domestically. Internationally the fee goes up slightly.

For airlines that do allow checked pets (or for international flights), cargo hold tickets usually range from $500 to $1000. As mentioned above, Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines are much more affordable with $225 and $100 pet fee, respectively. You will also have to invest in a durable, long lasting carrier that airlines require. Furthermore, Alaska Airlines allows a diverse selection of pets, not just cats and dogs.

It should be noted that most airlines allow pets in the cargo hold for international flights. If you’re traveling with a pet to France, you’re good to go.

Bottom Line

Unfortunately, the Department of Transportation classified emotional support animals as pets in 2021. That means airlines only allow trained service dogs on airplanes in the United States. While there are ways to travel with your furry friends, classifying them as an emotional support animal is no longer a viable strategy.