Your Dog Can Be the Ultimate Travel Buddy on Your Next Flight

Kori Williams - Author

Dec. 11 2023, Published 4:38 p.m. ET

A white large dog sitting outside wearing a service collar.

Flying is already frustrating enough, but it gets at least ten times worse when you bring your dogs. Each airline has its own rules and regulations. Plus, there's always that anxiety of your furry friend acting up mid-flight or becoming stressed out by the confined, busy environment.

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Although plenty of flights allow you to travel with pups in cargo, there are a number of safety risks associated with putting your pup in cargo. Many travelers would rather seek out airlines that allow small dogs in the cabin with you. Here's what we know about the options for air travel along with some rules and regulations you need to follow on board.

A Labrador Retriever wearing a service dog harness at an airport's baggage claim.
Source: iStock
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What airlines allow small dogs in the cabin?

It depends on the airline, but many American travel options have policies that allow small dogs on at least some flights. Previously, with American Airlines, you could bring a pet in a kennel, which will count as your carry-on bag. The pet must stay in the kennel under your seat throughout the flight.

In 2024, American Airlines revised its policy to allow passengers to bring a pet in addition to a carry-on or personal item — just not both. There is still a pet fee, but it's not on top of a carry-on fee.

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For United Airlines, the rules are similar. Both airlines also state that the pet must be able to move around comfortably in the kennel. And because the carrier must fit under your seat, it must adhere to the required dimensions. Some airlines also have specifications for different kennel materials.

A service dog sitting next to a person in a power chair.
Source: iStock
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Additionally, it's important to consider where you're flying from, your destination, and the states and countries you are flying over. United Airlines lists countries that prohibit travel with pets even if you are flying over the countries (not landing at all). This includes countries like Australia, Jamaica, and the U.K. If you were traveling internationally, you would have to choose a different airline.

Because you need to be able to keep your pet under your seat in a kennel of a certain size, many airlines don't allow large dogs by default. Some airlines don't allow you to bring pets on certain planes, and you can only fly in certain classes.

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Can I bring a service animal on a flight?

Yes, you can. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, it's illegal for airlines to deny you service with a service animal. They must sit under the seat in front of you, and they can't block any kind of exit or passageway. If you are flying outside of the U.S., look up the laws about service animals in that country before you fly.

For airlines, the regulations for service animals are different than for pets. Jet Blue only allows "trained service dogs" to accompany you on a flight. You must notify the airline at least 48 hours before the flight that a service dog will join you. However, it is recommended that you do that as soon as possible.

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A guide dog walking with a blind person through transit.
Source: iStock

To be safe, make sure you look over the rules for service animals and pets for any airlines you choose to fly with. Rules may change without notice and each airline as their own restrictions you will have to comply with to travel.

This article, originally published on Dec. 11, 2023, has been updated.

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