The Pros and Cons of Using United Airlines for Pet Shipping

Rochdi Rais Rochdi Rais · Updated February 7, 2024

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Traveling with pets can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to choosing the right airline for their transportation. United Airlines is one such option that offers pet shipping services. This article will explore the pros and cons of using United Airlines for pet shipping, comparing it to alternatives such as Jetblue or Alaskan Airlines. This comprehensive guide will help you determine your beloved companion’s travel needs.

Pros of Using United Airlines for Pet Shipping

  1. Dedicated PetSafe Program: United Airlines offers a dedicated pet shipping program called PetSafe, designed to provide a safe and comfortable travel experience for your pets. This program ensures that pets are handled with care and attention throughout the journey.
  2. Temperature-Controlled Environment: United Airlines ensures that pets are transported in a temperature-controlled environment, minimizing the risk of temperature-related health issues.
  3. Multiple Pet Shipping Options: United Airlines offers various pet shipping options, such as in-cabin, checked baggage, and cargo. This allows you to choose the most suitable option for your pet’s size and breed.
  4. Experienced Pet Handlers: The airline employs trained and experienced pet handlers who are well-versed in handling pets and ensuring their safety during transit.
  5. Global Reach: United Airlines has an extensive network covering over 300 destinations worldwide. This makes shipping your pet to a wide range of locations easier.

Cons of Using United Airlines for Pet Shipping

  1. Limited In-Cabin Availability: United Airlines only allows small pets to travel in the cabin. Larger pets must be shipped as checked baggage or cargo, which may not be suitable for some pet owners.
  2. Breed Restrictions: Certain dog and cat breeds are prohibited on United Airlines flights due to health and safety concerns. Make sure to check if your pet’s breed is eligible before booking.
  3. High Shipping Costs: Shipping pets with United Airlines can be expensive, especially compared to other airlines like Jetblue. The cost of pet shipping may be a significant factor in your decision-making process.
  4. Incidents of Pet Injuries and Deaths: United Airlines has faced criticism for a relatively high number of pet injuries and deaths in the past. However, the airline has tried to improve its pet shipping services, resulting in a decline in such incidents.
  5. Strict Regulations: United Airlines has strict pet shipping regulations, such as crate size requirements and health documentation. Navigating these regulations can be complicated, adding stress to your pet’s travel experience.

Comparing United Airlines With Jetblue

Before choosing United Airlines for pet shipping, it’s crucial to compare it with other options, such as Jetblue pet policy. Jetblue offers a pet-friendly travel experience, allowing small pets to travel in the cabin at a lower fee than United Airlines. However, Jetblue does not offer pet shipping services such as checked baggage or cargo, limiting the options for larger pets.

Tips for a Smooth Pet Shipping Experience with United Airlines

To make the pet shipping process as smooth as possible with United Airlines, follow these tips:

  1. Book Early: Reserve your pet’s spot on the flight well in advance to ensure availability and to allow sufficient time for preparing the necessary paperwork.
  2. Familiarize Yourself with Regulations: Review United Airlines’ pet shipping regulations and requirements, such as crate size, health documentation, and breed restrictions. This will help you avoid last-minute surprises and potential delays.
  3. Choose the Right Crate: Select a crate that meets United Airlines’ requirements and provides ample space for your pet to move comfortably. Invest in a high-quality, sturdy crate to ensure your pet’s safety during transit.
  4. Prepare Your Pet: Help your pet acclimate to the crate by allowing them to spend time in it before the trip. This will help reduce anxiety during travel. Additionally, ensure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations and has a clean bill of health from a veterinarian.
  5. Label the Crate: Label the crate with your pet’s name, contact information, and special handling instructions. This will help United Airlines’ pet handlers care for your pet effectively during transit.
  6. Pack Essential Supplies: Include essential supplies like food, water, and any necessary medications in your pet’s crate. Attach a copy of your pet’s health documentation to the crate as well.
  7. Monitor Weather Conditions: Monitor the weather conditions at your departure and arrival locations. Extreme temperatures can impact your pet’s travel experience, so be prepared to make adjustments if needed.
  8. Stay Informed: Stay in touch with United Airlines’ pet shipping updates and notifications, ensuring you know of any changes or delays.

By following these tips and carefully weighing the pros and cons of using United Airlines for pet shipping, you can make the best decision for your furry friend’s travel needs. Remember, the safety and comfort of your pet should always be your top priority when selecting an airline for pet transportation.

All About United Airlines Pet Shipping

Carry-On Pets

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. Check in at the counter several hours in advance. You should also have the required paperwork — a health certificate or international health certificate, if traveling internationally. Rabies vaccines must be made 28 days before travel. United Airlines does not offer a Cargo option at this time.

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” for soft-sided carriers and 17.5” x 7.5” x 12” for hard-sided carriers.
  • Your pet must be inside of the carrier at all times. 


One-way ticket prices are $125 for domestic and international travel.

FAQs About United Airlines Pet Shipping

This section will address some common questions and concerns regarding United Airlines pet shipping services.

How far in advance should I book my pet’s reservation with United Airlines?

It is recommended to book your pet’s reservation as early as possible, preferably at least several weeks before your planned departure date. This will ensure availability and give you ample time to prepare the necessary paperwork and make necessary arrangements.

Are there any size or weight restrictions for pets traveling on United Airlines?

Yes, United Airlines has size and weight restrictions for pets traveling in the cabin, as checked baggage, or as cargo. Small pets can travel in the cabin if they meet the weight and size limits, which include the combined weight of the pet and its carrier.

Larger pets must be transported as checked baggage or cargo, subject to certain limitations. It is crucial to verify the specific restrictions for your pet before booking.

Can my pet travel with me in the cabin on a United Airlines flight?

Small pets, such as cats, dogs, and rabbits, can travel in the cabin on United Airlines flights, provided they meet the size and weight restrictions. Your pet must be in an approved carrier that fits under the seat in front of you. Keep in mind that in-cabin pet reservations are limited and subject to availability.

How can I ensure my pet’s safety and comfort during the flight?

To ensure your pet’s safety and comfort during the flight, invest in a high-quality, appropriately-sized crate, familiarize your pet with the crate before the trip, and follow United Airlines’ pet shipping regulations. Additionally, label the crate with your pet’s information and any special handling instructions.

What if my pet has special needs or requires medication during the flight?

If your pet has special needs or requires medication during the flight, inform United Airlines when booking the reservation. Attach clear instructions regarding your pet’s medical requirements to the crate. Sometimes, you may need to provide a veterinarian health certificate indicating your pet is fit to fly.

How can I track my pet’s progress during the flight?

You can track your pet’s progress during the flight by signing up for United Airlines’ notification service, which provides updates on your pet’s status via email or text message.

What should I do if my pet is lost or delayed during transit?

Contact United Airlines’ customer service immediately if your pet is lost or delayed during transit. They will assist you in locating your pet and addressing any concerns or issues that may have arisen during the journey.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, the pros and cons of using United Airlines for pet shipping depend on various factors, such as your pet’s size, breed, and travel requirements. While United Airlines offers a dedicated pet shipping program with global reach, it also has limitations like breed restrictions and high shipping costs. Comparing United Airlines with alternatives like Jetblue’s pet policy is essential to make an informed decision.

Ultimately, you must weigh the advantages and drawbacks of each airline, considering your pet’s specific needs and preferences. By thoroughly researching and comparing options, you can ensure a safe and comfortable journey for your beloved companion.