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Flying with Your Pet

Do you know what to expect when flying with a pet? As a local ticketing and gate agent, I'm happy to help you prepare for your pet's first flight and leave you stress free on your day of travel!

If you prefer to watch a video with this information click here.

In Cabin Flying

For this article, we will be discussing flying with your pet in cabin. If you have an emotional support animal or a larger pet that needs to be sent via the cargo hold those regulations will be different. 

I’ll be referencing Delta Airline regulations, however, airline regulations may vary. Although they have many similarities, be sure to check with your airline before booking flights.

Airline regulations may vary, be sure to confirm before booking tickets. For this article, I referenced Delta Airline regulations.

Government Regulations

The first step to fly with your pet in-cabin is to research country and state regulations for entry with pets. If you are flying internationally, click the article linked below for additional requirements. For this article, I will be discussing domestic travel within the United States. 

If you are flying internationally, click the article linked below for additional requirements. For this article, I will be discussing domestic travel within the United States.

Most states are fairly easy to fly between, however, some of the outlying states and U.S. Territories such as Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa may have additional regulations. For instance, Hawaii has a 30-120 day quarantine period upon arrival, so it’s not a great vacation destination for your pet. Click here to visit the USDA site where you can discover state to state travel regulations.

Government website with entry guidelines and transportation information for your pet

Airline Regulations

After researching government regulations for traveling with your pet, you will need to consider the airline regulations. Most airlines require that your pet be at least 10 weeks old for domestic travel, and allow one pet per traveler. More than one pet is allowed per traveler if transporting 2 pets of the same breed & size between 10 weeks and 6 months of age or a mother with her litter that is at least 10 weeks old in the same carrier.

Most airlines require that your pet be at least 10 weeks old for domestic travel

Make sure your pet is old enough for travel by plane

Pet Carrier Choices

The next item to consider is the type of pet carrier that will best suit your needs. If your pet is under 15 pounds, I highly recommend a carrier with wheels or a backpack for easy transport through the terminal. However, if your pet weighs more, you will most likely need to purchase a soft sided carrier that can mold to the seat heights of various aircraft. 

If your pet is under 15 pounds, I highly recommend a carrier with wheels or a backpack for easy transport through the terminal.

A carrier with wheels is great for easy transport through the terminal

Your airline of choice should provide a link for you to view seat heights for the airplane you will be flying on.

Your airline of choice should provide a link for you to view seat heights for the airplane you will be flying on. Be sure to review each aircraft as they vary greatly. If a link is not provided, you will need to call the airline and request this information. 

A carrier with pockets is also nice to store treats, poop bags, food, and other items you may need in flight.

Before Travel

When booking your ticket, I highly suggest choosing an aisle seat, if possible, as it is much easier to place the pet carrier under the closest seat to the aisle rather than climbing over several seats and trying to squeeze the carrier down between them.

When booking your ticket, I highly suggest choosing an aisle seat.

Before your day of travel, you will need to Inform the airline that you have a pet in cabin. Most airlines limit the amount of in-cabin pets allowed per flight. For Delta, the limit is currently 4 pets in the main cabin, and 2 in first class. Typically, the max pet threshold is not met, but don’t miss this step if you want to guarantee a place for your pet on the day of travel.

Before your day of travel, you will need to Inform the airline that you have a pet in cabin.

Remember to pack a collapsible water bowl, poop bags, food, treats, and toys for the journey

When packing and booking your ticket, remember that the pet carrier replaces your personal item or carry on bag. This means that for some airlines, such as United, you will not be able to book a “basic” economy ticket as that ticket only allows one personal item. Be sure to read your ticket terms and conditions before booking. Also, remember to bring poop bags, a collapsible water bowl, food, treats, etc. for your pet’s journey.

When packing and booking your ticket, remember that the pet carrier replaces your personal item or carry on bag.

Another thing to consider before travel is whether your pet needs a bark collar or anything else to travel well in public.

What to Expect on the Day of Travel

When you arrive at the airport for check-in, look for a “special services” line and choose that, if available. If the airline doesn’t have a “special services” line, enter the baggage check line and let the agent know you have a pet-in-cabin. The agent will ask some questions about your pet’s breed, age, and carrier dimensions before collecting payment (currently $125 each way) and issuing a tag which you must sign and attach to the pet carrier.

When you arrive at the airport for check-in, look for a “special services” line and choose that, if available.Tags must remain on the carrier at all times during travel

The pet tag must remain on the carrier throughout the day of travel.

The agent will inform you that your pet must remain in the pet carrier at all times while at the gate. The only exception to this rule will be when passing through security. For security, you will need to send all pet items through the x-ray machine and carry your pet through the scanner before proceeding.

Your pet must remain in the carrier at all times while at the gate

Once you arrive at the gate, approach the gate agent and ask if they will allow you to pre-board along with the parents of young children. Some agents may say no, but it’s worth asking because it takes a bit of time to situate your pet and belongings.

Once you arrive at the gate, approach the gate agent and ask if they will allow you to pre-board along with the parents of young children.

If you have a connecting flight and have time between legs, look for a “pet relief” area during your layover. Most large airports have a “pet relief” area somewhere in the terminals. Our dog refuses to use these, but if your pet will make use of them it is very helpful!

Pet relief area at the Minneapolis airport (MSP)

I hope these details help prepare you for flight. Don’t forget to enjoy flying with your pet. So many passengers utilize this benefit every day, and it really can be fun to have your pet along on the journey.

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