Travel

What You Must Know About Flying With Your Pet

If you want Fluffy to come with you, get your paperwork ready — and prepare to pay.

Update: In late March, a dog died after being stowed in its carrier in an overhead bin on a United flight. Soon after, United announced that it would suspend reservations for cargo transport of pets while it reviews its program, a process it expects to complete by May 1. (It will honor reservations confirmed as of March 20, 2018.) The suspension doesn’t affect pets that travel in the cabin. However, United now identifies on-board pet carriers with a brightly colored tag.

Airlines publish guidelines and rules on their websites for traveling with or transporting pets. The rules differ for domestic and international travel, as well as for service animals. Here are some highlights for domestic travel.

Space for pets carried on or checked as cargo is limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis (excluding service animals), and traveling with pets isn't allowed on all types of aircraft. Call ahead to check your itinerary and book your pet. Service animals and emotional or psychiatric support animals fly free. They must fit in your lap, at your feet or under the seat, and they can't block the aisle or an emergency exit. Owners are generally required to notify the airline at least 48 hours before travel and submit a note from a doctor or licensed medical professional confirming the passenger's disability and need. United and Delta also require owners to submit a signed health certificate or immunization record for the animal, plus a signed confirmation of animal training.

Airlines prohibit puppies or kittens younger than 8 weeks from traveling. They have varying requirements for proof of vaccination and health certificates from a licensed vet. Carriers and crates must be sized and constructed to certain standards to ensure the animal's comfort and safety. Even if a carrier or crate from a retailer is labeled "airline approved," check the specific airline's requirements. If you can, acclimate pets to their carrier or crate two to three weeks before departure.

Carry on. You can carry on a dog or cat if it fits in a carrier small enough to fit under the seat in front of you. The "kennel" counts as one piece of carry-on luggage. Airlines will charge a flat, one-way fee of $95 to $125 at check-in for each segment of your flight. Pets traveling with TrueBlue members on JetBlue will earn an additional 300 TrueBlue points for each pet fee paid.

Cargo. American and Delta charge $200 per crate. United charges by weight, from $201 for 10 pounds or less to $630 for 150 to 200 pounds (and $60 more to go to or return from Hawaii). Many airlines prohibit the transportation of brachycephalic breeds–short-nosed dogs and cats, such as pugs, boxers and Himalayans, that are prone to respiratory problems that may be exacerbated by stress and changes in air quality and temperature in a cargo hold. Overweight animals and those with preexisting health conditions may not fare well in cargo, either.

The good news is that pet injury or death during air travel is rare. In 2016, 40 out of 506,994 animals transported as cargo on major passenger airlines died or were injured during the trip, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Most Popular

Yes, You Can Collect Social Security from an Ex-Spouse: Here’s How
social security

Yes, You Can Collect Social Security from an Ex-Spouse: Here’s How

It’s always smart to maximize your Social Security benefits, and if you are divorced, one way to do that might be to take them based on your ex’s earn…
May 13, 2021
Updated Exclusive Social Security Benefits Forecast: COLA Likely to Jump to 4.5% in 2022
Economic Forecasts

Updated Exclusive Social Security Benefits Forecast: COLA Likely to Jump to 4.5% in 2022

This would be the largest cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security benefits since 2008.
May 12, 2021
Child Tax Credit 2021: Who Gets $3,600? Will I Get Monthly Payments? And Other FAQs
Coronavirus and Your Money

Child Tax Credit 2021: Who Gets $3,600? Will I Get Monthly Payments? And Other FAQs

People have lots of questions about the new $3,000 or $3,600 child tax credit and the advance payments that the IRS will send to most families in 2021…
May 4, 2021

Recommended

Rebuilding Emergency Savings in 2021: Take a Realistic Approach
savings

Rebuilding Emergency Savings in 2021: Take a Realistic Approach

Saving for a rainy day can be a tall order, especially if you have recently experienced a financial setback. Taking even small steps can help you work…
April 21, 2021
4 Tips on How to Negotiate for Anything
savings

4 Tips on How to Negotiate for Anything

You can haggle for a better price on just about any product or service. You just need to know how to approach these conversations.
March 9, 2021
Switch Accounts for a Better Yield?
Financial Planning

Switch Accounts for a Better Yield?

If your current account has a reliable history of strong yields, it might be worth sticking around.
February 23, 2021
Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
Making Your Money Last

Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

If you’ve added a dog or cat to your family, consider pet insurance to manage routine and unexpected veterinary bills.
December 16, 2020