Whether you’re taking your furry friend on an extended vacation or looking for pet transportation options on your big cross-country move, planning can be stressful. Airlines that allow dogs have different pet policies, fees, and requirements. Sometimes the fine print can sneak up on you, so it’s important to understand what are the airlines that ship dogs and their policies.
Luckily, you’re already ahead of the game — below is a guide that makes comparing airlines that allow dogs easy and provides additional tips and resources to refer to along the way.
Making Sure Your Pup is Fit to Fly
Plan a Vet Visit
It’s always in your dog’s best interest to get a check-up before taking off on their journey — it will help prevent sickness or injury. Your vet will help you prepare a health certificate, update any necessary immunizations and possibly prescribe medications to make your pet’s travel smoother.
Some breeds of dogs are not suited for flying; for example, “snub-nosed” dogs, such as English and French bulldogs, boxers, pugs, and more, are not allowed on commercial flights due to the higher risk of oxygen deprivation or heat stroke.
A vet visit and completion of a health certificate will also fulfill health requirements set by your airline and destination state. The role of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in pet travel is to ensure the humane treatment of animals during transport. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website is a helpful tool for more information about health requirements on a state-by-state basis.
Acclimate Your Pup to Their Carrier or Crate
Your pet will spend an extended amount of time inside the crate you choose for their travel — think of it as their second home. Helping your pup adjust to their crate before takeoff will reduce anxiety on travel day. Filling the crate with familiar items such as blankets, toys, plushies, or an old t-shirt are great ways to create a positive association and make it feel more like home. Placing a treat or two inside couldn’t hurt, either!
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has a helpful guide to determine the dimensions needed for your specific dog’s crate. Most airlines base their crate standards for flights based on these guidelines.
The IATA Recommends an Appropriate Crate Have the Following Features:
- Enough space for your pet to move around freely in the sitting, standing and lying down positions without touching the sides or top of the crate.
- A structure made of wood, metal, or plastic. (Keep in mind, some airlines no longer allow plastic fasteners, so metal or wood may be necessary)
- Bowls for food and water inside the crate.
- Leak-proof material lining the inside of the crate.
- Ventilation on all four sides.
- A label with your pet’s name and your contact information.
Ways to Air Ship your Dog
As a Carry-on
Small dogs can fly as a carry-on, stowed beneath your seat for the duration of the flight. The general rule is that your pet must be 20 pounds or less. While researching the specific flight you want to catch, be sure your pet’s carrier falls under the maximum dimensions allowed. The space below your seat may vary slightly by aircraft, so refer to each airline’s policies below for the recommended maximum size.
If you’re unable to catch a flight with your furry friend, that’s OK! Pet shipping companies may offer the option to hire an air nanny — a trained professional who chaperones your pet. The air nanny will accompany your dog on their journey through check-in and security, to pet relief areas and onto the plane for the duration of the flight.
Cargo shipping your pet on a plane is another option if your pup is too large to be checked as a carry-on. They will be stowed below the plane’s main cabin in a designated area for animal cargo. Animal welfare activists and veterinarians warn that cargo shipping should be a last resort due to the health risks and stressors associated with this type of travel.
Airlines That Allow Dogs
The majority of airlines will allow for small dogs that fit size requirements to board the plane as a carry-on. In contrast, airlines that ship large dogs via cargo are very limited. Currently, Delta, American and Alaska are the only options.
Some of the most popular airlines that ship dogs are American, Delta, United, Southwest, and Alaska. Detailed below are each airline’s policies and prices.
American Airlines Policy on Shipping Dogs
American Airlines charges $125 each way to bring your dog as a carry-on. Each voluntary layover over four hours long will also add an additional $125 fee. Soft-sided kennels cannot exceed 18” x 11” x 11” (length + width + height). Hard-sided kennels can be no larger than 19” x 13” x 9.”
Notes For Cargo Shipping a Pet with American:
- Contact Reservations at least 48 hours prior to travel.
- Allow extra check-in time (two to four hours before your flight).
- Fees may apply if your flight contains a layover/connection of more than four hours.
- Prices vary depending on trip details and the size of your pet (the amount will be confirmed upon booking).
Delta Airlines Policy on Shipping Dogs
Delta Airlines charges $95 each way to bring your pet as a carry-on on the flight (if booked after February 28, 2022). Soft-sided kennels are acceptable with maximum dimensions of 18” x 11” x 11.” Hard-sided kennels are also accepted but cannot exceed 19” x 13” x 9.”
Notes For Cargo Shipping a Pet with Delta:
- Reservation for your pet cannot be booked until 14 days prior to departure.
- Allow at least two to four hours for the check-in process.
- You must drop off your dog at the cargo location at least three hours before departure time (usually at a location separate from passenger check-in).
- Prices vary depending on trip details and size of your pet (amount will be confirmed upon booking).
Alaska Policy on Shipping Dogs
Alaska Airlines charges $100 each way of travel for carry-on pets. Voluntary layovers for more than four hours during your pet’s trip are not permitted. Soft-sided kennels must be 17″ x 11″ x 9.5″ or under, and hard-sided kennels cannot exceed 17″ x 11″ x 7.5.”
Notes For Cargo Shipping a Pet with Alaska:
- Arrive two to four hours before the flight to complete the check-in process and verify necessary paperwork.
- Flight reservations are accepted a minimum of 24 hours and a maximum of 20 days prior to travel.
- You can track your pet’s flight with their air waybill number.
- If your pet is not picked up within four hours of the arrival time, you will be subject to additional charges.
- Prices vary depending on trip details and the size of your pet (the amount will be confirmed upon booking).
United Airlines Policy on Shipping Dogs
United Airlines charges a $125 fee for each way for bringing your pet as a carry-on. There is also a $125 fee for each voluntary layover of more than four hours. Soft-sided kennels must be 18” x 11” x 11” or smaller and hard-sided kennels cannot exceed 17.5” x 12” x 7.5.”
United no longer accepts cargo reservations for pets.
Southwest Policy on Shipping Dogs
Southwest Airlines charges a $95 fee each way for pets brought on the plane as a carry-on. Soft or hard-sided kennels are both accepted, with maximum dimensions of 18.5” x 8.5” x 13.5.”
Southwest does not allow pets in the cargo area.
Common Concerns When Air Shipping a Pet
- Limited space available on flights.
- Cancellations due to weather conditions: to comply with USDA standards, the cargo area must maintain a temperature below 85 °F (29.5 °C) and above 45 °F (7.2 °C) during the duration of your pet’s flight.
- Only one pet as a carry-on per person.
- No relief area on the flight.
- They restrict some breeds.
- Unfamiliar surroundings and changes in the environment can cause your pet stress.
Other Pet Transportation Options Besides Air Travel
When traveling cross-country, planes are usually our go-to as humans, but for pets, there are added benefits of staying on the ground. The following are some alternatives to flying.
Transport Via Train
Maybe you want to take the scenic route without getting behind the wheel. According to Amtrak, transporting your dog via train may have the cheapest pet fee, typically costing $30-$40, but some restrictions exist.
Amtrak’s policies are similar to bringing your pet as a carry-on on a plane:
- Only small dogs and cats that fit in their carrier under the seat allowed.
- Only one pet per passenger.
- Amtrak does not carry pets as cargo.
- Pets can only ride on routes seven hours or less.
Self Transport in Your Own Vehicle
Although short car rides to the park or running errands with your puppy pal can be a breeze, longer trips can be time-consuming and costly. You’ll need to budget for gas, food, lodging (if your trip is longer than a day), and associated costs.
In addition, you’ll need to plan your route ahead of time to account for pit stops every few hours. Adverse weather conditions can slow or even halt your trip for safety reasons.
Hire a Pet Transport Service
Hiring a pet transporter can alleviate some of the stresses of your dog’s long-distance travel plans. You can rest assured that your pup is in the hands of a professional driver and save money while doing so.
Yet, the search for one may become a hassle in itself. Finding a reliable dog transport service through web searches or local referrals can take hours or even days, and the results can be overwhelming. Pet shipping scams are becoming more common online, and it may be hard to decipher what sites and services are legitimate.
Finding the Right Dog Transporter
Luckily, by using a reputable online marketplace like CitizenShipper, you can connect with safe, efficient, background-checked transporters quick and easily.
Once you create a free listing detailing your pet’s transport needs (their name, age, desired arrival date and any other important notes), CitizenShipper matches you with a professional transporter happy to help out. All prospective transporters compete to take on your trip — this keeps costs low.
The Power of Feedback
Your furry best friend should be in the hands of a transporter that is qualified, experienced, and well-loved by past customers — these are good indications that they take their work seriously and love what they do.
When reviewing your options on CitizenShipper, you can refer to prospective transporters’ profiles to view the following:
- Reviews from past customers
- Rating on a 5-star scale
- How many trips the transporter has completed and canceled
Better Safe Than Sorry
In summary, your pet’s safety is a big deal — they’re a part of your family! Choosing a means of transportation that protects your pet, especially in the event of an accident, is crucial.
All transporters hired through CitizenShipper have access to a licensed vet through a 24/7 Televet platform called FirstVet. CitizenShipper also provides a pet protection policy at no cost. This short-term policy covers some or all expenses related to pet injuries, illnesses and other unexpected issues that may occur during transport.
Wrapping Up the Details
While there are several airlines that allow dogs aboard, the size restrictions and stacked fees can be limiting. When you choose a driver hired through CitizenShipper, you don’t have to sacrifice your pet’s safety or your savings — just a few hours apart from your beloved pup until they’re back in your arms again.
Paige Strickland is a content writer with a background in journalism. She is an advocate for animals, the environment, and local issues.
I checked all these for shipping my dog in cargo they said no sooo? Yes or no
Hi Jean, due to the pandemic situation the rules can change on the fly, unfortunately, so checking with the airlines is a smart start. Dogs in cargo also have restrictions based sometimes on breed or size. The safest way to ship is via ground transportation. We offer many options for ground shipping with our certified drivers that you can interview and get quotes from before you choose the driver you like best. Give it a try
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