How to Ship a Dog to Another State by Plane and What Does it Cost | CitizenShipper

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated February 23, 2024

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When you want to transport a dog long distances, there are two typical options: ground transport and air transport. While ground transportation typically takes longer, it doesn’t require as much pre-trip planning as air travel with a pet. However, air transport is a much faster option. And many people use air travel as a means to transport their pets. In fact, according to IPATA, over 4 million pets are transported via plane. Here’s a guide on how to ship a dog to another state by plane, detailing the preparation, paperwork, airline fees and potential health hazards.

The guidelines for how to transport a dog by plane vary by airline. However, there are a few general rules that apply in every circumstance.

How to Ship a Dog to Another State by Plane?

Federal and commercial regulations determine if an animal can travel by air. Here are the conditions your dog must meet:

  • The dog must be at least eight weeks old — for international flights, airlines increase the age minimum to 15 weeks.
  • Animals with debilitating injuries or illnesses cannot fly.
  • No serious behavioral issues are allowed.
  • Airlines don’t allow cats and dogs of a brachycephalic breed.

Unfortunately, many pets don’t meet these standards. If this is the case with your dog, you’ll have to go with ground transportation.

If your pet meets these requirements, the next step is collecting all the necessary documentation.

This typically includes the following:

  • Certificate of veterinary inspection
  • Vaccination certifications
  • Import permit or pet passport (for international travel)

These documents must be issued by a licensed veterinarian within the specific time period prescribed by your airline. Depending on the destination, additional documents or immunizations may be required.


In Cabin Transport

If you have a smaller breed of dog, it can fly in the cabin of the airplane as a carry on. If you go this route, you’ll need to buy a pet ticket for your dog. The cost of this ticket varies greatly, ranging from $50 all the way up to $500. The requirements for pets to fly in the cabin are:

  • The carrier has to be large enough for the dog to stand up and move around comfortably. You can’t simply stuff a medium-size dog into a carrier for a small dog.
  • A carrier must be able to fit under the seat and not block the aisle.

Cargo Transport

If you have a large dog that needs to be transported via airplane, it’ll need to travel in the cargo area. There are horror stories about animal mistreatment in the cargo area of a plane, but it’s actually pretty safe. In 2021 released a report highlighting the safest and most dangerous airlines for pets.

  • Alaskan Airlines transported the most pets in the period between January 2015 and December 2020 and had an average incident rate of .26 per 10,000 pets transported. In 2020, the airline transported over 100,000 pets with no incidents. Incidents could be lost, injured or deceased pets.
  • Horizon Air, Skywest Airlines and Envoy Air are three more airlines to transport over 10,000 pets with no incidents.
  • United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines have the highest incident rates, with United averaging an incident rate of 2.03 and Hawaiian a rate of 1.6.
  • Delta averages an incident rate of 1.05 and American Airlines has an average rate of .71.

One important aspect that helps answer the question of how to transport a pet by plane is selecting the right carrier. If you don’t use the correct carrier, the airline may refuse to accept your pet. These requirements include:

  • The carrier has to be large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around.
  • A locking system that keeps the pet secure is required.
  • A water bowl and food bowl that is attached to the carrier is required. The bowls must be accessible from outside the carrier.
  • All four sides of the carrier must have ventilation.
  • The fasteners have to be made out of metal and not plastic.
  • Be sure to include the pets name and your contact info in a highly visible location on the carrier.

How Much Does Shipping a Dog on a Plane Cost?

Assuming you meet the requirements listed above, let’s look into the cost of pet air transport. In most cases, a fee for pet transportation is tacked onto the price of your ticket. These vary by airline and by destination — from about $75 to several hundred dollars. There are several exceptions, though. For example, service animals usually fly for free, as do emotional support animals. If your dog’s in one of these categories, you might be able to bring them on at no extra charge. The costs involved also vary depending on how you want your dog to fly. Smaller breeds (under 15 lbs, fits under a seat) can be brought into the cabin as carry-on luggage. Larger breeds can only fly inside the cargo compartment, with your luggage. The latter option is cheaper but less safe — dogs face certain health hazards on a flight.

How to Keep a Dog Safe on an Airplane

By now, most owners and breeders know the difficulties associated with safely transporting pets by air. The health of the animal is everyone’s top priority, so let’s recap some of the potential problems:

  • Temperatures can vary widely in air travel, putting animals at risk of heatstroke.
  • Shifts in air pressure spell trouble for pets with breathing difficulties/heart conditions.
  • Short-nosed (brachycephalic) dogs are especially vulnerable to oxygen deprivation.
  • Dogs with anxiety issues can find air travel containment extremely difficult.
  • Sedating the animals sometimes helps, but brings its own host of potential problems.

This is why it’s strongly recommended that you consult with your vet before planning to ship a dog on a plane. Once you get the all-clear, you can board the plane with them. Optionally, you could always hire a professional air nanny to handle the trip for you. The biggest downside to hiring an air nanny is that you’ll need to buy a roundtrip ticket for them in addition to the one-way ticket for your pet.

Alternatives to Pet Air Transport

Considering the prices, the paperwork, and the risks, you might be wondering what other options there are. Ground-based transportation is an obvious alternative to shipping a dog on a plane. Online marketplaces offer access to affordable, reliable pet transporters. You list a shipment, they send their quotes. You browse through their reviews until you find the right person to entrust with the responsibility of driving your furry friend.

Now You Know How to Ship a Dog to Another State by Plane

Now we hope you have all the details to know on how to transport a dog on a plane? Since pets are very close to all of us, always ensure your dog or puppy is healthy and doesn’t panic much when you are not around. Whenever you are using a service, do read the reviews as they speak volumes of how previous pet owners are satisfied with the service or not.