A dog sits in its travel kennel.
Dog Travel

Dogs and Flying: A Guide to Properly Navigating US Airlines with Your Pet

Know the different rules and regulations for traveling with your furry friend before you book a flight

There will come a time when you need to transport your dog through an airport. While it seems simple, there are many ways a dog owner can, in the hustle of leaving, forget key steps.

Below we’ve outlined the rules the Transportation Security Agency has outlined for pets and pet supplies, as well as the different rules from the various U.S. Airlines that accept pets as both checked luggage – in a cargo hold – and as a carry-on. 

So you get to the airport and step up to the check-in counter, dog in tow. What happens next?

There are two options: check your dog as cargo or declare it as a carry-on. 

An overview of carry-on pets

Due to cabin restrictions, a carry-on pet and its kennel must be able to fit under the seat in front of you. In this case, most hunting dogs won’t make it on the plane in this way. Additionally, for a kennel or case to qualify as a proper carry-on, it must allow the animal to freely move – stand, lie down, turn around – without touching the top of the kennel or the sides. The kennels or cases must also meet airline dimensions, and, if collapsible, shouldn’t have to be exceedingly collapsed to fit. 

Small dogs that will be riding in the cabin with the owner will need to go through the screening process, however, the dog must be taken out of its case or kennel before going through the x-ray machine. The owner must still have control of their dog and step into and through the screening machine together. Once through the TSA checkpoint, it’s suggested you take your dog to a relief station inside the airport before boarding your flight if available. Of note, if your dog is aggressive or a nuisance, the airline maintains the right to deny you and your pet passage. 

And although you don’t have to, calling the airline ahead to let them you will be traveling with a dog will help you secure a spot for your dog on your flight.

An overview of checked kennels

If you must check your dog, expect charges ranging from $95 to $125. Further, not all airlines accept kenneled dogs as checked cargo, and some have suspended this program barring certain circumstances for important personnel. 

However, when flying with a medium- or large-sized breed re-opens, there is another set of rules to abide by. Before you book your flight, check to make sure the airline accepts your kennel. While some airlines sell kennels at the airport, it’s best to have the crate your dog is acclimated to. Also, keep in mind that if you travel with a dog that needs to be shipped in the cargo hold that you understand temperature rules. Most airlines won’t allow you to travel with your dog if it’s above 85 degrees Fahrenheit or below 45 degrees at any stop on the itinerary. 

In most cases, you will also need to declare to the airline before your flight that you will be traveling with your dog and will need to secure a spot in the cargo hold. Crate requirements also exist for dogs traveling in the cargo hold. A crate needs to be large enough that the dog can move around and stand in without touching the top or sides; must have a secured, metal door; and must be made of metal, plastic, or another solid material that won’t be crushed or warped. In every case, you’ll need to provide a food and water bowl, as well as a bag of dried food in case of stops. It is also mandated to have a health certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian within 10 days of the flight. Some airlines may require vaccinations records or other information as well. Additionally, in most cases, each airline will let customers travel with two dogs in the same kennel as long as they meet specific age and breed guidelines. 

Finally, the American Veterinary Medical Association notes that because of potential health issues caused by altitude pressures, sedatives are not recommended.

While these rules are typical across all domestic airlines, there are different regulations and prices associated with traveling with pets. Below is the complete breakdown of airlines that allow customers to travel with dogs.

American Airlines 

Carry-on pet fee; $125 per kennel

Checked pet fee: Not available 

Temperature restrictions: Above 85 degrees Fahrenheit; Below 45 degrees F.*

Currently, American Airlines has suspended its checked pet service citing “increased flight changes.” They are still accepting checked pets for active-duty military and state department personnel that need to travel for assignments. Carry-on pets are still allowed if they meet requirements.

When the checked pet service is operational, pets are accepted on a first-come basis, so travelers will need to contact American’s reservations within 48 hours of the flight, check in at the counter, complete a checklist with an airline agent, and provide a health certificate. That certificate must be issued within 10 days of your initial flight, 60 days of your return on the same ticket, or 10 days of your return on a different ticket. Customers must also secure a written certification to the side of the kennel that their pet has been fed and offered water within four hours before being delivered to the airplane. There also must be feeding and watering instructions provided for 24 hours.

Restrictions and other rules

American has two types of restrictions – breed and aircraft – as well as specified cities where a connecting flight may occur. 

Airbus and airplane restrictions

Airbus restrictions 
AircraftAcceptable Kennel SeriesMaximum Height
A321T500 or smaller46 inches
B737-800400 or smaller28 inches
B777-200/300500 or smaller63 inches
B787-800/900400 or smaller 63 inches

Flight restrictions

Connector airports are Charlotte, N.C. (CLT); Chicago O’Hare, Ill. (ORD); Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas (DFW); Los Angeles (LAX); New York, N.Y., Kennedy (JFK) and LaGuardia (LGA); Miami (MIA); Philadelphia (PHL); Phoenix (PHX); Washington D.C., Reagan (DCA). 

Breed restrictions

American does not allow short-nosed breeds to fly in the cargo hold. These breeds include: 

AffenpinscherDogue De BordeauxPekingeseTibetan Spaniel
Brussels GriffonEnglish Toy SpanielPresa Canario
“Bully” BreedsJapanese ChinPugs
Cane CorsoLhasa ApsoShar Peis
Chow ChowMastiffs Shih Tzu

Other kennel rules for American Airlines are: 

  • Doors must be secured at the top and bottom with bolts or screws
  • Doors must be secured by yourself with release cable ties on all four corners 
  • If traveling with two pets in the same kennel, they must be the same species 
  • Multiple pets in the same kennel must be roughly the same size and weigh less than 20 pounds each
  • Multiple pets in one kennel must be between 8 weeks and 6 months old. 
  • Pets cannot be able to poke any body part through the container.
  • Must be leak and escape-proof. 
  • Must have ventilation on at least three sides for domestic flights; four sides for international flights. 
  • Must have separate food and water dishes attached securely inside the kennel
  • Must have a small bag of food for 24-hours on top of the kennel.
  • Must be clean and have absorbent material or litter, but cannot have straw, hay, or wood shavings.

Delta Airlines

Carry-on pet fee: First is checked as a carry-on

Checked pet fee: $125 (U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico)

Temperature restrictions: Above 80 degrees F; Below 20 degrees F.*

Like American, Delta paused their checked pet program, except for military and state department officials. Delta also follows the standard carry-on kennel rules. 

Further, customers must contact Delta’s Reservation system to determine the appropriate kennel size for each flight. Additionally, pets are accepted on a first-come basis, like AA.

Age restrictions are slightly different than American, as pets must be at least 10 weeks old for domestic flights. Two pets may also fly in a carry-on kennel if they are the same breed and size, and are between 10 weeks and 6 months of age.

Special rules for Delta’s cargo pet shipping system require customers to secure a separate booking from the flight, which may mean additional fees. Also, pets cannot be booked until 14 days before the flight, nor are they guaranteed by the company to be shipped on the owner’s flight or flight schedule. There are also specific locations to check in a pet, which require drop-off three hours before the passenger’s departure time. 

Delta suggests that pet owners discuss applicable health information with their veterinarian that could lead to “injury, illness, escape or death” before booking your pet’s flight. Owners must present a health certificate for their pet prior when checking in and will need to complete a feeding checklist at check-in. If a pet needs to be fed during a flight, food must be provided. 

Restrictions and other rules

Carry-on pets are not permitted to fly in certain areas of a plane: 

  • Bulkhead, emergency exit rows
  • Seats designated as “no stowage”
  • Flat-bed seats
  • Rows 30-35 on the A330-200 aircraft
  • Rows 30-43 on the A330 -300 aircraft
  • Center seats on the B757-200 aircraft

Delta follows the general breed rules many others do, meaning no short-nosed breeds are allowed to fly with the airline. 

United Airlines

Carry-on pet fee: $125

Checked pet fee: Varies

Temperature restrictions: Above 85 degrees F; Below 45 degrees F.*

Though United Airlines is another company that has suspended shipping pets in a cargo hold as part of its PetSafe Transport system, these rules will likely be applicable in the future after airlines catch up from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Like other airlines, short-nosed breeds are not permitted to fly in a cargo hold. However, there is a good window for pet owners to reserve a spot for their dog in a cargo hold, from 5-30 days before traveling. 

Customers must complete, sign, and date two copies of the Customer Acknowledgement Form, provide a copy of the pet’s health certification issued by a veterinarian who examined the pet within 10 days of travel, a photo of the pet’s crate, two photos of the pet, and a completed departure checklist. Owners must also provide a food and water dish securely attached to the inside of the crate door. United notes these must be accessible from the outside of the door to be filled. With that, a form that lists feeding instructions and information about when the last time the pet was fed and offered water must be provided to the airline. 

Finally, United suggests attaching a bag of dry food – up to 16 ounces – to the crate in case of delays. Blankets, towels, beds, or crate pads up to 3-inches thick are also allowed, as is a piece of clothing with a familiar smell to calm the dog during the duration of the flight. 

As for pets that will ride in the cabin, United mandates they be at least 8 weeks old and the carrier or kennel must meet standard guidelines to fit underneath the seat in front of the customer. United also requires customers to claim the pet ahead of time, which they can do when booking the flight. 

Restrictions and other rules

  • Crates must be shorter than 34-inches tall
  • Pets won’t be accepted into the PetSafe program between May 1 and Sept. 30 for flights going to or through Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix, or Tuscon.

Alaska Airlines

Carry-on pet fee: $100

Checked pet fee: $100

Temperature restrictions: Above 85 degrees F; Below 45 degrees F.*

To check a pet as cargo, they must be at least 8 weeks old and a reservation must be made within 24 hours and up to 30 days of the flight. Kennels must have a top handle, be held together with metal or plastic nuts and bolts, and have a food and water dish attached to the inside of the door. Further, the kennel must be solid with one door, be leakproof and clean, be safe for travel, and have enough room for the pet to move around freely. 

Finally, a pet owner must provide Alaska Airlines with a health certificate issued by a veterinarian within 10 days of the flight and is vaccinated against Parvovirus (for flights to Nome or Kotzebue). It also must have a rabies vaccination certificate. 

As with all other airlines, if a pet is checked for an in-cabin flight, it must be small enough to comfortably fit underneath the seat in front of the customer. Some pet restrictions – such as rules concerning short-nosed breeds – may not apply to carry-on pets. Before booking a flight, check with Alaska Airlines. 

Restrictions and other rules

  • Pets cannot be checked as cargo from Nov. 15 to Jan 10 on flights 2000-2999 and 3300-3499. 
  • Short-nosed dog breeds are not accepted as cargo on Alaska Airlines flights.

Hawaiian Airlines 

Carry-on pet fee: $175

Checked pet fee: $225

Temperature restrictions: Above 85 degrees F; Below 45 degrees F.*

Though Hawaii has strict rules about importing non-native animals, those flying on Hawaiian Airlines are still allowed to bring their pets. That being said, there is still a slew of rules to follow as well as restrictions. 

To check a pet and kennel as check-in baggage, the combined weight cannot be more than 70 pounds. If it does exceed that weight, it may be transported through the airline’s cargo system. To help speed things up, however, a customer can claim and book their pet when purchasing a flight ticket. 

Owners must also provide a health certificate signed by a veterinarian within 10 days of departing Hawaii or 14 days when flying to Hawaii. The pet must also be at least 8 weeks old. 

Kennels must be suitable for air travel, leak-proof, and constructed of rigid materials with a solid top and ventilation on at least three sides. Further, hard-sided plastic kennels must have metal bolts but can have metal, nylon, or plastic nuts as long as they’re unbreakable. An owner must also provide absorbent bedding as well as water and food bowls inside the kennel. The food and water bowls should be accessible from the outside. 

If the pet is small enough to fly in the cabin, it must adhere to standard rules. A customer can also book their pet as a carry-on when purchasing flight tickets. 

Restrictions and other rules

  • Pets cannot fly in the cabin if the flight is going to or leaving from New York Kennedy (JFK), Boston (BOS), Orlando (MCO), or Austin (AUS). 

Other pet-specific TSA rules

Solid pet food (dry or moist) is allowed in both carry-on and checked bags. Wet pet food is also allowed in both types of baggage, however, to be allowed in carry-on bags it must be less than 3.4 ounces.

An all-around kennel for most applications

Now that you know the specific rules for each airline that allows dogs to fly in the cargo hold, what kennel is right for you?

The Dakota 283 Kennebec Jet Stream Airline kennel is one of the best options. It takes into account all the standards of commercial flights and is a one-piece construction like all of our other kennels. 

With top molded handles and lift straps, it makes transporting your pet – whether by you or a flight logistics staffer – easy. It also has flow-through ventilation to keep your pet’s temperature moderated in fluctuating temperatures; has an easy-to-clean interior in case of an accident from the rigors of travel; and a secure, double-latch door to make sure your pet remains safe in the kennel. Additionally, due to its rugged construction, the walls absorb impact while the corners remain virtually impervious to crushing, cracking, and other damage.

Still, while the Jet Stream kennel is a great piece of equipment, t is essential to check with your air carrier to ensure that this kennel meets their current listed requirements as airlines are continually changing specifications on what is acceptable from a pet travel containment system. 

Further, we take pride in serving the vast majority of the dog population with our products. With that said, our framed door kennel products can not contain all dogs. We expect that there are some breeds and or pets that are beyond containment with our products. While we have had great success in kenneling aggressive dogs, we are not claiming that we can contain every dog. Dog owners know their dogs intimately and should be the person that makes the final determination regarding the use of any product or kennel. 

We are regularly working on additional products and upgraded designs that will give a higher degree of containment for aggressive breeds. If you have any questions concerning these products or if a kennel is right for your dog, please reach out to us so we may help you through the decision process.

*If temperatures are expected to fall below 45 degrees F and your dog is acclimated to colder weather, a licensed veterinarian can provide you with a certificate of acclimation to present to the airline. Some airlines will then green-light transporting your dog in the cargo hold to places with temperatures between 20-25 degrees F, but not lower than that.

This guide is updated as of June 30, 2021. As rules change frequently, it’s best to check with your airline to make sure these rules still apply. 

2 thoughts on “Dogs and Flying: A Guide to Properly Navigating US Airlines with Your Pet

  1. Tommy brooks says:

    I have shipped dogs for years on other airlines but DO NOT SHIP ON AMERICAN. they allowed a plane to take off knowing it wouldn’t make connection never called to this day they put my dogs in a pet motel and refused to say Ssy where. They both caught distemper and had to be put down. We’re out over 5k over this and all we get is generic emails from snericsn. Proof can be provided of everything here. This is the real news story

  2. James Alter says:

    In recent time I fly with my dog in Frontier Airlines and I had a greate experiance with frontier airlines.

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