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Top 5 Airlines For Flying With Your Dog & The Alternatives

Top 5 Airlines For Flying With Your Dog & The Alternatives

Traveling with a canine companion is more common than ever but when it comes to long distances that require air transport there are some extra things you need to know about travel. Rules and regulations vary depending on where you are going. Size regulations for carry-ons even come into play. Scout has done the research for you and created this easy to use guide to flying with your pet as well as a few alternatives for those trips.

Requirements for Flying Your Dog as Cargo or Bringing Them as a Carry-On

Health certificate signed by your vet within 10 days of travel

Airlines want to know that your dog is in good health when flying. This means you have to get a certificate that has the following information:

  • Shipper’s name and address
  • Tag numbers or tattoos assigned to the animal
  • Age of the animal being shipped: USDA regulations require animals be at least 10 weeks old and fully weaned before traveling domestically, at least 16 weeks old before traveling to the U.S. from other countries and at least 15 weeks old for European travel
  • Statement that the animal is in good health (If the shipper knows that the pet is pregnant, it must be noted on the health certificate)
  • List of administered inoculations, when applicable
  • Signature of the veterinarian
  • Date of the certificate

(Courtesy of Delta Airlines)

Written consent from vet if using any type of sedative for your dog during flight

Sedatives can have different effects at altitude so it is important that a vet makes sure your dog is a candidate for medication. This means having signed permission to use meds when you board the plane.

Live animal checklist/confirmation of feeding

Normally airlines will have you answer a checklist and some questions before checking in. Usual requirements are that dogs need to have been given food or water within the last 4 hours. You have to tell the airline how to feed and water your dog for the next 24 hours just in case and you have to provide the food so bring a few days worth of food with you, just in case.

Fees should be considered

Even if your pet is allowed to travel as a carry on with you during travel, there are some extra fees to consider. Delta, for example, charges a $125 fee one way for doing this when traveling throughout the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and a $75 fee for travel to Brazil. International travel is $200 each way. That is quite a lot of extra expense so if you are just going on a quick trip it may be best to board your pet or hire a dog sitter.

Age of dog

While airlines want dogs to be at least 10 weeks old for domestic travel or 16 for international, you should also consider the age and health of your older dogs. A senior dog may get very scared or nervous during travel or not have the level of immunity to health issues that a younger dog has. Unless you are making a very long trip or moving permanently, it might be best to leave senior dogs at home where they are most comfortable.

How many dogs are you traveling with?

If you are making a long trip or permanent move and it is just you and your dogs then you may not want to hear that the number of dogs you can fly with is limited.  Delta limits it to 2 per person if you are flying first class;  if you are in the main cabin you can fly with up to 4. Keep in mind that you are going to be charged the fee for each dog, not just a flat rate for traveling with dogs.

Dog in crate

Consider the size of your dog.

There is no question that it is much easier to travel with a smaller dog because they can travel in the cabin with you. Larger dogs take up more room and often have to be put in the cargo hold which is not comfortable for dogs for very long.

Travel restrictions to some locations

Some countries have specific rules and regulations about dogs. You cannot travel with your dog in the cabin of flights to the following countries. There are no exceptions to this rule. You can check them as baggage though.

  • Australia
  • Barbados
  • Dakar
  • Dubai
  • Hong Kong
  • Iceland
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • The Republic of Ireland
  • South Africa
  • United Kingdom
  • The United Arab Emirates

Time of travel

Some airlines simply will not allow pets to travel as cargo or checked baggage during certain times of the year. This is for the safety and protection of your pet. Extreme temperature fluctuations can be extremely damaging to the health of your dog and that is not something they want to risk. You can still travel with your dog in the cabin as long as all the other rules for travel are followed.

The Problem With Shipping Dogs as Cargo in a Plane

Air travel is stressful for dogs but when they are shipped as cargo it can be terrifying. It is not that airlines go out of their way to ignore dogs but there is a lot that can happen during shipping. If a plane is delayed there is can be temperature fluctuations that can cause your dog a lot of distress and discomfort.

Airports really don’t have special animal areas so if a flight gets delayed then your dog may not get food or water in a timely manner. This is another reason why dogs that have health issues can see an increase in symptoms when traveling. If dogs are on medications for some issues your vet may not sign off on cargo shipping. Since your dog is less stressed when you are around, the cargo area can be especially frightening. A new and strange place in a kennel with you not around is pretty nightmarish for any dog.

There are plenty of people that do ship dogs as cargo but that doesn’t mean it is a great idea unless there is really no other option. Cargo shipping is not cheap.

Top 5  Airlines for Flying With Your Dog

Restrictions and fees vary a bit based on the carrier. Limits are usually based on the size of your dog. Here are a few of the top airlines for flying with your dog.

Poodle with suitcase

1. Lufthansa

This airline has an outstanding pet policy. There are a lot of different fee levels. For anywhere from $60-$400 depending on destination, you can take your dog with you.  At the same time, they have a policy on dogs that they classify as dangerous. These breeds include American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier,  Staffordshire Bull Terrier,  Bull Terrier (Miniature Bull Terriers are excluded), American Bulldog, Caucasian Ovcharka (Caucasian Shepherd Dog),  Dogo Argentino, Karabash (Kangal Dog) (Anatolian Shepherd Dog), and Rottweiler. Special crates and rates will apply if you are moving or traveling with any of these breeds.  Here is a link to a complete guide for pet travel on Lufthansa.

2. Delta

Fares are $125 for each way for small dogs traveling in the cabin. Checking a dog as cargo or checked baggage can cost $200. Reservations should be made well in advance and sometimes dogs will not be allowed due to extreme weather. They do accept really big dogs though so if you are traveling or moving with a pet over 20 lbs or so then they are the airline to consider.

3. United

Fares are the same as Delta at $125 each way if your dog is small enough to fit in a carrier that fits under your seat so under 20 lbs. For larger dogs that must be shipped as cargo, the rates vary based on destination and the size of your dog. You can check rates using this handy list. They do make it easy to figure out what the cost is if you are moving or traveling internationally. Rates are very competitive if you are not crossing any major oceans but then they go up substantially.

4. Southwest

Only allows small pets so big dog parents are out of luck. However, if you have a small dog or even two small dogs you can travel with them for a mere $95 one way. So if you have two 10 lb small dogs Southwest is a great deal and they are very welcoming. They do not allow dogs in the cargo hold so you really cannot bring larger dogs unless they are service animals and prior arrangements are made.

5. Jet Blue

This airline has an impressive amount of information about traveling with dogs. The Jetpaws program has a guide for those traveling with pets that has a lot of great advice. They charge $100 each way for traveling with pets in cabin that are under 20 lbs. Your dog counts as a carry-on. They don’t accept dogs as cargo though so those with larger dogs need to go with a carrier like Delta.

Alternatives To  Flying With Dogs

Dogs on boat

There are a lot of fabulous methods to get your dog where they need to be or if you just want to take a vacation that includes them. Here are a few travel methods that Scout wouldn’t mind using.

Private Air Travel

Although it’s not a cheaper option to commercial airfare, it can be a lot less stressful. Companies like Dogtravel Company allow dog owners to charter private flights where dogs of any size can travel in-cabin. For owners who don’t mind paying for the privilege, your dogs can enjoy all of the perks of human passengers.


Not many ocean liners are pet-friendly but those that are will likely have restrictions about size and how many dogs you can bring. Always double check with liners that your dog meets the requirements before booking. There are exceptions made for service dogs and those with disabilities on any ship.

Cruises For Pooches

Imagine traveling on a luxury cruise liner from New York to Southampton UK with your beloved dog or cat? This amazing cruise is the only major transatlantic cruise ship that regularly has dog passengers. In fact, they have a dedicated kennel master that attends to your dog when you need some time to do other things. Simply go get your dog when you want them. This is the ultimate cruise adventure for your dog and you!

Ferries & Tours

A lot of tours and ferries are dog-friendly but have their own individual policies. In some cases, there are even cruises specifically for dogs and their human companions such as the Bow Wow Brunch Cruise in San Diego, CA where you can do a two-hour cruise with your dog that includes an unlimited buffet for you and your pet. Enjoy an open bar with Mimosas, fresh juices, and have a lot of fun.  You can bring any size dog as well but they have to be leashed at all times.

Road Trip

Of course, driving is going to be the easiest and most likely the cheapest method of travel but it may also be more time-consuming. Still, there is a reason you see a lot of dog lovers hitting the road. If your pooch loves to throw their head out the window on an open stretch of country road then this may be the method of travel you consider. Make sure if you are renting a car that pets are allowed.

Purchasing some seat covers and other accessories before you embark with your dog is advised if you are not already equipped. Also if your dog gets really excited you are going to want a kennel divider, or restraint to keep them contained as you drive. Of course, make sure to stop often for some great pictures and a chance for everyone to stretch their legs. Most rest stops that are state maintained welcome dogs on leashes.

Rail Travel

Amtrak offers owners of smaller dogs an inexpensive travel option. For $25 you can bring your dog under 20 lbs on any trip that is 7 hours or less. The major restrictions are that dogs cannot travel with unaccompanied minors and Amtrak only allows so many dogs on the train at once so it is best to make your reservation well ahead of time. Keep in mind that you absolutely cannot bring your dog into the dining car and dogs are only allowed in designated cars. The pace of a train can be a lot more comfortable for some dogs than other travel methods and at $25 for each leg of travel, even if the ticket for you is a bit high, it still may be a cheaper and easier way to travel with a small dog than on a plane.

Dog road trip

Pet Transport Ground Services

Pet couriers exist that will drive your dog or transport them to wherever needed. This can be a great choice if making a long distance move for school or work. In fact, you can even have them drive you to. The list of services and fees vary and you may get a discount for multiple dogs or pets. In some cases, this may even be more cost effective than other transportation methods.

It is important to know what you are really getting before choosing to use this type of service. Make sure you are not just signing up with a service that just takes care of getting your pet to the airport and on a plane. If you are going to spend this kind of money then make sure you go with a service that actually offers ground transport or similar. The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association has a list of pet transport services that meet their guidelines you can search here by state. Generally speaking the closer the transporter is to you the less expensive you can expect it to be.

Making Smart Travel Choices

As you can see there is a lot to think about and a lot of advanced planning that must be done when flying or traveling with a pet in any way that doesn’t involve you driving them privately. The most important thing is to make sure health certificates and vaccinations are always up to date. It is also worth saying to never cut corners when it comes to the safety and well-being of your canine companion. This means paying extra to make sure that they are comfortable and arrive safely is always worth it. If you cannot offer them this then it is best to leave them at home next time you go on vacation.

Continue reading:

Best Gear for Traveling with Your Dog

Finding the Right Dog Sitter

Gear To Have Before Day 1 With Your Dog