If you’re planning a long-distance trip for the whole family, you’ll find plenty of dog-friendly airlines to choose from. The key to deciding is knowing which one will be most accommodating of your specific dog and needs.
Let’s take a look at what makes an airline better or worse for your trip, and then which airlines have the most accommodating pet policies.
What You Should Ask The Airline
Pet policies vary widely. Ask these 7 questions before you book your tickets.
1) Do I need to make a reservation for my dog?
Some airlines restrict the number of pets that are allowed in-cabin or in-cargo for a specific flight. In order to ensure those restrictions are followed, those airlines require a reservation for your dog.
Example: Southwest has a cap of 5 pet carriers per flight. In some scenarios, they will allow more than one pet in a carrier.
2) Are there fees for dogs? How much?
Some airlines will charge additional fees if a dog in a crate is your checked luggage. Some will also charge if your dog will be in the cabin with you in a carrier. Make sure you know these fees up front.
Example: Virgin America charges a $100 pet fee per leg of your trip.
3) Do you have weather restrictions?
Many airlines take the outside temperature into account when deciding whether or not they’ll transport a dog. Some airlines limit dog transport during certain times of year with exceptionally cold or hot temperatures; others will play it by ear and decide not to transport a dog if it’s too hot in a particular city or on a particular day. Find out so you’re not surprised the day of your flight.
Example: American Airlines will not accept dogs when the ground temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit or above 85 degrees Fahrenheit at any stop on the itinerary.
4) Do you have breed restrictions?
Some airlines will not accept certain breeds of dogs. This is often for the dogs’ health: dogs with short snouts (also known as brachycephalic breeds) have a harder time physically on a plane. To protect themselves, many airlines will not transport Pugs, Bulldogs, Mastiffs, and other brachycephalics.
Example: Delta Airlines will not accept dogs that are purebred or mixes of 25 brachycephalic breeds, including Boxers, Bulldogs of any type (English, American, or French), and Pugs.
5) Are there any age or weight limits?
Typically, airlines will transport a dog 8 weeks or older. Some airlines have other minimum limits. Check with your airline to make sure your dog is old enough to fly. Weight limits typically apply to dogs flying in the cabin and vary by airline.
Example: JetBlue will only accept dogs in-cabin. The combined weight of the dog and carrier must be 20 pounds or less.
6) What documentation is required?
Most airlines require a health certificate to accept a dog on a plane. This is simply a statement from a veterinarian that the dog is healthy enough to fly. The airline may require the certificate to be dated within a certain timeframe before the flight, so be sure to ask so you can time the vet visit accordingly.
Example: American Airlines requires a health certificate dated within 10 days of the originating flight and 60 days of the return flight.
7) What equipment do you require the dog to be in?
In the cabin, the dog’s carrier will need to fit under your seat. In the cargo space as checked luggage, the airline will typically require a hard plastic crate with specific types of bowls and labeling. Check with the airline for any additional requirements or sizing restrictions.
Example: This dog crate meets the requirements of the International Airline Transport Association guidelines followed by most airlines.
2 Dog-Friendly Airlines
Some airlines are fairly restrictive when it comes to transporting pets. Others will happily accommodate your furry family members. These are the 2 most dog-friendly airlines around.
United has created an entire program dedicated to safe travel for dogs of all sizes. They transport dogs as in-cabin passengers, checked baggage, and through a separate pick-up/drop-off program. United’s system allows you to track your pet’s passage through multiple stops to ensure that your pet is where they should be. For more: United Airlines Animal Travel
Delta has no limits on the size of dog they will transport. Dogs may be transported in-cabin with passengers or as checked baggage through their Delta Pet First program. Their four hubs have climate-controlled holding areas for pets to make sure they are in safe conditions between flights. For more: Delta Airlines Pet Policy
If you're planning a trip with your dog, choosing the right airline is a big part of the process. Use this guide to help you find the perfect airline for you and your dog.
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