The Top Pet-Friendly Airlines in America in 2023

There are many airlines that allow pets on board, either in the cabin or in the cargo hold. Some airlines that are known for being pet-friendly include:

  • Air Canada
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines

However, it is important to note that each airline has its own policies and fees for traveling with pets, and some breeds may not be allowed on certain flights. It is also important to ensure that your pet is healthy enough to travel and that you have all the necessary documentation. It is best to check with the specific airline you plan to fly with for their pet travel policies and requirements.

Is flying safe for pets?

No one can deny that air travel can be stressful, both for humans and animals. The unfamiliar surroundings, new smells, and loud noises can be overwhelming for pets, leading to anxiety and even panic. Despite these potential risks, flying with your pet is generally safe when certain precautions are taken.

Here are a few tips to help make flying with your pet a smooth and safe experience.

  1. Make sure your pet is healthy enough to travel: Flying can put a lot of stress on an animal’s body, so it’s important to make sure they are up for the journey. If your pet has any underlying health conditions, check with your veterinarian to see if air travel is right for them.
  2. Do your research: Not all airlines have the same pet policies, so it’s important to find one that will accommodate your pet’s needs. Some airlines only allow small dogs and cats in the cabin, while others will allow larger animals to travel in the cargo hold. Make sure you know the restrictions and requirements of the airline you’ll be flying with before booking your tickets.
  3. Prepare your pet for the journey: If possible, take your pet on a short flight beforehand to get them accustomed to the experience. If that’s not possible, try to acclimate them to their carrier in the weeks leading up to the trip. This will help reduce their stress on the day of travel.

Best U.S. airlines for pet travel

While many people view their pets as family members, not all airlines make it easy to travel with them. Some airlines have policies and procedures that make it more difficult than necessary to travel with your pet, while others go out of their way to make the experience as seamless as possible. If you’re planning on flying with your pet, you’ll want to make sure you’re booking a flight with an airline that will accommodate you and your furry friend.

Some of the best U.S. airlines for pet travel include:

  • Delta Air Lines: They allow dogs, cats, and household birds to travel in the cabin or as checked baggage, and have a dedicated pet travel team to assist with the process.
  • American Airlines: They allow dogs, cats, and household birds to travel in the cabin or as checked baggage, and have a pet travel desk to assist with planning and booking.
  • United Airlines: They allow dogs, cats, and household birds to travel in the cabin or as checked baggage, and have a pet travel program that includes pre-flight information, travel tips, and a pet travel coordinator.
  • Southwest Airlines: They allow small dogs and cats to travel in the cabin, and have a pet travel policy that allows for flexibility and accommodations.

It’s important to note that each airline has its own set of rules and regulations for pet travel, so it’s best to check with the airline directly for specific information.

How to prepare your pet for travel

Here are some steps you can take to prepare your pet for travel:
  1. Consult with your veterinarian: Make sure your pet is healthy enough to travel and get any necessary vaccinations or health certificates.
  2. Get your pet used to their carrier: Start by placing familiar items such as their bedding or a favorite toy inside the carrier. Gradually increase the time your pet spends in the carrier over the days or weeks leading up to the trip.
  3. Familiarize your pet with the sights and sounds of travel: Play recordings of airport or airplane noises, or take your pet on a test drive to the airport.
  4. Ensure your pet is properly identified: Make sure your pet has a collar with an ID tag, and consider microchipping them as an added precaution.
  5. Pack familiar items: Bring along your pet’s favorite toys, bedding, or food to make them feel more at ease.
  6. Plan ahead: Research the airline’s pet travel policies and regulations, and make reservations well in advance.
  7. Familiarize with new location: Research the location you will be visiting and familiarize yourself with any pet-related regulations, such as leash laws or pet-friendly spaces.

It’s also a good idea to consider your pet’s behavior and personality, and to make a decision based on that. Some pets may be more prone to stress and anxiety, and may require special preparation or accommodations.

Flying with a service dog

Flying with a service dog can be a bit more complex than flying with a pet. Here are some things to keep in mind:
  1. Documentations: You will need to provide documentation, such as a letter from a licensed healthcare professional, that verifies that your dog is a service dog and that you have a disability that requires the use of a service dog.
  2. Advanced notice: Many airlines require advanced notice (usually 48 hours) when traveling with a service dog.
  3. In-cabin travel: Service dogs are typically allowed to travel in the cabin with their handlers, and do not count towards the cabin pet limit.
  4. Identify your dog: Service dogs should wear a vest or harness that identifies them as service animals.
  5. Behaviour: Your service dog should be well-trained and able to behave appropriately in a public setting.
  6. Special accommodations: Some airlines may be able to provide special accommodations, such as a bulkhead seat, for service dog handlers.
  7. Research: Research the specific regulations and policies of the airline you will be flying with, as they may have different requirements for service dogs.

It’s important to note that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires airlines to allow service animals to travel with their handlers in the cabin, but each airline may have their own specific policies and procedures in place.

Flying with an emotional support animal

Flying with an emotional support animal (ESA) can be different than flying with a pet or service dog. Here are some things to keep in mind:
  1. Documentations: You will need to provide documentation, such as a letter from a licensed healthcare professional, that verifies that your animal is an ESA and that you have a mental or emotional disability that requires the use of an ESA.
  2. Advanced notice: Many airlines require advanced notice (usually 48 hours) when traveling with an ESA.
  3. In-cabin travel: ESAs are typically allowed to travel in the cabin with their handlers, but do not have the same rights as service dogs. Some airlines have specific policies and procedures in place for ESAs and may have restrictions on the type of animal and size.
  4. Identify your animal: Emotional Support Animals should have an ESA letter and an ID card, or some form of verification from the healthcare professional.
  5. Behaviour: Your ESA should be well-trained and able to behave appropriately in a public setting.
  6. Special accommodations: Some airlines may be able to provide special accommodations, such as a bulkhead seat, for ESA handlers.
  7. Research: Research the specific regulations and policies of the airline you will be flying with, as they may have different requirements for ESAs.

It’s important to note that the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) allows ESAs to fly with their handlers in the cabin, but the airline may have specific policies in place and can ask for documentation to prove the animal is an ESA. In addition, airlines have the right to refuse transportation to animals that are too large or aggressive, or that pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others.

What documents do I need for my pet to fly?

To fly with your pet, you will typically need to provide proof of current vaccinations and a health certificate from a veterinarian. The specific requirements vary depending on the airline and destination, so it’s best to check with the airline directly before booking your flight. Additionally, you may also need to provide a pet carrier that meets the airline’s specifications.

FAQs about flying with pets

  1. Can I bring my pet on a flight?

  • It depends on the airline and the type of animal. Some airlines allow small pets to travel in the cabin with their owners, while others only permit certain types of animals in the cargo hold.
  1. Are there any fees for traveling with a pet?

  • Yes, most airlines charge a fee for traveling with a pet, which can vary depending on the size of the animal and the flight itinerary.
  1. What are the requirements for traveling with a pet?

  • The requirements for traveling with a pet can vary depending on the airline and the destination. Typically, pets will need to be in a carrier that meets size and ventilation requirements, have a health certificate from a veterinarian, and be up to date on vaccinations.
  1. Can I bring my pet in the cabin with me?

  • It depends on the airline. Some airlines allow small pets to travel in the cabin with their owners, while others only permit certain types of animals in the cargo hold.
  1. Can I bring my pet as a service animal or emotional support animal?

  • Yes, some airlines allow service animals and emotional support animals to travel with their owners. However, airlines have different policies and requirements for service animals and emotional support animals, so it’s important to check with the airline before booking your flight.
  1. Are there any breeds of dogs that are not allowed to fly on planes?

  • Yes, some airlines have restrictions on certain breeds of dogs, such as pit bulls and bulldogs, due to concerns about their health and safety during air travel.

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