Pet Air Transport: How to Fly With Pets

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated February 23, 2024

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Air transport is fast, efficient and can help you move across the country in just a few hours. Flying with pets doesn’t have to be difficult once you know what to expect. Navigating the airline restrictions and requirements ahead of time will help keep your pet comfortable and stress-free throughout the journey.

What Options are There for Pet Air Transport?

The size and breed of your pet will largely dictate what type of pet air transport is appropriate. While smaller dogs and cats may be allowed to ride in the main cabin, flights can accommodate large dogs too. Air transport is safe for pets of all sizes and can be an efficient option for long-distance pet transport.

Airline Cabin

Flying in the cabin is an option for smaller pets, usually under 20 pounds. Most major airlines will happily transport cats and dogs as part of the owner’s “carry-on” luggage. There are restrictions to pets allowed in the main cabin. Pets must remain in their carrier for the flight’s duration, and certain seats, like exit rows, prohibit furry companions.

Pet Shipping with CitizenShipper

Flights usually limit the number of pets allowed onboard in the cabin, and most airlines limit one pet per person. You must purchase your pet tickets ahead of time to let your pet ride in the main cabin.

Airline Cargo

Larger dogs that will not fit in a carrier must fly as part of the airline cargo. Flying in the cargo hold is very safe for pets, despite the myths surrounding airline travel for pets. Strict regulations surrounding the size and shape of the dog crate help keep pets safe throughout the flight. Cargo hold spaces must be reserved well in advance, and prices vary depending on the size of your dog and the flight duration. Some airlines do not allow pets to travel in cargo. American Airlines, Delta and Alaska Airlines are among the airlines that allow pets to travel in the cargo hold. 

Snub-nosed dogs and cats, called brachycephalic breeds, cannot fly on airplanes. Their shortened snout can cause breathing complications as the plane changes pressure. Common snub-nosed dog breeds include Pugs, Boxers, and French Bulldogs. Brachycephalic cat breeds include Himalayans, Persians, and Burmese cats.

Air Nannies

Hiring an air nanny could be a great solution if you’re looking for a safe, convenient, and affordable option for pet air transportation. Air nannies can accompany your pet, whether they’re flying in the cabin or cargo hold. An air nanny can sit with your pet on the plane (if they’re traveling in the cabin) and will help with your pet during layovers.

How Do Air Nanny Services on CitizenShipper work?

When hiring an air nanny, you hire a companion to travel alongside your pet. The air nanny will stay with your small cat or dog throughout its journey and through any necessary layovers.

An air nanny is also a great option for new puppies and kittens. Breeders often work with air nannies to ensure their new litter safely reaches their forever homes. Pricing for air nannies differs based on the flight duration and distance traveled. Some air nannies may cost a few hundred dollars, while longer trips cost $1,500 or more. You will also need to pay for the air nanny’s plane ticket, which will be round-trip in most cases. Professional air nannies are experienced travelers passionate about animal care and well-being.

How Does Pet Air Transport Work?

Most people don’t fly with their pets all the time, so it’s normal to have questions about logistics. Understanding how to fly your pets will take some guesswork and stress out of your trip.

First, research your flight options well in advance. You want to make sure your airline permits pets. Verify size requirements for a pet to ride in the cabin in a crate or the availability of space in the cargo hold.

Next, reserve both your ticket and your pet’s. Airlines usually have a limit of two to five pets per plane (depending on the aircraft size), so it’s essential to reserve your pet’s space in the cabin. Pricing varies between airlines, so ask for accurate quotes when booking your pet’s ticket.

Be sure you have the necessary documentation and certifications for your pet. Airlines and arriving states may require proof of vaccination or a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection. These documents are commonly required if you are using a pet transport service or an air nanny.

Preparing for Pet Air Transport

Air transport takes careful planning to ensure you and your pet safely reach the final destination. With the correct planning, tackling even a cross country trip with your pet is easy.

Be sure to prepare ahead of time to ensure you have the correct:

  • Carrier – Get an appropriate carrier for your pet. Airlines have strict size regulations. Carriers must be big enough for your pet to sit, stand, or lie down comfortably. Pet carriers must also be leak-proof and have plenty of ventilation.
  • Vet Visit – Before flying, take your pet to the vet for a wellness exam. Let your veterinarian know about your travel plans, including the flight duration. Your vet will examine your pet and ensure it is healthy for long travel.
  • Documentation – Many airlines require a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection, or a CVI, for safe travel. The vet issues this certificate, ensuring your pet is safe to fly. CVI documentation is usually valid if administered within ten days of the travel date.
  • Identification – Ensure your pet has the correct contact phone number on its tags. Identification tags and microchips should be up-to-date. You want authorities to be able to contact you if necessary.

How Much Does Pet Air Transport Cost?

Most major airlines will allow pets aboard the main cabin if they are small enough to fit in a carrier under the seat. Pricing will vary between airlines, but most domestic pricing remains consistent.


United Airlines charges $125 per pet each way to fly in the main cabin. Pets are limited to one per person, with a cap of two to six pets per plane, depending on the airplane model. Pet owners must check in with a customer service representative before boarding their aircraft to ensure their pet carrier is the correct size.


For domestic flights, Delta charges $125 for pets to fly in the main cabin. International flights will cost $200 for pets. Two to four pets are allowed per flight, pending the aircraft size.

American Airlines

American Airlines will allow pets in the plane’s main cabin if they can comfortably fit in their carrier under the seat. The charge for a pet is $125 each way. Pets flying in the main cabin will require a CVI within ten days of your travel.

Air Nanny

The cost for an air nanny will vary depending on the trip duration and animal. Longer flights tend to cost more than shorter flights. Older cats and dogs are usually cheaper than younger animals. Although puppies and kittens are small, they require more care, increasing the transport cost.

Cargo Costs

If your pet is too large to fly in the main cabin, or if you’re traveling with multiple pets, your pets may have to fly in the cargo hold. Cargo is safe for pets, with strict rules surrounding your pet crate to keep your pet secure throughout the flight. Cargo costs vary depending on your pet’s size and the flight’s duration. Always reach out directly to your airline to get accurate pricing and to reserve your pet’s place in the cargo hold.

Before you travel with your pet, it's important to know the airlines that ship dogs.

Tips for Pet Air Transport

Most people don’t fly with their pets often, so having questions about the process and preparation is normal. Preparing in advance can keep both you and your pet stress-free. Mitigating stress and reducing travel time can help keep your pet healthy, happy, and safe.

Arrive at the Airport Early

Be sure to give yourself plenty of time when flying with your pet. When you rush to the airport, your pets can feel your anxiety and stress. Most major airlines will require a stop at their customer service desk with your pet before boarding. The customer service representative will ensure your pet is in the right-sized carrier approved for travel in the cabin.

Book Non-Stop Flights when Possible

Although it’s not always possible, booking non-stop flights when traveling with a pet is best. Non-stop flights reduce the time spent in a carrier and eliminate the need for long layovers.

If a non-stop flight isn’t available, all major airports will have a pet relief area. Stop at the relief area when you land and before taking off for your next flight. Some airports even have kennels to keep your pet safe for extended layovers.

Give Your Pet Exercise

You’ll want to exercise your pet as much as possible before your flight. Allowing your pet to release energy before your flight can make your pet less stressed. Plus, your pet will sit or lie down for a long time during the flight, so some exercise will help it stretch its legs.

No Solid Food

While you don’t want to starve your pet before a flight, avoid feeding your pet solid food a few hours before arriving at the airport. Solid food can upset a sensitive stomach worsened by motion sickness and increase the chances of an accident.

Give your cat or dog plenty of water, but ensure your pet can go to the bathroom before boarding the plane.

Find Pet Relief Areas

Most major airports will have a pet relief area. This space is a designated part of the airport where pets can come out of their carrier and use the bathroom. Before arriving at the airport, research the pet relief area location. One last bathroom break to eliminate your pet’s bladder will prevent accidents mid-flight. Once you land, immediately take your pet to the relief area.

If you have a layover, wait as long as possible before boarding your next flight. Before continuing your journey, visit the pet relief area for one last bathroom break. Walking around the pet relief area before your flight will allow your pet to exercise before riding in a carrier again.

Alternatives to Pet Air Transport

Sometimes you need an alternative to air transport. Large dogs or snub-nosed breeds that can’t fly require ground transport. Ground transport can take a little longer but is often smoother and cost-effective for your travel budget. A well-regarded pet transport service like CitizenShipper will help you iron out complicated logistics and keep your pet safe.

Pet Transport Service

A pet transport service is a convenient and safe way to get your pets to your final location. A pet transport service picks up your pet, accompanies them along the drive, and delivers them to your front door. These services are budget-friendly and completed by caring, vetted, and experienced pet transportation experts.

How It Works

CitizenShipper is an online community that connects pet owners with pet transporters. As the #1 pet transport marketplace, CitizenShipper has more than 14 years of experience and our transporters have safely delivered 77,500+ pets. Using CitizenShipper is easy; to begin your journey, you’ll need to:

  • Register – Register using our online platform. We only need some basic information about your pet and your trip details. Listing your trip is always free with CitizenShipper.
  • Choose Driver – Drivers will send you price quotes for your trip. You’ll have the chance to read about each driver and message them directly to ask questions. Once you choose a driver, you’re ready to start your journey.
  • Success Fee – CitizenShipper will charge a nominal fee when you finalize your driver. We strive to keep the overall pet transport cost manageable. We calculate the fee based on the total miles included in your trip. You’ll pay your pet transporter separately using the driver’s preferred payment platform.
  • Updates – Your pet transporter will pick up your pet and begin the journey. You’ll be able to message your driver and receive up-to-date photos and videos of your pet along the way.
  • Rate and Review – After your pet is safely in your arms, you can rate and review your transporter. If you were happy with the experience, tell others in our pet transport community!

Pet Air Transport FAQs

Asking questions can help you better understand the process for pet air travel. With more knowledge and information, you can make better-informed decisions that keep your pet safe and stress-free.

Is flying stressful for pets?

Pets subject to new environments will experience some amount of stress. A busy airport and airplane can be frightening for cats and dogs. Take steps ahead of time to prepare your pet for a flight. Make sure to get your pet used to its carrier well in advance, and give your pet plenty of comfort items. A favorite blanket or toy in the carrier can help soothe a stressed or anxious pet.

Can you buy your dog a seat on a plane?

While you can’t buy your dog a seat on the plane, you can buy a space in the cabin. If your dog is small, usually under 20 pounds, and can fit in a carrier under the seat, it can fly with you. Your dog will have to stay in their crate for the flight, but you’ll be able to keep a close eye on your pet.

The only exception to this rule is service animals. While there is typically no charge for service dogs to fly on a plane, if the dog is large, owners may have to purchase a seat for their service dog to fly next to them.

Is airplane cargo safe for pets?

Some pet owners have a negative view of flying pets in the cargo hold. False myths have circulated about this method of pet transport for years. Flying in the cargo is very safe for pets, and airlines strictly regulate the restrictions surrounding keeping pets in the cargo hold.

Pets in the cargo hold need a hard-sided crate with plenty of room. Sedatives are prohibited to protect the dog’s health. The temperature and pressure remain constant in the cargo hold, keeping your pet safe throughout the flight. Certain airlines, like Delta, even have special CarePods, used for shipping pets in the cargo hold, that help keep your pet safe.

Which airlines allow pet air transport?

Most major airlines allow pets to fly in the main cabin, pending they can fit comfortably in a small carrier under the seat. Major airlines, including United, Delta, American, Spirit, Frontier, and Southwest, will allow pets to ride in the cargo hold.

Each airline charges slightly different rates for domestic flights and has further size restrictions for the crates. Be sure to reserve your pet’s place in the cabin well in advance and read any specific regulations required for bringing your pet aboard.


Transporting pets by air doesn’t have to be tricky. Understanding the rules and regulations before flying can create a straightforward trip for you and your pet. Pet transport services, like CitizenShipper, can help take the guesswork out of pet air transport. By reducing stress levels and making a more efficient process, you’ll enjoy traveling with your pet, even across the country.