It’s estimated that two million domestic animals travel on commercial flights each year. In the US, that’s 6% of all pets.
Dogs account for more than half, and airlines respond to that demand. Cats, on the other hand, make up only 22% of jet-setting pets.
With so few owners bringing cats into the cabin, do airlines make as much effort to accommodate them?
Cat owners have a right to know. Safety statistics and liability policies need to be checked. If only there were a place to easily compare them…
Ladies and gentlemen, return your seats to the upright position. Here are ten airlines your cat will thank you for choosing.
10 Airlines that Ship Cats
1. Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines’ Fur-st Class Care program is designed with cat owners’ concerns in mind. You will receive notifications when your cat is safely onboard and when they have disembarked. Cats flying in the cabin must stay at the passenger’s feet, with cat treats available from the cabin staff.
Cats must be at least eight weeks old, and no more than two per person. However, brachycephalic breeds need to travel in the cabin, not as cargo, if they are to fly at all. Cat lovers choose Alaska Airlines for the convenience, low cost and largely good customer feedback.
Price per cat: $100
2. Allegiant Air
Allegiant Air makes the check-in process easy for cat owners. You can book a ticket for your cat at the same time as your own, without doubling up. Cats do not need health certificates to fly since all flights are within the US mainland, San Juan and Puerto Rico. This makes check-in easy, quick, and hassle-free.
Allegiant is also the only airline that allows minors to travel with pets. 15-18 year olds traveling with cats will benefit most from Allegiant.
On a likewise note, Allegiant has no minimum age for pets. Kittens are welcome on any flight. Allegiant Air is the first choice for young travelers and young cats, and their fares are decent.
Price per cat: $100
3. American Airlines
Traveling to the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, Colombia, and the Caribbean, cats are permitted.
In first or business class, cats need to be stored in a carrier, which will be transferred to a special compartment at the front of the plane during lift-off and landing. This is a safety precaution other airlines do not take: a commendable one. But some cat owners do not like to be deprived during these times when a furry friend can help reduce stress. The choice is personal, but feedback from this airline’s pet owners is mostly positive.
Cats must be eight weeks old to fly, and the flight must be less than twelve hours.
Price per cat: $125
4. Delta Airlines
Ten years ago, 41 out of 97 in-flight animal deaths happened aboard Delta Airlines. True, Delta carries more animals than their competitors, but the resulting PR backlash was enough to change things for the better. By 2018, that figure was down to 4 (out of 21). So, despite the initial bad press, your cat is in safe hands with Delta.
Delta also has the most generous size restrictions for animals in the cabin. While most cat owners won’t see the benefit (cats meet the pet size requirements of almost any airline,) it’s still a factor to consider. Is your cat likely to be skittish in the sight of a Doberman under the seat in front?
If you choose to fly your cat in cargo, Delta Cargo has you covered. It was recently awarded the Air Cargo Excellence Gold Award. By either method, there’s no need to be concerned for your pet’s safety.
The greatest advantage Delta has over other airlines is the award-winning Delta Cargo, but that may not benefit owners who wish to bring their cats into the cabin. All in all: a reasonably accommodating airline for cats.
Price per cat: $125 (in US), $200 (outside US)
5. Frontier Airlines
For flights within the US, Frontier doesn’t demand a health certificate for your cat. Internationally, you will need to provide one, but the check-in process is extremely simple for flights within the 50 states.
It is also the most affordable major American airline for cat owners. No cargo storage for pets may prejudice some people against it, particularly those with animals unsuitable for bringing into the cabin. But the cabins are spacious and the price is attractive to any cat owner on a budget.
Price per cat: $75
6. Hawaiian Airlines
The state of Hawaii is strict on incoming pets. An animal arriving in Hawaii without the right vaccinations will be placed in mandatory quarantine. What’s more, pets flying to and from JFK airport are prohibited en bloc.
Hawaii’s restrictions show a keen desire to preserve animal health, but passengers looking to bring pets to the Aloha State ought to be aware of this before they set off. Hawaiian Airlines also offers no in-cabin space for pets. All cats and dogs must travel under the plane.
Despite the restrictions – or perhaps because of them! – Hawaiian Airlines holds a strong safety record for pet transport.
Price per cat: $35 (inter-island), $175 (other)
JetBlue has been called the best US airline for pet amenities. There is even a program called JetPaws, giving owners tips and tools for a smooth trip with their pet. It’s free, and you can earn TrueBlue points for every flight your pet takes.
JetBlue does not allow large dogs, but cat owners have nothing to fear – nor do their cats, with no big dogs to bark at them.
JetBlue allows only one cat per person, although exceptions can be made for kittens.
Price per cat: $125
8. Southwest Airlines
For the safety of pets and passengers, Southwest demands your cat be vaccinated before boarding. Southwest does not take pets in their cargo, so your furry friend will need to travel in a carrier that fits under your seat.
But if you’re traveling overseas, Southwest isn’t the answer. Cats can be transported within the US only.
Southwest ranked second in a recent pet travel survey. They are conscientious about pet transit and do not require health documentation for pets, since all pet-carrying flights are within the US. And for the price, Southwest is second only to Frontier. A safe choice for cat lovers.
Price per cat: $95
9. Spirit Airlines
There’s one big advantage for cat owners flying with Spirit. Cats can feel anxious when cooped up for too long, and the carrier size restrictions of most airlines can be hard on the feline psyche. Spirit allows spacious carriers into the cabin (18 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches), giving your cat room to stretch and pace.
While policy dictates that cats, like other animals, do not travel in the cargo hold, they are welcome in the cabin in large carriers. As such, Spirit may offer the most luxurious traveling option for cats across all airlines.
Price per cat: $110
In 2012, United Airlines reported 12 animal deaths on their planes. In 2017, that number was 18 (out of 138,178). In perspective, that’s only 0.01% of all animals on United planes – but still higher than other airlines. For some pet owners, that’s a black mark they can’t overlook. For others, those are still safe odds. And for the owners of “snub-nosed” cats and dogs, United can be the only option.
At least four cat breeds—Burmese, Persian, Himalayan, and exotic short-hair—can be defined as “snub-nosed.” That means they have respiratory difficulties that can endanger them in flight, and for that reason, many airlines refuse to transport brachycephalic pets. United’s 0.01% death rate for pets can be attributed almost entirely to their decision to allow ‘snub-nosed’ pets aboard.
But if you own a Persian cat and absolutely must fly, there’s no other choice.
United Airlines’ pet transportation service, PetSafe, has partnered with American Humane to improve their shipping processes for pets not brought into the cabin, so this is a safer option for cat lovers. Pet transport in the cabin is, however, reasonably priced.
Price per cat: $125
Are airlines my only option?
Not all cat owners are happy to entrust their cat to a busy commercial airline. The experience can be traumatic for some pets, especially if they are flying in cargo. Most airlines do not have the leeway to treat each cat with individual care, so owners will often seek a more fur-friendly service.
CitizenShipper is a bespoke shipping service with a stand-out reputation for transporting pets. (You can read our reviews here.) Unlike airlines, our vetted and certified drivers like to know the names of their travel buddies and any purr-tinent details about them before beginning the trip.
The process is easy: Simply post details of the journey your cat will make and let the quotes come to you. Choose a driver you like, one with experience of caring for cats on the road. Then relax, knowing your cat will be in safe and attentive hands-on their interstate trip.
We know all cats deserve a paw-sitive experience! So get in touch today and learn more about our pet transportation service.
Last updated at December 15, 2021