Domestic Airline Requirements for Traveling with Your Dog

Commercial flights with your dog are recommended only when you have no other options because it can be very tough on both you and your dog. If you’re planning on flying on a commercial airline with your dog, be aware of the risks involved, including loss, injury, and even death of your dog. Below are the guidelines set forth by certain major airline carriers, all of which are strictly enforced.

American Airlines

Contact the reservations department to let them know you’ll be traveling with a dog, whether he’ll be checked as baggage or in the cabin with you. In order to be allowed aboard, your dog can’t be aggressive. Snub-nosed dogs won’t be accepted as checked baggage. Be sure your dog’s breed, even if it’s a mix, is acceptable for travel on AA. All dogs must be at least 8 weeks old.

If your dog will be flying as checked baggage, you’ll need to present a health certificate from your vet. The airline won’t accept your dog if the current or forecasted temperature will be above 85°F or below 45°F at any point during the trip. Dogs need to be checked in within four hours of the flight time.

You’ll need to provide separate food and water bowls attached to the kennel your dog is in and accessible without having to open the kennel. Your dog should be able to comfortably stand, sit, and rest without touching the sides of the kennel.

Dogs traveling in the cabin need to be in a secure carrier that’s no bigger than 19″ x 13″ x 9″. You can use a soft-sided carrier, provided it’s waterproof and made of padded nylon with mesh on at least two sides. This carrier will count as your personal item or carry-on bag. Your dog must stay under your seat in the carrier during the flight.

For individuals who need service animals, dogs can be brought into the cabin if they’re small enough to sit under the seat or at the passenger’s feet.


Delta doesn’t accept dogs as checked baggage (a) between May 15 and September 15 due to weather conditions; or (b) when the weather is below 10°F or above 85°F.  All kennels must follow USDA rules and be properly labelled. The majority of the other restrictions and requirements are the same for Delta as they are for American Airlines.

Jet Blue

Your dog and its carrier can’t exceed a combined weight of 20 lbs or a size of 17″ x 12.5″ x 8.5″. Only one dog per passenger is allowed. To travel, you’ll need dog ID tags, an approved carrier that your dog must stay in for the duration of the flight, and food. Depending upon your destination, you may need health documentation.

Southwest Airlines

As with other airlines, there’s a limit to the number of pets accepted, so book early. You must use a dog carrier that’s well ventilated and leak-proof. One carrier is allowed per passenger but you may put two dogs of the same species in the carrier. However, Southwest Airlines only accepts pets in-cabin, won’t accept them as cargo, and doesn’t require a health certificate.

Hawaiian Airlines

Dogs are allowed to fly in the passenger cabin on inter-island flights only, as well as flights leaving the state of Hawaii. Due to quarantine requirements, dogs are not allowed in the cabin on flights that are arriving to Hawaii. The only exception to this rule is service animals. Also, animals traveling in the cabin need to be placed in a carrier under the seat in front of you. If your dogs need to travel as checked baggage, the combined weight of your dog and carrier cannot exceed 70 lbs.

Health certificates are required for travel to and from Hawaii, but not required for travel within the state. If you are traveling into Hawaii with dogs, you must contact the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Animal Quarantine Station in advance to allow your dog to enter.

United Airlines

For most flights within the United States, United Airlines allows dogs to travel in the cabin with you. The kennel that you use must be an approved soft-sided or hard-sided one that will fit under the seat in front of you. Hard-sided kennels must not exceed 17.5″ x 12″ x 7.5″, while soft-sided carriers must not be larger than 18″ x 11″ x 11″. The animal should be able to stand up and turn around comfortably within the carrier, and only one dog is allowed per carrier. Service animals are allowed in-cabin as well.

Animals that can’t be transported in the cabin will be checked as baggage. The kennel you use must be airline-approved, and you can find one at dog stores or purchase one directly from United Airlines. Each kennel can only contain one adult dog, or no more than two puppies. It should contain orientation labels, absorbent material, a food dish and a water dish, and identification labels to ensure your dog will be safe and comfortable and won’t get lost.

US Airways

Be sure to book in advance because only six pets are allowed per flight on US Airways. Dogs traveling with you in the cabin must stay in the carrier at all times, placed under the seat in front of you. The carrier must be ventilated, leak-proof, and escape-proof, as well as comfortable enough for your dog to stand and turn around. Dogs are prohibited from traveling in the cargo compartment.


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