Traveling with Pets and Service Dogs:
Whats the Difference?

One of the biggest challenges dog owners face is what to do with their dogs while traveling. Boarding fees or hiring a dog sitter can add hundreds of dollars to your travel expenses. Airlines have rigid policies and restrictions along with pet fees for each part of the flight. While some airlines allow dogs onboard if specific size and breed requirements are met, others will only allow pets to travel in the cargo area.

Luckily for a fraction of the price you can Register Your Service Dog to avoid all of these fees and restrictions. However, flying with any dog requires detailed planning and necessary arrangements to be made. If you plan on flying with your registered service dog, let the airline know at the time of booking so any other requests (early boarding, wheelchair, bulkhead seating) can be made to best accommodate you and you service dog. Be sure to refer to our Service Dog Travel Guide for tips and what to expect while traveling with your Service Dog.

Airline specific
Delta airlines
  • Delta permits passengers to bring small pets in the cabin on most flights for a fee of $125 each way (to be collected at check-in). Delta’s Pet Policy applies to flights within the United States (apart from Hawaii), Canada, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
  • Pets permitted in the cabin include dogs, cats, and household birds.
  • The pet must be small enough to fit comfortably in a pet carrier under the seat in front of you. A pet in the cabin is considered one piece of carry-on luggage.
  • Passengers traveling with pets must check in at the airline ticket counter. Curbside and self-service check-in are not available.
  • Delta and its airline partners each have their own policies regarding the number and size of pets that can be carried in the cabin and in cargo.
  • If a pet has to transfer from a Delta flight to one of its partner Connection Carriers, the Delta flight must be confirmed at least 48 hours before the scheduled departure time of the Connection Carrier flight.
  • Two pets of the same size and species (generally puppies, kittens, or toy dogs) may be allowed in one pet carrier. They must be able to comfortably fit in one carrier and weigh less than 20 pounds. If they meet these criteria, they will be charged as one pet.
  • Delta does not accept pets as checked baggage and requires all pets (other than small pets traveling as carry ons) to be transported as cargo (pricing varies).

Reservation requirement: Contact Delta by telephone to reserve tickets for yourself and your pets, making a note that cargo reservations for your pet will not be accepted more than 14 days in advance.


American Airlines
  • American Airlines accepts small cats and dogs in the cabin of the aircraft (no other animals are allowed).
  • The fee for pets traveling in the cabin is $125 per carrier (each way), and the combined weight of the pet and carrier may not exceed 20 pounds.
  • Pets must remain completely in the carrier with the door closed and under the seat during the entire time that the pet is in the aircraft.
  • American Airlines does not accept pets in the cabin to or from Hawaii, transatlantic destinations, Bolivia, Chile, Uraguay, Argentina, and Venezuela. Passengers traveling with pets must check-in at the airline ticket counter. At this time, curbside or self-service check-in is not allowed. Please allow extra time beyond normal check-in guidelines.
  • American Airlines restricts pets in cargo to cats and dogs only. The fee for pets traveling in cargo is $175 per carrier (each way). However, travelers (especially dog show participants) should be aware that capacity is sometimes reached, and checked pets are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Reservation requirement: American Airlines limits the number of pets permitted to fly in the cabin to seven per flight (a maximum of two in first class and five in coach). Therefore, it is important to book your pet’s ticket as early as possible. You should call 1-800-433-7300 for reservations, and tell the agent that you are traveling with your pet. A maximum of two pets per ticketed passenger is permitted on American Airlines flights. The pet fee is based upon the number of pet carriers, not the number of pets.


South West
  • Southwest Airlines allows customers to carry small pets (cats and dogs only) on board all domestic Southwest Airlines flights.
  • All in-cabin pets must be carried in an appropriate pet carrier.
  • The pet fee is $95 each way per pet carrier. Each customer is limited to carrying one pet carrier on board.
  • The carrier may contain up to two cats or dogs of the same species. The carrier will count as the customer’s carry-on bag. Southwest does not require a health certificate or any other documentation from the customer’s veterinarian for pets to travel. Pets are not permitted on international flights.
  • Pets are not allowed in the cargo area on Southwest Airlines.
  • Soft-sided and hard-sided carriers specifically designed as pet carriers are acceptable. The carriers must be leak-proof and well ventilated. The pet carrier must be small enough to fit under the seat in front of the customer, and be stowed in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

Reservation requirement: Reservations for small cats or dogs can only be booked by calling Southwest Airlines at 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792). Pets will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis until the capacity is reached. The pet fee must be collected at the ticket counter, is nonrefundable, and may not be applied towards future flights if unused.


Virglin American Airline
  • Virgin America is a “pet-friendly” airline that accepts cats and dogs in the passenger cabin of its aircraft for a $100 fee (per segment).
  • Passengers are limited to one pet carrier per purchased seat. Guests with pets cannot be seated in the exit row, the first row of the main cabin, or the first class cabin.
  • The total weight of your pet and its carrier cannot exceed 20 pounds.
  • Travelers with pets must present a veterinary certificate dated within 30 days prior to departure. The certificate must indicate that the pet’s shots are current, and the date of birth is listed and verified to be greater than eight weeks of age.
  • Pets checked as baggage are not accepted on Virgin America flights.
  • Pet carriers must be properly ventilated, have a floor designed to absorb and retain solids or liquids, and prevent any part of your pet from protruding from the carrier.

Reservation requirement: Because the number of pets permitted on flights are limited, please call reservations at 1-877-359-8474 to make arrangements for traveling with your pet as soon as your travel plans are confirmed. When booking your reservation, you will be advised to contact your veterinarian to determine stations or government requirements for pets to their final destination.


United Airline
  • United Airlines allows domesticated cats, dogs, rabbits, and birds (8 weeks and over) to travel in the aircraft cabin on most flights within the U.S.
  • An in-cabin pet may be carried in addition to a carry-on bag and is subject to a $125 service charge each way. There is an additional $125 service charge for each stopover of more than four hours within the U.S. or more than 24 hours outside of the U.S.
  • Pets are not permitted in the cabin on flights to, from, or through Australia, Hawaii, and Micronesia (including Guam).
  • Passengers traveling with pets must check in at the airline ticket counter. Curbside or self-service check-in is not available.
  • United Airlines’ PetSafe Program offers airport-to-airport delivery for animals and features a 24-hour live animal desk. They can track pets from origin to destination and more. Dogs, cats, household birds, rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs may be accepted as cargo on United Airlines flights.

Reservation requirement: Advance reservations for pet travel in the cabin is required by calling 1-800-864-8331 directly. Reservations are made on a space-available basis. For cargo pet transport, please contact the United Airlines PetSafe Desk at 1-800-575-3335 to make arrangements.


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