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Best US Airlines For Traveling with Pets

Top 5 Pet-Friendly Airlines in the US - 2023 AirAdvisor Ranking

Amy Lancelotte
Written By Amy Lancelotte
11 minutes read
Last Updated: November 03, 2023

Are you planning an epic adventure with your furry friend? It can be challenging traveling with even the calmest pet, but there are steps you can take to minimize the chaos. The first is to choose your airline wisely.

To help passengers pick the best airlines for traveling with pets, we scoured all the US-based airlines’ pet policies to determine our top choices. We extensively reviewed 10 airlines in total and looked at the following:

  • Can your pet fly with you in the cabin?
  • Does the airline accept pets as cargo?
  • If the airline offers lounges, can you relax with your pet before your flight?
  • What is the price of taking your pet as a carry-on?
  • What types of pets are permitted?
  • How does taking your pet on board impact your baggage allowance?
  • Where can you fly with your pet?

The result: the 5 most pet-friendly airlines in the USA and some others you may need to avoid when planning your next trip.

Top 5 Pet-Friendly Airlines in the US

There are 5 choices that all scored about the same when it comes to being suitable for traveling with a pet. The best airline for pets will depend on your route and travel preferences, but you can’t go far wrong with any of these:

Alaska Airlines

Anyone traveling with a pet can rest assured that Alaska Airlines is a fantastic option. Within the United States, they offer the option to travel with your dog, cat, rabbit, or household bird in the cabin. Internationally, pet travel is limited to cats and dogs. The cost of flying with your pet under the seat in front of you is $100 each way.

Of all the airlines we reviewed, Alaska Airlines is among the only ones to offer a climate-controlled option for when you need to check your pets. This normally only applies when your pet is too large to fit comfortably in a carrier under the seat in front of you, but if you have a large dog, Alaska Airlines is a great way to go.

As for the pet carrier itself, it depends largely on the plane as sizes vary, but as long as your hard-sided carrier is 17” x 11” x 7.5” or less or your soft-sided carrier is 17” x 11” x 9.5” or less, you’ll be fine.

With all of the airlines, remember to check the requirements at your destination. It’s possible that certain vaccines or health certificates may be needed before you fly. When you book your seats, avoid the emergency exit and bulkhead rows, as pets are prohibited in these areas.

Even when you’ve booked the appropriate seat, you can still be denied boarding due to overbooking. If that’s the case, we can ensure you get the maximum denied boarding compensation.Check Your Flight

Using approved pet carriers for travel with pets in the US

Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines permits passengers to travel with pets in the cabin, and that privilege sacrifices your larger carry-on bag. You can still bring a personal item, but this policy is good to know in advance.

The fees to bring a cat, dog, or household bird on your flight vary based on your destination. For the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands (USVI), the cost is $95. It’s a little lower for Brazil at $75, and internationally, it’s $200. But the good news is that you can fly with Delta Airlines pretty much anywhere that allows pets into the country.

Delta Airlines’ pet policy is one of the reasons it tops our overall AirAdvisor list of the top 10 US airlines. They allow you to check your animals if they are too big to comply with the cabin policies, and the pet carrier just has to be no larger than 18” x 11” x 11”. Delta is also happy to welcome pets into their lounges as long as they remain in their carrier at all times.

Best airlines for pet travel in America

Hawaiian Airlines

Passengers who are lucky enough to be traveling between any of the Hawaiian islands with Hawaiian Airlines will benefit from a lower-than-average cabin pet fee of $35. On the flip side, it’ll cost $125 each way if you’re traveling to the US mainland. Keep in mind that Hawaiian does not permit pets to fly to JFK Airport in New York, Logan International Airport in Boston, or Robert Mueller Municipal Airport in Austin.

The dimensions of your under-seat pet carrier need to be 16” x 10” x 9.5” or smaller. When you arrive at the airport, the Hawaiian Airlines staff will do a visual inspection to verify your pet meets the requirements to fly, such as a weight of 25 pounds or less for the carrier and pet and the carrier’s dimensions.

Hawaiian Airlines allows larger pets to fly as cargo, but like the carry-on option, it’s limited to within Hawaiian islands and the US mainland. Whether you have a household bird, cat, or dog, this is one of the most pet-friendly airlines in the USA.

American Airlines

If you have certain travel requirements and a specific international destination in mind, consider booking your pet and passenger travel with American Airlines. It’s certainly among the most pet-friendly airlines in the US and offers to fly your cat or dog with you in the cabin to any domestic or international destination that’s less than a 12-hour flight away. Just be aware that some destinations don’t permit the importation of pets, so double-check ahead of time.

When it comes to the impact on your wallet, American Airlines charges $125 each way to board with your pet. The usual rules apply in that pets must fit and be able to turn around in the carrier, and that carrier has to fit under the seat in front.

The pet carrier you bring unfortunately counts as your carry-on bag, so you’ll only be allowed to bring one personal item with you. The cabin is the best way to plan your pet-based travel, as although American Airlines allows pets in the cargo hold, this option is limited to active US military and State Department personnel.

United Airlines

United Airlines is among the top 5 most pet-friendly airlines in the United States.

United Airlines rounds out our top 5 and is definitely among the best airlines for pets. Like Delta and American, you can fly with your animal internationally and domestically, provided the destination permits it. You won’t be able to sit in the bulkhead or exit row, but that’s a small price to pay.

You can keep your pet with you in the United lounges as long as they don’t leave their pet carrier, and the cost is $125 each way for in-cabin travel with your pet. But if you plan an itinerary that involves one or more layovers of 4 hours or more in the US, an additional $125 per layover is added. The same goes for international layovers of 24 hours or more, so book as direct a flight as you can to avoid the extra fees.

For larger dogs and cats that don’t fit comfortably in an under-seat carrier, United has the possibility of checking them as cargo (which sounds worse than it probably is), but this option is only available to State Department and military personnel. Luckily, though, if your pet fits in an approved under-seat carrier, which unfortunately counts as a piece of carry-on luggage, you can do a lot worse than United.

Although the top 5 pet-friendly airlines we’ve listed are great for traveling with your pet, you may still encounter a flight cancelation, which is extra disruptive with your animal in tow. We can help you claim everything you deserve

How the Other 5 US Airlines Rate for Travel with Pets

Finding the best airline pets

The other 5 airlines we reviewed fall short, and that discrepancy is typically related to traveling with your pets as cargo. These 5 don’t even allow it for military or State Department purposes:

Allegiant Air

The cost of bringing your beloved pet in the cabin with Allegiant is a mere $50 and is available in the contiguous 48 states only. You’re permitted your pet carrier and one additional item - either a personal item or a larger carry-on bag (for a fee).

Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines allows passengers to travel in the cabin with a pet, and the carrier counts as a piece of luggage. So, you can have a personal item in addition at no charge or pay to also bring a bigger carry-on bag.

In addition to the usual dogs and cats, with Frontier, you can also bring small household birds, guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits. It’ll cost you $99 each way.

JetBlue

JetBlue will transport cats and dogs as your flight companions in the cabin only. The carrier counts as your personal item, then it’s up to you whether you add an extra cabin bag. The cost is on the higher side at $125 per flight.

Southwest Airlines

Like the others in our bottom 5, Southwest does not permit pets as cargo. If your pet is small enough to travel with you under the seat in front of you, you can fly to domestic destinations only without leaving your furry friend behind. The fee is $125 each per pet carrier if you’re flying anywhere on the US mainland and only $35 if you’re flying between Hawaiian islands.

Spirit Airlines

If you’re traveling within the USA with Spirit Airlines, you can bring your cat, dog, rabbit, or household bird in the cabin. The only exclusion is that rabbits and birds can’t fly to Puerto Rico or the USVI. The fee is $110 for every flight.

When you experience a flight delay of 3 hours or more while traveling with your pet, you might be able to claim compensation.Check out our free compensation checker to see what you’re owed

AirAdvisor’s Top Pet-Friendly Airlines: A Summary

 

Alaska Airlines

American Airlines

Delta Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines

United Airlines

Pets in cabin

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Pets as cargo

Yes, climate-controlled

Yes, restrictions

Yes

Yes

Yes, restrictions

Pets in lounges

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Cost

$100

$125

$75 (Brazil), $95 (US), $200 (international)

$35 or $125

$125, additional $125 for certain layovers

Types of pets

Cats, dogs, rabbits, birds (depends on destination)

Cats and dogs

Cats, dogs, birds

Cats, dogs, birds

Cats and dogs

Available destinations

Domestic and international

Domestic and international, less than 12 hours

Domestic and international

Between Hawaiian islands, the US mainland

Domestic and international

Bag allowance

Carrier counts as either personal item or a carry-on bag

Carrier counts as a carry-on bag

Carrier counts as a carry-on bag

Carrier counts as a carry-on bag

Carrier counts as a carry-on bag

Criteria and Methodology

We investigated the pet policies for 10 different US airlines to give you all the info you need to determine the best airline for pets. Here are the various things we looked at:

Pets in the cabin: Simply put, does the airline allow pets to travel with you in the cabin? All the airlines we reviewed do allow this as long as the pet fits comfortably in an approved pet carrier that will fit under the seat in front of you.

Pets as cargo: Can you check in larger pets as cargo if they don’t meet the cabin requirements? If so, what exceptions exist, and is this option available to everyone?

Pets in lounges: If the airline offers a lounge service, can your pet enjoy the lounge with you?

Cost of pet carrier: How much does it cost each way to travel with your pet in the cabin? The lower, the better!

Pet types: What types of pets are permitted to travel in the cabin? Every airline allows small dogs and cats, but some also permit household birds, hamsters, rabbits, and guinea pigs on domestic flights.

Baggage allowance: How does flying with a pet carrier impact your baggage allowance?

Destinations: Where can you fly with your pet?

With all the answers to these questions, pet families can easily determine the airlines that will fit their needs.

Conclusion

While we have gone to great lengths to report the most up-to-date policies for these pet-friendly airlines, always check with your airline before travel. Requirements and eligibility can change without notice, and you don’t want to be stuck at the airport unable to board your flight. And if you encounter an inconveniently long flight delay, we can help you claim delayed flight compensation from the airline to ease the difficulty.

This information can help you decide which airline fits the bill for your next flight. If baggage allowance is important to you and you don’t need to use the cargo hold, select airlines like jetBlue or Allegiant that still allow you to purchase an additional carry-on bag.

For budget-conscious travelers, Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines have some of the lowest fees, and United, Delta, and American allow you to carry your pet to many different worldwide destinations.

Whatever airline you choose, you’re sure to have a fun time way with your pet!

FAQs

What’s the best airline for pets?

Alaska Airlines is the most well-rounded and best airline for pet travel. They offer pets in the cabin or in the climate-controlled compartment, and they have one of the lower fees of $100 per flight. They also offer flexibility regarding luggage, as the pet carrier can count as either your personal item or your carry-on bag.

How much does it cost to fly with a pet?

The fees each way for flying with your small dog or cat in the cabin vary by airline. For example, if you’re flying between Hawaiian islands with either Southwest or Hawaiian Airlines, the fee is only $35. For other flights within the US, fees range from as low as $95 (Delta) and $100 (Alaska Airlines) to $125 (American Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines). You can expect to pay up to $200 each way for international flights.

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