Guide to American Airlines pet policies

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Whether you’re moving, visiting family, or just taking a vacation, sometimes you just can’t leave your furry friend behind when you travel! American Airlines has historically been a great choice for anyone who wants to travel with their pet. But, American Airlines pet policy has recently changed, and their checked pet service is temporarily suspended, making carrying them on your only option.

We’ve broken down all their current policies and answered all your questions here, so you can be prepared next time you’re flying with pets in American Airlines. 

(Photo by Monika Wisniewska/Shutterstock)

Summary of American Airlines pet policy

Due to increased flight changes on the airline, American has stopped checking pets for the time being, except for active-duty U.S. military traveling on assignment. This means that most passengers must carry-on your pet until this policy changes back to allowing pets as checked luggage. If your animal is large, American is still offering to transport pets as cargo. But this involves dropping them off at a cargo facility before your flight, which isn’t ideal for most pet owners. 

The carry-on pet fee at American is $125 per kennel and your pet must remain inside of it during the duration of your flight (so, make sure your pet has enough room to sit-up, turn around and lay down in there — especially on longer flights!.) The kennel can be soft or hard-sided, but must be smaller than 19” x 13” x 9” ( or 48 cm x 33 cm x 22 cm). There are no strict weight restrictions on pets as long as they fit in this carrier. But, there is an exception to this rule if you’re flying business or first class, in which case the weight of your pet and carrier combined cannot exceed 20 pounds. Additionally, all pets flying must be at least eight weeks old. 

Your pet carrier will replace your carry-on bag, but you’ll still be able to bring on an additional personal item (like a backpack, purse etc.) at no extra charge. American allows up to seven kennels per flight (excluding service and emotional support animals), which is more than most other airlines allow! But, it’s always a good idea to call ahead and reserve a space for your pet on your flight, especially now that checked baggage isn’t an option for pets. 

Types of pets allowed on American Airlines flights

American only allows cats and dogs on their flights. As long as they fit within the carrier size restrictions and are at least eight weeks old, most dogs and cats are allowed, with a few exceptions. 

Dogs with snub-noses cannot fly on American for their own safety. This includes breeds like boxers, bulldogs, Pitbulls, pugs and more. All cat breeds are allowed on board except for Burmese, Persian, Himalayan and exotic shorthair. 

International flights

Pets can only fly to the following destinations: 

  • The 48 contiguous United States + Alaska
  • Mexico
  • Canada
  • Central America
  • Puerto Rico
  • South America (excluding Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile)
  • St. Croix
  • St. Thomas

So, if you’re traveling elsewhere with American, your pet cannot travel with you as a carry-on. No pets are allowed on transatlantic or transpacific flights, nor on flights that are over 11 hours and 30 minutes.

Keep in mind, service and emotional support animals have different rules than regular pets, so read on for those guidelines! 

Fees for flying with pets

Flying with pets in American Airlines will cost you $125 per kennel. It’s important to note, American charges per kennel, not per pet. So, if you have two small animals (they must be of the same species) and they can comfortably fit in the same kennel, you only have to pay the pet fee one time. But, make sure both animals have enough room to lay down and move around before you engage in this money-saving hack!

If you’re flying with a trained and registered service animal on American Airlines, there is no charge. 

Pet carrier restrictions

The biggest thing to know about American Airlines pet policy regarding kennels and carriers is that your carry-on cage cannot exceed the 19” x 13” x 9” ( or 48 cm x 33 cm x 22 cm). It doesn’t matter if your kennel is hard or soft-sided as long as it fits in these restrictions. 

American has a loose policy that the combined weight of the carrier and the pet cannot exceed 25 pounds, but don’t worry too much if you’re a few pounds over. What’s the most important is that your pet is comfortable inside the carrier and has enough room to sit up, lay down, and turn around inside. Pets need to remain in their carrier under the seat in front of you, and it’s your job to make their flight easy!

Seven carriers are allowed on American flights and five are allowed on American Eagle flights. Typically, only one kennel will be allowed in business/first class, so be sure to call ahead to reserve your pet’s space ahead of time.

American Airlines restrictions for emotional support animals

The rules for service and emotional support animals on American are different than those for regular pets, as it is on most airlines. An emotional support animal is a registered animal that can help an individual with psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, depression and more. 

Only dogs and cats are allowed on American Airlines flights as emotional support animals and the airline must be notified of their presence on the flight at least 48 hours before departure. 

These animals come at no charge to you, but for your pet to qualify as an emotional support animal, you must submit to the airline a form from a medical or mental health professional detailing your need, a veterinary health form, and an animal behavior form stating you take responsibility for your pet’s behavior during the flight. On flights longer than eight hours, you will also need to fill out and submit an animal sanitation form, saying your animal will not relieve itself on the plane (or will do so in a sanitary manner if it does). Your animal must fit in the seat under you or on your lap and be four months or older to qualify as an emotional support animal. 

There is only one emotional support animal allowed per passenger, but there are no restrictions on how many per flight. Emotional support animals can travel to most destinations, but some places have special restrictions on emotional support animals, so make sure you check the rules for your location before flying!

Note: The DOT recently changed the rules surrounding emiltional support animals and now, carriers are not required to recognize emotional support animals as service animals and may treat them as pets. We’ll have to wait and see how these new policies play out and how American Airlines will recognize emotional support animals going forward.

American Airlines restrictions for service animals

Service animals differ from emotional support animals because they are trained to perform life functions for individuals with disabilities. This includes service for those who are deaf, blind, have seizures, have mobility impairments and more. Passengers can have as many service animals as they need, and there is no limit to the number that can be on board at one time. 

On American, service animals can be a dog, cat or miniature horse, and traveling with them comes at no cost to the owner. Service animals can travel to any destination. Unlike emotional support animals, American Airlines does not require (but does recommend) advanced notice for service animals.

American Airlines typically does not require those traveling with service animals to bring or submit any forms to verify their status but does reserve the right to question owners to determine the classification of the animal. They also recommend you travel with your pet’s vaccination record and will require you to submit an animal sanitation form on longer flights.

Tips for flying with your pets on American Airlines 

A few quick tips and tricks to make understanding American Airlines pet policy and flying with your pet easy. 

Prepare, prepare, prepare!

The best thing you can do when flying with your pet in American Airlines (or any airline) is to prepare before. That way, most of the work will be done before you even arrive at the airport! Before your flight, make sure your kennel is within the size requirements and your pet is comfortable inside (you can even practice with them!) Call ahead to reserve your pet’s spot on the plane, and check that your destination is on the list of approved pet-travel locations. 

Give your pet potty breaks before the flight

No matter how long your flight is, you should always give your pet the chance to use the bathroom before getting on board. While you can get up and use the bathroom during the flight, your pet is stuck in their kennel. All airports have pet relief areas past the security checkpoint, so be sure to visit one at least twice before boarding. 

Consult your veterinarian

Most airlines have restrictions on certain breeds of animals that prohibits them from flying for their own safety. For example, on American snub-nosed dogs can’t fly due to their limited air capacity. But, just because your pet is okayed to fly by the airline, doesn’t mean they’re 100% ready to travel. Check-in with your vet at least two weeks before flying so they can give your pet the all clear, and update their vaccinations as needed. 

Always check with your vet before flying with your pet! (Photo by Nestor Rizhniak/Shutterstock)

Relax!

An anxious owner makes for an anxious pet, and you don’t want your furry travel companion to be scared during the flight. Once you’re on board, sit back and take a deep breath. You did it! You and your pet are safely on board and will soon be at your destination — the hard part is over. Distract yourself during the flight with books, movies, or sleep, and don’t forget to periodically check in on your pet!

FAQ

A quick hit of everything you need to know about flying with pets in American Airlines. 

What type of pets are allowed on American Airlines flights?

Dogs and cats are the only pets and emotional support animals allowed on American Airlines flights. Miniature horses are also allowed only as service animals. 

How much is the American Airlines pet fee?

$125 per kennel. No fees for service animals. 

How many pets are allowed per flight and per customer? 

There is one kennel allowed per customer (with up to two pets of the same species inside). On most flights, there can be up to seven kennels, with one space reserved for those traveling first or business class with pets.

There is no limit on emotional support or service animals. 

What’s the weight and age limit for my pet to fly?

Pets must fit inside a carrier that is 19” x 13” x 9” ( or 48 cm x 33 cm x 22 cm) and the weight of the pet plus the carrier should be around 25 pounds. All pets must be at least eight weeks old to travel.

What documentation do I need to fly with my pet?

None! Documentation is only required for emotional support and service animals.

How many pet carriers are each customer allowed?

Each passenger is allowed one kennel (or carrier) on their flight. 

Bottom line

Although American Airlines has changed their pet policy to exclude pets as checked baggage, their policies for carry-on pets are clear and easy to follow. While you will have to pay a fee, you won’t have to worry about bringing lots of documentation for your pet. As long as your animal is within the airline’s restrictions, flying with them on American Airlines should be a breeze. 

Alexandra Maloney is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, she covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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