The Best Airlines for Pets: Who Does Pet Travel Best? 

The Best Airlines for Pets: Who Does Pet Travel Best? 

Leaving your pet behind while you go away is a tough thing to do, especially when you’re going away for an extended period. Many don’t want to do this, so they take the plunge and bring their pets on their travels.

In fact, according to a survey carried out by the American Pet Products Association, the number of owners taking their dogs with them on trips has more than doubled between the years 2006 to 2016.

At 40.7%, the most popular reason people decided to travel with their pet is that they cannot, or will not, leave their beloved animal at home. Second to that, at 27.4%, is moving to a new location, and 21.9% of travelers need their pet with them for emotional support.

Of course, traveling with your furry friend comes with its own set of difficulties, and choosing the wrong airline can make an already stressful situation into a nightmare experience.

Choosing an airline to trust with your beloved companion’s safety and comfort is a big deal and makes a world of difference. This is probably why it’s not an easy decision to make, and information can be confusing.

Many things need to be thought about when planning to take your animal on holiday with you. Airlines have policies that vary considerably, and the size, breed, temperament, and whether you want your pet to travel cabin or cargo, need to be taken into account.

All airlines that allow pet travel have their own set of rules and regulations, and it’s always best to check those out before deciding what airline to travel with. Also, there can often be restrictions on traveling to certain countries with a pet, and this should also be considered before planning your holiday.

If your plans allow it, try and make arrangements for your pet to travel as early as possible. Most airlines will allow you to reserve a spot for you and your pet.

However, this is usually a first-come, first-served basis, and there are tends to be limited spaces available for pets.

dog looking out the window

International travel with your pet

Traveling internationally with a pet usually requires a lot of planning and can sometimes be a stressful experience. Many airlines don’t offer the service of traveling abroad with your pet, and those that do often have a time duration limit to consider.

You may need to get creative if the overall journey exceeds the maximum duration your pet is allowed to travel (which is usually 12 hours).

In terms of traveling internationally, countries will have their own rules and regulations. So do your research and ensure both you and your pet are prepared. For example, some countries require your animal to be microchipped or have had several vaccinations before entering the country.

The comfort and welfare of your animal must always be taken into account. An adequate carrier must be provided for your pet so that there is enough space for comfortable movement.

Airlines will deny a carrier if it looks too small. However, don’t pack a pet penthouse with you, as the airline must also be in line with the airline’s size guidelines too.

Hot summers and cold winters can pose a threat to you holidaying with your pet. For the animal’s safety, airlines often restrict or deny animals to travel in cargo if there are extreme weather conditions. You must bear this in mind when you plan the dates for your holiday.

The crucial step to do before planning to travel with your pet internationally is to do your research. Not just on the airline, you’ll be flying with, but in the country you intend to visit. This is so you can avoid any unwanted issues.

It’s recommended that you start scheduling and discussing your plans with your vet about six months before traveling. This is so the vet can ensure that the pet is fit and healthy enough to travel- some airlines may require a health certificate for your animal.

The vet will ensure that your pet has the required vaccinations, tests, and paperwork that are needed to for the specific country you plan to travel to.

Okay, so you know you need to do your research, but what airlines are actually good for pet travel? We’ve looked through the pet policies of numerous airlines and put together some information that we hope will help.

Read on to find out more.

selective focus photography of Labrador in vehicle

Airline showdown

American Airlines

American Airlines goes one step further than most by creating their own “Cuddle Class.” Found on specific flights, this perk gives your pet a special compartment next to your seat. Sounds better than being stuffed under a seat, doesn’t it?

The cost of giving your animal a comfortable place during the flight is the same as the standard $125 pet fee. The trip can be no longer than 12 hours, and pets must remain in their carrier.

This airline doesn’t allow pets in the cabin to/from Hawaii, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Venezuela, or on transatlantic flights.

American Airline allows cats and dogs to travel in cargo on a first-come, first-served basis. They allow up to two pets per passenger, as long as the combined weight of the animal doesn’t exceed 100 lbs (45kf), and the animals must be at least eight weeks old.

Animals are not permitted to fly if the flight is over 12 hours in duration. As is the case for most airlines, no brachycephalic pets are allowed. This is due to the respiratory problems that these breeds tend to suffer from.

Breakdown:

  • Price: $125 – $200
  • Cabin: Yes
  • Cargo: Yes
  • Animals: Cats, dogs, service animals

Hawaiian Airlines:

Hawaiian Airlines allow dogs, cats and household birds on their flights. As long as the carrier can fit under the seat in front of you and the weight is less than 70lbs, you can take your pet inside the cabin.

Service animals, as well as emotional support and psychiatric support animals, are allowed on this airline. Providing they meet the conditions concerning the animal’s behavior and whether they could cause a blockage in the aisle.

Animals are not permitted on international flights or flights that are to/from JFK Airport. There is also a strict policy on transporting pets in cargo if the temperature is too extreme. This is for the animal’s welfare and should be considered before making plans.

Breakdown:

  • Prices: $35- $225
  • Cabin: Yes
  • Cargo: Yes (but check restrictions)
  • Animals: dogs, cats, household birds, service animals

JetBlue:

Do you like to build up air-mile points? Think it’s unfair that your jet-setting animal companion can’t do the same? Be sad no more, because with JetBlue you can build up points by flying with your pet.

JetBlue offers a program called JetPaws. This is designed to reassure owners and give them tips and info. For instance: how to make reservations, keep your animal calm during the flight, and where your pet can relieve themselves. On top of this, you can buy a specialty pet carrier which is specially designed for traveling on JetBlue flights with your pets.

JetBlue accepts small cats and dogs in-cabin on both domestic and international flights. The combined weight of the pet and the carrier cannot exceed 20lbs (9kg). There are flight restrictions, and this is important for passengers to check before making plans.

A minimal number of pets are allowed per flight. Only one pet is permitted per customer, so this means it’s best to book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Breakdown:

  • Price: $100 and up
  • Cabin: Yes
  • Cargo: No
  • Animals: Cats, dogs, service animals

Air Canada:

Air Canada is exceptionally considerate when it comes to your pets. Provided you arrive 30 minutes before departure and have your pet comfortable in their carrier, they will allow your pet to travel with you in the cabin.

Service animals are allowed to travel for free in the cabin with their owner and are allowed to stay at the customer’s feet. Be sure to pre-register your service animal with Air Canada via their Medical Assistance Desk. Also, make sure that your service animal has been certified and is harnessed at all times.

You must register your pet before flying by contacting the airline. If you don’t do this, your pet will not be allowed to fly. It’s recommended that you do this 24 hours before the flight.

Breakdown:

  • Price: $105 – $120.75 each way
  • Cabin: Yes
  • Cargo: Yes
  • Animals: Dogs and cats in cabin and baggage. Wider variety allowed with cargo. Service animals allowed.

Delta Airlines:

Delta Airlines welcome small pets such as dogs, cats and household birds in the cabin on most of the flights within the United States, Canada, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Be aware that pets are not permitted to fly to Hawaii on this airline.

Small dogs, cars, and birds can travel in the cabin for a one-way fee, collected at check-in. The carrier the pet is in must fit underneath the seat in front of you and must be well-ventilated (well, we hope that goes without saying…)

Delta accepts pets on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a limited number of pets allowed per flight: two pets in first class, two in business, and four in the main cabin, for most of their trips.

If the pet exceeds the weight and size limit for in-cabin travel, the pet can be taken into Delta’s climate-controlled and well-regulated cargo. Be aware that pets that are shipped domestically in cargo don’t have a guarantee of being sent on the same flight or flight schedule as their owner.

Breakdown:

  • Price: $75-$200 each way
  • Cabin: Yes
  • Cargo: Yes
  • Animals: Dogs, cats, and household birds

Allegiant Air:

This low-cost airline welcomes small dogs and cats to travel inside their carrier in-cabin within the contiguous 48 United States, San Juan, and Puerto Rico.

Traveling with multiple pets can begin to add-up, so Allegiant Air offers a BOGOF deal and allows customers to carry two animals per pet carrier. The carrier must stay underneath the seat in front of you for the duration of the flight.

No large animals can travel on this flight, and there is no cargo-flying service for your animal. However, if you want to fly with your small, domestic dog or cat, this airline may suffice.

Breakdown:

  • Price: $100 each way
  • Cabin: Yes
  • Cargo: No
  • Animals: Domestic dogs and cats

Southwest:

Like Allegiant Airline, Southwest Airlines offer a BOGOF deal and let passengers travel with two animals for the price of one. The sizing of the carriers allowed on this airline are slightly smaller; however, they compensate by charging a little less.

Southwest Airlines run a first-come, first-served basis until they reach the maximum capacity of 6 pets per flight. This means that passengers should make their pet plans as soon as possible.

Southwest Airlines don’t allow pets to fly internationally, and pets must be eight weeks old minimum when they travel. Pets can only be taken aboard as carry-ons and cannot be stored in cargo.

On a slightly more unusual note, Southwest is one of the only airlines which allow cremated animal remains to travel with you on-board.

Breakdown:

  • Price: $95 each way
  • Cabin: Yes
  • Cargo: No
  • Animals: Small, domestic cats, and dogs; service animals

WestJet:

WestJet won’t allow big dogs in the cabin unless they’re service or emotional support pets. However, it’s still cheap to put them in a kennel; from $75 to $89 per pet, each way, this is one of the most affordable options out there.

For in-cabin pets, such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and some types of household birds, the price is even better, ranging from $50-$59 each way. The animals must be small enough to fit in the seat in front of you, and passengers are allowed only one pet each.

For pets that exceed the maximum weight, WestJet set for cabin pets, contact the WestJet cargo team. For the safety of your animal, there are temperature restrictions for flying pets in cargo, and this should be checked before making arrangements.

Breakdown:

  • Price: $50-$89
  • Cabin: Yes
  • Cargo: Yes
  • Animals: Cats, dogs, rabbits, and some household birds.

Alaska Airlines:

Want to travel with your pot-bellied pig or tropical fish? Alaska Airlines is the one for you. It’s an excellent option for traveling, as they allow “unusual” pets in their cargo.

The airline is also aware that traveling with your pet can be a concern. A flight attendant will hand you a card once your animal is safely on-board the plane. That way, you can feel more relaxed that they’re not on the wrong flight.

On this airline, it cost the same amount to check an animal in cargo as it does for the cabin.

Breakdown:

  • Price: $100 each way
  • Cabin: Yes
  • Cargo: Yes
  • Animals: Cats, dogs, rabbits, and household birds in the cabin. In cargo most small, domestic animals are allowed, such as ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, household birds, non-poisonous reptiles, pot-bellied pigs, rabbits, and tropical fish.

Ready to Travel with Your Furry Friend?

All in all, you can’t go wrong with any of these airlines. But, be sure to do your due diligence. Spend some time researching each one to see which provides the best service to meet the needs of both you and your pet.

Have you ever used any of the above airlines to travel with your pets? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience. Was it a good one? Or one you’d prefer to avoid again? Let us know in the comments box below, speak soon!

Further read:

Rosie Greaves

Rosie Greaves is a professional freelance writer and content strategist who specializes in all things lifestyle and business. You can also find here work on Reader's Digest, Cake and Lace, and Love You Tomorrow. Budapest is hands down the favorite place she's traveled to.
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