What are the Best Airlines for Pet Travel?

Dog inside the airport

People around the world are starting to travel again. Traveling is a fun event and what makes it more enjoyable is when we bring our pets. Pet owners should be aware of the new rules set by airlines due to COVID-19. Some airlines that used to accept pets will not transport them anymore. Emotional support animals can no longer fly for free. Knowing what are the best airlines for pet travel is a must. The global pandemic changed the travel industry drastically, including flying with pets.

Planning and preparation can help you and your pet enjoy a hassle-free flight. We gathered the most recent information regarding pet air travel by ranking the nine US airlines.

Factors to consider when choosing airlines for pet travel:

  • Allowing pets to travel
  • Fees
  • Airline safety records

Alaska Airlines tops the ranking, followed by Hawaiian and American airlines which tied in second place. Out of the major U.S. airlines, only these three airlines will transport pets in checked baggage and cargo.

Prior to the pandemic, both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines also offered pet cargo shipping but rolled back the service due to challenges like changing schedules and staffing shortages. Delta paused service on April 1, 2020, up to this writing, the airline couldn’t provide more details on whether cargo pet services would return.

United suspended its pet cargo services on April 12, 2020, and also has yet to resume it.

Other major airlines, including Southwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines, never accepted pets in cargo — pandemic or not.

Dog at airport with sunglasses and ticket

 

1. Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines is the best airline for your pet. They also have the lowest fees and best pet-friendly offers.

Main cabin policy:

✓ Pet fees are $100 each way per kennel or carrier. Since up to two pets of the same species and similar size may travel in the same carrier, that’s just $50 per pet if traveling with two.
✓ You could travel with up to 4 pets. The Alaska pet policy lets you bring up to two pet carriers in the main cabin, but the price gets higher since you’ll also have to purchase the adjacent seat.
✓ Alaska allows rabbits and household pets too.
✓ Like most airlines, your pet carrier also counts toward your carry-on bag allotment so consider checking your bags to avoid extra fees.

Cargo travel policy:

✓ Alaska will transport not just dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits in checked baggage or cargo, but also ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, non-poisonous reptiles, pot-bellied pigs, and tropical fish.
✓ Fees to transport pets as Alaska pet cargo vary by route and your pet’s size, and start at $250.

Additional Notes:

  • If you’re heading to an Alaska lounge, your pet can come too — as long as it’s well-behaved.
  • The lounges, which are accessible to passengers with certain levels of elite status or people who purchase a separate membership, accept quiet service animals and pets in carry-on kennels.

2. American Airlines

American Airlines has competitive pet-friendly offers and safety policies for a hassle-free flight with your pet.

Main cabin policy:

✓ Charges $125 for main cabin flights for pets within North America.
✓ The American Airlines pet policy lets you bring one kennel that fits under the seat in front of you in lieu of a carry-on bag, and you must keep your pet in the kennel the entire time.

Cargo travel policy:

✓ Fees start at $200.
✓ American passengers have the option to transport pets as checked baggage, which is helpful for some pet owners, especially those with animals that are too large to fit in the main cabin.

Additional Note:

  • If you’re heading to an Admirals Club lounge before your flight, your pet can come too, as long as it remains in its kennel.
Pet approved crate

 

3. Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines has clear conditions and restrictions when traveling with animals indicated on their website to avoid inconvenience for pet owners.

Main cabin policy:

✓ Charges $125 for main cabin flights for pets within North America.
✓ Hawaiian accepts pets in the main cabin on almost all North American flights (no pets are allowed on New York-JFK, Boston, Orlando, or Austin routes) as long as the carrier fits under the seat and it weighs less than 25 pounds with the pet inside.
✓ Pets cannot fly first class on any North American flights on Hawaiian due to space limitations.

Cargo travel policy:

✓ If your pet weighs more than 25 pounds, which is what the pet carry-on policy allows or you’re flying in first class, your pet can travel in the belly of the plane. ✓ Fees start at $225 on Hawaiian for travel between Hawaii and North America.

Additional Note:

  • Pets are allowed to enter any Hawaiian Airlines lounge, as long as they remain in their carrier.
Best Airlines for Pet Travel
*prices may change without notice

Things you need to prepare for pet travel

1. Pet travel carrier

          Confirm with your chosen airline regarding the approved dog carriers. Most airlines require the pets to stay inside their carriers throughout the entire flight so make sure that your pet would be comfortable to stretch and lie down.

2. Health certificate and proof of vaccinations

          You will need to get a current pet's health certificate from your veterinarian, no sooner than 14 days before you travel. Also, secure a copy of your pet’s vaccination records (if applicable) as some personnel would require to see them before the flight.

Keep a travel folder with multiple copies of all the paperwork that you will need for your pet to avoid the hassle of delay and be ready to hand to gate agents, ticket agents, TSA agents, or anyone else that needs to see it at the airport.

3. Book the tickets over the phone

          Talking to an airport agent will help you get familiar with their updated requirements and restrictions related to pet travel. You can also list the things you need to prepare that the airport personnel will give you.

 

Keep in mind that traveling should be a fun and memorable experience for everyone. By preparing the things you need for pet travel, you’ll enjoy a hassle-free flight!

Cat in a Crate