We’ve all seen the adorable videos of jet-setting pets on social media. From cats to dogs, household birds to hamsters, people seem to want to include their entire family in their travel plans, including those with fur, feathers, or scales.  It’s understandable, given that 98% of pet owners consider their pets a crucial part of the family. 

For many, leaving them behind is not feasible, prompting the choice of pet-friendly vacations. Still, many people who don’t usually vacation with pets rely on pet-friendly airlines when they move cross-country or internationally. 

Regardless of your reasons for flying with your cherished pet, selecting the appropriate airline is essential. Each airline has its own policies, which may or may not allow animals on board. Some allow small pets under a specific size or weight to fly in the cabin, whereas others only transport them in the cargo hold. Depending on your and your pet’s needs and preferences, you may have to do a lot of research to find a reliable and safe airline to fly. 

In this article, we’ll provide pet owners with essential information on the best pet-friendly airlines, highlighting safety, costs, and policies. We’ll also share some tips for before and during your flight to make the entire experience more enjoyable and relaxing. 

Selecting the Right Airline for Your Companion

Start planning your trip by finding a pet-friendly airline—this is the first and most important step. Not all airlines accept pets, and some only allow them on specific routes. An airline that’s truly pet-friendly will likely have a section on its website dedicated to its pet policy. It might mention its safety record, the accommodations it makes for pets, and how its staff is trained to handle the unique needs of non-human passengers. 

Your best bet is to perform a flight search for your intended dates and destination. Then, research the airlines that appear in your search to determine whether or not they are pet-friendly. 

It’s important to note that some airlines stopped transporting pets during the pandemic and the subsequent CDC ban on dog travel from countries with a high risk for rabies. Before booking with any airline, call a representative to ensure they still allow pet reservations to and from your destination. Keep in mind that active U.S. military personnel are usually still able to fly with their pet.

Traveling with a service animal means you’re allowed to bring your animal along. However, you should be aware that airlines distinguish between service dogs and emotional support animals, so you’ll want to ensure you meet their guidelines before booking your flight. 

You still have options if you are neither an armed forces member nor require a service animal. Here are some of the most pet-friendly airlines you should consider: 

  • American Airlines: Pets are allowed on domestic flights in the continental United States and select international destinations for $150 per kennel. Only active-duty U.S. military and State Department personnel are permitted to transport pets as cargo.
  • Delta Airlines: Delta is one of the best airlines for pet-friendly travel to Europe. These airlines not only serve a broad array of destinations but also impose no maximum weight limit on carriers within the cabin. If your pet fits in the carrier comfortably, they can fly! You can expect to pay $200 each way for your in-cabin pet. 
  • United Airlines: Pets are only allowed in the cabin with United, so if your companion is on the smaller side, this is a safe choice! There are many routes to pick from, and pets are permitted on their transatlantic and long-haul flights. Expect to pay $125 each way.

Understanding Airline Pet Policies

Not all pet-friendly airlines are the same. Some have strict policies that limit the size, type, or number of animals on each flight. Others limit pets to certain routes or distances. It is essential to get the specifics by carefully reading airlines’ pet policies. 

Breed Restrictions

Many airlines restrict brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs, Pugs, and Persian cats from flying because they are prone to respiratory problems. These pets are not allowed in the cargo hold and are sometimes unable to fly altogether.

Depending on the airline, dog breeds deemed aggressive may also be banned from flying. These include Pitbulls, Rottweilers, Akitas, and American Bulldogs. 

Size and Weight Restrictions

Most airlines allow small dogs and cats (usually under 15-20lbs, including the carrier) to travel in the cabin. Your pet must comfortably fit into a carrier that will slide under the seat in front of you.

Large dogs can still fly but must travel in the cargo hold. The weight limit varies but ranges from 70 to 100 pounds, including the weight of the kennel. Some airlines have stricter limitations during extreme weather, especially during the summer months. 

Number of Pets

Airlines frequently restrict the number of pets each passenger can bring and the total number allowed per flight. Reservations are first come, first served. It’s vital to book your pet’s reservation early and confirm it with the airline well before your departure date. 

Required Documents

It’s a common requirement for airlines to request a health certificate from a veterinarian, issued within 10 days of travel, to ensure the pet is healthy enough for flying. For international flights, additional documents are needed, such as: 

  • Exportation and importation certificate
  • Proof of tests or health examination
  • Proof of microchip
  • List of administered vaccines
  • Proof of treatments for parasites

Many countries, including the United States, require proof of up-to-date rabies vaccination, sometimes administered at least 30 days in advance, so be sure to check with the country you’ll be visiting ahead of time. Other vaccinations, such as distemper or parvovirus, might be required depending on the type of animal and destination. 

If your documents are in English, you may need to translate them into your destination’s primary language. 


In the cabin, pets take the place of your carry-on bag, so you’ll need to bring a checked bag instead. While you can typically bring a personal item like a purse or backpack with your pet on most airlines, it must be stored in the overhead bin.


Pets are usually permitted in the main cabin only, so you likely can not bring them in first class or business. If you want to upgrade, ask the airline first to ensure no issues on the day of travel. 

Costs Associated with Flying Furry Friends

While traveling with pets adds extra costs, knowing what these expenses typically look like can aid in effective planning and budgeting.


Pet fees are the most obvious cost, ranging anywhere from $75 to $200 for in-cabin pets, depending on the destination and duration of the flight. Cargo rates are usually higher, especially for large pets. Keep in mind that these fees apply per one-way travel, not for a round trip.

Document Costs

Obtaining a health certificate can also cost a pretty penny, especially if your pet needs vaccinations, a microchip, medications, or tests before the flight. Sometimes, these are mandatory and even require a specific veterinarian in your area to perform them. 


Purchasing an approved carrier is another expense unless you already have one that meets the standards of your desired airline. The maximum measurements and specifications are often so specific that owners are forced to buy a new one before flying. 

Tips for Cutting Costs

Thankfully, some ways exist to cut costs or prevent them from increasing needlessly. 

Reserve your flight in advance to avoid the high costs of last-minute travel. This is especially important with pets since only a handful can be on the same flight. Moreover, you will likely want to select your seat to have more space and not disturb other passengers. 

Compare airline fees, especially if you have a wide variety of options. For example, booking with United instead of Delta could save you $150 in pet fees for a round trip! Of course, you should only book based on pet fees if the ticket price is comparable. 

Join frequent flyer programs that offer discounts or benefits for members. You may be able to purchase your flight with travel miles, only needing to pay the extra costs associated with your pet fee or baggage. 

Pre-Flight Pet Preparations

Adequately preparing your pet for travel can enhance comfort for you and your pet during the journey. Once you pick an airline, you can purchase your pet’s carrier or kennel. Be sure it fits the airline’s guidelines, including the size and type. 

Most pet owners prefer soft-sided carriers for in-cabin pets. These are not only more ventilated but also fit under the seat in front of you with greater ease. On the other hand, airlines usually require cargo pets to be transported inside hard-sided kennels with ventilation on three sides and secure latches. 

No matter how you plan to travel with your pet, acclimate them to their crate or carrier as soon as possible. Motivate your pet to get accustomed to their carrier by placing their favorite snacks, meals, or bedding inside. 

Consider short car journeys in the carrier to familiarize your pet with travel. Always use positive reinforcement, like treats and praise, to make this new experience pleasant for your pet.

Feeding Schedules

Before the flight, you can feed your pet a light meal, but refrain from giving them food at least four hours before departure. Doing so prevents them from getting an upset stomach during the journey. You can still provide some water throughout the flight; just be sure to do it sparingly, as they will only have somewhere to relieve themselves once you reach your destination. During layovers, it’s essential to know the locations of pet relief areas within the airport.

Medication and Anxiety Management 

Depending on your pet’s health and behavior, you may wish to request some medications for anxiety or motion sickness. Discuss any concerns with your veterinarian and adhere strictly to their advice regarding medications. Administering drugs to your pet without veterinary guidance can be risky, particularly when flying.

Thankfully, there is an alternate choice—natural calming aids. These include products like pheromone sprays and treats infused with chamomile or melatonin. 

Navigating International Travel with Pets

International travel with pets involves a complex web of regulations, but it is not as scary as it seems! As long as you do your research and talk to a vet experienced in issuing health certificates and pet travel documents, you should have no issues. 

Many countries have strict quarantine laws, requiring pets to be isolated for a period upon arrival to prevent the spread of diseases. Others only ask that you have proof of the required vaccinations and a certificate of good health. Here are some examples of requirements based on destination:

  • Hawaii: Pets must have a microchip, be fully vaccinated for rabies in the last year, be given a rabies antibody test at least 120 days before arrival in Hawaii, and be issued a health certificate and import form. Pets failing to meet these criteria may face a quarantine of up to 120 days upon arrival.
  • Mexico: Upon entry to Mexico, officials will inspect the pet to ensure it is free from diseases, has been treated for parasites in the last six months, and is up to date on vaccinations.
  • Brazil: Dogs and cats need a health certificate with proof of vaccinations and parasite treatment. It should be apostilled. 
  • United Kingdom: Microchips, rabies vaccinations, and a passport is needed for import. Dogs require tapeworm treatment, and pets from certain countries need a blood test. Quarantine is necessary if these requirements are not met. 
  • Canada: Pets older than three months need a rabies vaccination certificate, and dogs and cats need a health certificate. All pets must be free of diseases and pests. Import permits are required for some species, but quarantine isn’t needed if the regulations are met.
  • Europe: Pets must have a microchip, rabies vaccination, and pet passport. Dogs must be treated for tapeworms, and a blood test is required for pets from certain countries. 
  • Puerto Rico: U.S. pets must have a current health certificate and rabies vaccination and be free from diseases and parasites.

Start Your Pet-Friendly Adventure with Business Class Experts

Selecting an appropriate airline and thorough preparation are key to ensuring a smooth travel experience with your pet. Moreover, understanding airline pet policies, including the required documents and typical costs, can help you prepare well. 

As you evaluate the various aspects of traveling with your pet, should any questions arise, feel free to contact Business Class Experts! We offer personalized advice on pet-friendly options, allowing you to have an ally as you create the perfect itinerary. Contact us today to start planning your next adventure