9 most pet friendly airlines in America

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Flying by yourself can be a stressful experience for some people. And many people think that when you add a pet to the mix, it can lead to even more headaches!  It’s why many individuals may opt for traveling on a train with their pet instead of flying.

But flying with your pet doesn’t have to be difficult, and there are plenty of airlines that go out of their way to make it a quick, easy process!

I’ll give you some pointers on what you can do to cut out any headaches or surprises when flying with your pet, and some of the best airlines to choose from.

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Many airlines offer great accommodations for traveling with your pet, so you’ll be able to enjoy your next trip without having to leave them at home! (Photo by Javier Brosch/Shutterstock)

Most pet-friendly U.S. airlines

  • American Airlines:   Best for West Coast travel
  • United Airlines:   Best for East Coast travel
  • Delta Airlines   Best for large pets
  • Southwest Airlines:   Best for cheap pet fees
  • JetBlue:   Best for pet amenities
  • Allegiant Air:   Best for pet check-in process
  • Frontier Airlines:   Best for unique pets in cabin
  • Alaska Airlines:   Best for unique pets in checked baggage
  • Hawaiian Airlines:   Best for inter-island flights in Hawaii

Is flying safe for pets?

We’ve all seen the tragic headlines circulate every now and then talking about how a pet was injured during air travel. And while those accidents are truly unfortunate, it tends to paint the image that flying with a pet is dangerous.

This couldn’t be further from the truth!  If you look at the statistics, it is actually VERY safe to fly with your pet. In fact, it’s so safe, that I daresay the only reason those stories make headlines is because it’s such a rare occurrence for a pet to be injured during air travel.

According to the Chicago Tribune, ~507,000 animals flew on US commercial air carriers last year, and only 24 of those animals died while in transit. That’s only ~0.0048%! United Airlines has the highest rate of pet deaths, although it could be linked to the fact that until recently, they had allowed short-nosed breeds to fly. The new policy banning these certain breeds from flying should help reduce the rate of pet injury.

That said, there are still a few things you’ll want to keep in mind to make sure that you and your pet remain safe and comfortable during your flight.

Tips for pet safety while flying

For starters, certain breeds of dogs with short-snouts are not allowed to fly on planes because of respiratory issues that may make it particularly difficult for them to breathe.  If you’re an owner of one of these breeds, you may want to consider traveling by train instead:

  • Pug
  • Bulldog
  • French Bulldog
  • Japanese Chin
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Shih Tzu
  • Pekingese
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Bullmastiff
  • Affenpinscher
  • English Toy Spaniel

You’ll also want to make sure that your dog is in good health, while also considering their age. Dogs who are too young or old may be particularly susceptible to the stresses of air travel because of things like changes in air quality, air circulation, temperature, cabin pressure, and other environmental issues.

And if you’re hoping to travel with your pet in the cabin instead of putting them in checked luggage, make sure your airline will allow this! Many airlines have restrictions on the number and size of pets if they’ll be flying with you in the cabin. If you’re worried about your pet’s health and don’t want them flying in checked luggage or cargo, double-check the requirements and restrictions with your airline to ensure your pet will be allowed to fly with you in the cabin and avoid any last-minute surprises at the airport.

If you’re not sure about whether your pet can safely fly because of these or any other conditions, the best thing to do would be to consult your vet prior to travel and obtain any health certificates that may be needed by your particular airline.

Best U.S. airlines for pet travel

Each airline has different policies for traveling with a pet, although almost all airlines require the carrier to allow your pet enough space to stand up, turn around, and lie down, and must fit underneath the seat. And if flying in checked luggage, the carrier should have proper ventilation on both sides.

Many airlines also restrict the number of pets flying in the cabin per flight, so you’ll want to follow each airline’s policy for reserving your pet’s spot.

Service animals are not counted as pets, so they fall under a completely different set of criteria.

We’ve rounded up a list of some of the best airlines for traveling with a pet.

American Airlines

  • Cost:
    • Cabin:   $125 per kennel (within and between the US, Canada, Mexico, Central America, Columbia, and the Caribbean)
    • Checked Baggage:   $200 per kennel (within/between the US, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean; otherwise, $150 to/from Brazil)
  • Types of Pets Allowed:
    • Cabin:   Small pets at least 8 weeks old, and combined weight may not exceed 20 lbs.
    • Checked baggage:   Dogs and cats may be transported as long as they are at least 8 weeks old. Combined weight should not exceed 100 lbs.
  • Size restrictions:
    • Cabin:   Carriers may not exceed 19” x 13” x 9”
    • Checked baggage:   Maximum carrier dimensions are 40” x 27” x 30”

Prior to your flight and as soon as you can, you’ll want to contact American Airlines customer service to reserve a spot for your pet.  Pets flying with you in the cabin must remain in their carrier under the seat for the entire duration of the flight.

Note that American Airlines does not allow pets to travel in the cabin if you are flying to/from Hawaii, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Venezuela, or on transatlantic flights.  And checked pets cannot travel on certain aircraft, which you can verify when you reserve your pet’s spot on the flight.

You may not be able to fly with your pet on American Airlines if you have a short-nosed breed, like a Shih Tzu. (Photo by Baitong Sathitkun/Shutterstock)

American Airlines also does not allow certain short-nosed breeds to fly for their own safety.

United Airlines

  • Cost:
    • Cabin:   $125 each way
    • Checked Baggage:   Varies based on overall weight
  • Types of Pets Allowed:
    • Cabin:   Cats, dogs, rabbits, and household birds (excluding cockatoos)
    • Checked Baggage:   Cats and dogs only
  • Size restrictions:
    • Cabin:   Maximum size 17.5” x 12” x 7.5” (hard kennels), and 18” x 11” x 11” for soft kennels
    • Checked Baggage:   No crates taller than 30”

United Airlines only allows 2 dogs in the cabin for most of their flights, so you’ll want to call ahead as soon as you can to confirm your pet can travel with you.  The pet carrier must fit completely under the seat.

If your pet cannot fly with you in the cabin, you can use United Airline’s pet transportation service, PetSafe.  The airline has partnered with American Humane to improve their pet shipping processes, so it’s a very safe way of making sure your pet arrives at the destination safe and sound!

United Airlines has partnered with American Humane to improve their pet shipping process, so your pet’s safety won’t be an issue! (Photo courtesy of United).

United also does not allow certain short-nosed breeds to fly due to safety concerns.

Delta Airlines 

  • Cost:
    • US/Canada, Puerto Rico:   $125
    • Virgin Islands and Outside the US:   $200
    • Brazil:   $75
  • Types of Pets Allowed:
    • Cabin:   Dogs, cats, and household birds for domestic US flights
    • Checked baggage:   All warm-blooded animals
  • Size restrictions:

Like many other airlines, Delta limits the number of animals that fly in coach, Business Class, and First Class.  So you’ll want to call and reserve your spot to ensure you can fly with your pet in the cabin.

Pets are allowed to fly with you in the cabin as long as they remain in their carrier and can fit underneath your seat.  If your pet is not eligible to fly with you in the cabin, you may use Delta Cargo to transport them, which recently was awarded the Air Cargo Excellence Gold Award, so your pet will be in great hands!

Your pet will be in great hands with Delta’s award-winning air cargo service!  (Photo courtesy of Delta)

Delta also no longer allows short-nosed dogs to fly due to health concerns.

Southwest Airlines 

  • Cost:   $95 each way per pet carrier
  • Types of Pets Allowed:
    • Cabin:   Small, vaccinated dogs and cats on domestic flights only
    • Checked baggage:   Not available as an option
  • Size restrictions:
    • Cabin:   Maximum size 18.5” x 8.5” x 13.5”
    • Checked baggage:   N/A

Southwest allows a maximum of 6 pet carriers per flight on a first-come first-served basis, so you’ll want to call and make your pet reservation as soon as you finalize your travel plans.  Only vaccinated dogs and cats are allowed to travel on domestic flights only, and shipping your pet in the cargo is not an option for Southwest.

Your pet carrier must be small enough to fit underneath the seat, and fortunately, Southwest does not require any health certificate or paperwork for your pet to travel. 

JetBlue 

  • Cost:   $125 each way
  • Types of Pets Allowed:
    • Cabin:   Small dogs and cats are allowed
    • Checked baggage:   Not allowed for any pets
  • Size restrictions:
    • Cabin:   Maximum carrier size 17” x 12.5” x 8.5”
    • Checked baggage:   N/A

If you’re brand new to flying with a pet, you’ll be happy to know that JetBlue has an exclusive program called JetPaws, designed to give owners the tips and tools they need for a smooth trip with their pet.  It’s a free program, and you’ll also earn 300 JetBlue points on each flight segment you fly with your pet!

JetBlue allows 4 pets per flight, so it’s important to book your flight and reserve your pet’s seat as soon as possible.  You can call JetBlue and let the agent know you are traveling with a pet so that they can reserve your spot for the flight.  Although exceptions may be made, generally speaking only 1 pet is allowed per person, and the pet carrier must fit underneath the seat.

As Part of JetBlue’s JetPaws Program, You’ll Be Able to Tag Your Pet Carrier With a Bright Orange ID Tag at Check-In!

Pets are not allowed on flights to or from Barbados, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Trinidad, Tobago, or St. Lucia.

Allegiant Air 

  • Cost:   $100 each way
  • Types of Pets Allowed:
    • Cabin:   Cats and dogs if flying within the contiguous 48 US states, San Juan, and Puerto Rico
    • Checked baggage:   N/A
  • Size restrictions:
    • Cabin:   Maximum size 9” x 16” x 19”

If you’re looking for easy, hassle-free travel within the US, you can book a flight on Allegiant.  They do not require any health certificates, and you can reserve your pet’s spot at the same time you book your own plane ticket online!  In other words, there is no need to make a separate phone call for your pet.

You Won’t Have to Make a Separate Phone Call to Reserve Your Pet’s Spot On Your Flight, Thanks to Allegiant’s Streamlined Online Booking Process!

Frontier Airlines 

  • Cost:   $75 per segment
  • Types of Pets Allowed:
    • Cabin:   Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and small household birds
    • Checked baggage:   N/A
  • Size restrictions:
    • Cabin:   Maximum size 18” x 14” x 8”
    • Checked baggage:   N/A

Frontier Airlines is a great choice if you are looking to fly with unique pets in the cabin.  While Frontier does not specifically require a health certificate for your pet, you may need one depending on the state you will be flying to.  If you will be traveling internationally however, you will definitely need a health certificate. 

If You Have Unique Pets And Want to Fly With Them in the Cabin, Frontier Airlines May Be Your Best Bet!

Alaska Airlines 

  • Cost:   $100 each way per pet (no fee for service animals or emotional support animals)
  • Types of Pets Allowed:
    • Cabin:   Dogs, cats, rabbits, and household birds
    • Checked baggage:   Dogs, cats, ferrets, guinea pigs, hamster, household birds, non-poisonous reptiles, pot bellied pigs, rabbits, and tropical fish
  • Size restrictions:
    • Cabin:   17” x 11” x 7.5” (hard), and 17” x 11” x 9.5” for soft
    • Checked baggage:   30” x 27” x 40”

If you have some unique pets but are not able to take them with you in the main cabin, Alaska Airlines is a great choice as they allow a wide variety of pets to fly in checked baggage.  And with their Fur-st Class Care program, you’ll receive a notification confirming your pet has made it safely aboard the plane.

If You Have Unique Pets, Alaska Airlines Is a Great Choice For Flying Them in Checked Baggage

Otherwise, the First Class cabin can only accommodate 1 pet, and the main cabin can accommodate 5 at most, so you’ll want to reserve your pet’s spot as soon as possible.  Dogs and cats must be at least 8 weeks old, and each passenger may travel with no more than 2 pets.  And certain short-nosed animals may not be allowed to travel in cargo, but may be permitted to travel in the cabin.

Hawaiian Airlines 

  • Cost:
    • Cabin:   $35 for inter-island cabin flights, $175 all other flights (one-way)
    • Checked baggage:   $60 for inter-island flights, $225 all other flights (each way)
  • Types of Pets Allowed:
    • Cabin:   Small dogs and cats
    • Checked baggage:   Dogs, cats, and household birds
  • Size restrictions:
    • Cabin:   16” x 10” x 9.5”
    • Checked baggage:   36” x 24” x 26” for 717 aircraft, and 40” x 27” x 30” for 767 aircraft (must be a hard kennel)

As with other airlines, you’ll want to reserve a ticket for yourself and your pet as soon as your travel plans are finalized and you book your ticket.  Each person can travel with one pet carrier.  Pets are not accepted on international flights to or from JFK.  And certain short-nosed pets are not allowed to fly at all on Hawaiian Airlines.

Hawaiian Airlines Has One of the Lowest Pet Fees If You’re Only Considering Inter-Island Travel

Let us know your experiences of flying with your pet!

Meghan Hunter is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he 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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Michael Michigan
4 months ago

This information is not updated. I contacted Delta and Frontier Airlines and they do not allow bunnies in airplane.

Carl
6 months ago

I feel it quite unfair to have to pay for the animal when its carrier takes the place of a FREE carry on. Is it collusion between airlines? Can this be legal? We fly to Maine to our summer house and it costs $125 each way for a small cat in a carrier that is put under my feet. That is more than a flight from Miami to Boston.

Lindsay
9 months ago

I cannot believe that American Airlines is on this list. They take pets on a “first come, first serve basis.” They do not accept bookings ahead of time at all.

If you don’t mind being stranded, maybe it’s a good option.

Tony
Reply to  Lindsay
9 months ago

Well, American told me that I had to go sit in the back of the plane and give up a First Class ticket that I had splurged on (probably not going to get reimbursed). I was told that they did not want to ‘discriminate’ against a dog owner. When I said that ‘then you are discriminating against me, a person, based on a physical illness’, to which the customer service rep said ‘It is your choice to move’. So, I’d say that they are very pet friendly (and not very human friendly).

Dan
Reply to  Tony
6 months ago

Lol Tony, When you walk outside your house you are unfortunately sharing the rest of the world with everyone else. Take a pill or live in a bubble.

Frany
Reply to  Tony
7 months ago

take an anti allergy pill before you fly. My son is allergic to cats and he will see some friends with a cat he takes a pill. Easy.

Christie
1 year ago

I am allergic to pets. Wish pets were not allowed on planes. I understand people need service animals but a mini horse is gone way too far. There is no way the crew has enough time to mask the dander that these animals leave behind. Even in the A/C unit that floats dander throughout the plane. Maybe there could possibly be a special storage area for animals to travel away from the people. Thanks for your time.

Mocha
Reply to  Christie
3 months ago

Then mayb u shouldnt fly,?
To Some of us our dogs are our world. Take a boat or drive

Ellerie
Reply to  Christie
9 months ago

Well are you allergic to hyperallergenic dogs? I’m a new dog owner and getting a hyperallergenic dog because I don’t want to vacuum up their fur and want to travel with my dog legally.

terrrianda
Reply to  Christie
11 months ago

unbelievable the entire world has to stop functioning because one person is bothered by pets . take an allergy pill . what do you do in the real world pets and allergens are everywhere .

Jason
Reply to  terrrianda
3 months ago

Well aren’t you the solution guru? What about those people who are allergic AND have a condition which stops them from taking an allergy pill? If you have glaucoma it is not recommended to take allergy medications. Amazing how pet owners are so quick to come up with solutions for those of us who are allergic so they can bring “binky” on their vacation with them. Why is your comfort and enjoyment on an airplane any more important than anyone else? When you are at home in your private space have all the pets you want around but when you enter a public space, you should have to either avoid the space or accommodate others around you. As there are accommodations for a pet on many planes without the need to cause discomfort to others, why not take advantage of that instead?

Mocha
Reply to  Jason
3 months ago

Thats right we are ! My dogs go everywhere dont like it take another flight

Tony
Reply to  terrrianda
9 months ago

What do I do in the real world? I do not sit in enclosed spaces with dogs. Pretty straightforward and pretty easy. Allergies can be pretty painful and it’s not fair to ask someone to tough it out when we are talking a three or four hour flight. It’s much more unreasonable that I have to be PHYSICALLY ILL so that someone can bring their dog on a plane. LEAVE YOUR DOG AT HOME or put it under the plane. The point of airplanes is so that PEOPLE can travel.

Frany
Reply to  Tony
7 months ago

It remembers me a flight on southwest where because of one person allergic at peanuts, the entire flight didn’t get peanuts. If you are allergic at peanuts, don’t fly southwest. Period!