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Pet Travel

How to Bring Your Dog or Cat Onboard

As pets have evolved more and more into full-fledged members of the family, owners have begun including their four-legged friends in travel plans. And that means flying.

Airlines have adjusted their policies, too, allowing for pets to travel in cabins with their owners in most cases, provided the animal is small enough to fit in a pet carrier. While a 68-kg Mastiff or 34-kg Lab obviously won’t qualify, most small dogs and cats will.

To ensure a safe flight, it’s important that owners recognize the health needs of their pets – those that are especially important 35,000 feet in the air.

Here are some guidelines to help both pets and their owners fly comfortably.

Before You Fly:

  • Choose direct flights to minimize the time your pet is travelling.
  • If you’re flying during winter or summer months, be sure that both the hold of the plane and the cargo facilities at the airport are climate controlled. Ask the airline if you need to get an acclimation certificate from your vet, showing that your animal is cleared to fly in temperatures lower than 7 degrees Celsius.
  • Make sure your pet is adequately insured and that the policy covers travel. If you don’t have insurance coverage for your friend, consider getting it.
  • Be aware of destination-specific restrictions. Hawaii, for instance, is a rabies-free state and therefore requires animals be quarantined for up to 120 days upon arrival.


Though individual airlines’ requirements vary, a few guidelines are universal:

  • Per Federal Aviation Administration regulations, the pet carrier must be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you, allowing for other passengers to easily reach the aisle.
  • Your animal must be at least eight-weeks old and fully weaned.
  • Make sure to choose a carrier large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around; one that fits your airline’s size requirements.
  • For dogs, have a collar and leash handy to walk your pet once deplaned.
  • Each crate should contain separate bowls for water and food, accessible from the inside (Tip: It’s also a good idea to keep an extra serving or two of food in a bag taped to the top of the carrier in case of any delays, along with a notice asking for your pet to be fed by a certain time if you’re delayed in picking it up.)
  • Write the words “Live Animal” on the sides and top of the carrier, along with arrows indicating the top of the crate.
  • Make two copies of all necessary documentation, including your home and travel contact information and your pet’s name. Also include a recent photo of your friend to have in the rare event that they escape or go missing. Keep one set of copies for yourself, and place the other set in an envelope securely taped to the top of the crate.


  • Check with your vet to make sure your animal cleared to fly and that all vaccinations are current, and carry a copy of the updated health certificate with you.
  • If your animal has pet health insurance, make sure it’s current, and have a copy of the insurance card or member information with you, as well as attached to the pet carrier.
  • Sedation is discouraged, since sedatives and high altitudes can be a deadly combination. Some airlines will refuse to fly a sedated animal.
  • Do not feed your pet for four to six hours before travelling, though it’s crucial to provide water in a spill-proof bowl.
AirlineCabin fee,by segmentChecked fee,
Maximum kennel
size (cabin)
Maximum kennelsize (checked)
Air Canada$50/$100$105 and up55cm L x 40cm W x 23cm H292 cm, linear dimensions
Alaska Airlines$100$10043xm L x 30cmW x 19cm H101cm L x 68cm W x 76cm H
American Airlines$125$17548cm L x 33cm W x 22cm H101cm L x 68cm W x 76cm H
British AirwaysVaries, based on weight & destinationVaries, based on weight & destinationVaries, based on weight & destinationVaries, based on weight & destination
Delta Air Lines$125$20045cm L x 26cm H x 27cm W121cm L x 81cm W x 89cm H
JetBlue Airways$100n/a43cm L x 31cm W x 21cm HChecked pets not allowed
Porter Airlines$50n/a55cm L x 40cm W x 23cm HChecked pets not allowed
Southwest Airlines$75n/a48cm L x 35cm W x 21cm HChecked pets not allowed
United Airlines$125$25044cm L x 30cm W x 19cm H121cm L x 81cm W x 89cm H
US Airways$125n/a43cm L x 40cm W x 20cm HChecked pets not allowed
WestJet$50$5040cm L x 44cm W x 21.5cm H91cm L x 61cm W x 66cm H

For more information about travelling with your pets, check out our Top 10 tips for flying with pets or visit these great websites below:

Pet Friendly Hotels

Author: Brittany Dietz (257 posts)

Brittany has travelled to London, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Mexico, The Caribbean, Canada and all over the U.S. She's passionate about travel and has big plans for future trips! Brittany is a Content and Social Media Executive at Cheapflights.