10 Essential Tips for Flying with Your Pup on a Plane— by Scarlett Gold

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10 Essential Tips for Flying with Your Pup on a Plane

Advice for passengers traveling with pets

Not the ESA rules

Practical knowledge for reducing risks for in cabin and cargo hold flying

This post differs from the normal content. Usually, the subject is about aviation safety in all its dimensions. Today’s discusses practices recommended by the Guest Author, Scarlett Gold for your animals traveling in aviation.

10 Essential Tips for Flying with Your Pup on a Plane


By Scarlett Gold


It can be nerve-wracking when traveling but it is even more stressful when making arrangements to fly with your dog. There are several things to do to ensure you and your dog can fly without any hiccups.


Whether flying in the cabin with you or hitching a ride in the cargo hold, there are certain requirements that the airlines have implemented. Be sure to check your airline’s website for details on needed documentation and crating requirements before booking your tickets, remember, your dog needs their own ticket when flying.

Flying in Cabin with Your Pup

It can be a bit frightening when flying with your pup for the first time. Call the different airlines you are considering flying with and ask questions about bringing your pup with you in cabin. More pet-friendly airlines will have set guidelines to keep your pet safe and flying as hassle-free as possible.

Before booking your flight, make a checklist of things to do before you head to the airport. You do not want to forget to do something that will cause a snag in your travel plans. Some airlines even have a checklist for you such as JetBlue.

There are five important things to consider when flying in cabin with your pup to ensure it is a smooth flight. These tips will help keep your dog safe and comfortable during the flight.

Determine if your dog can fly in cabin


Airlines do have a size limit when it comes to dogs traveling in cabin with their owners unless the dog is working as a service animal. Check your airline’s website or call customer service if you are not sure whether your pooch can be in the cabin with you during the flight.

I have found that most airlines will only allow pets that are 20 pounds or under in cabin with you. Most airlines will post their in cabin policy for pets including size limitations, ticket pricing, and carrier requirements.

If flying internationally, make sure your dog is even allowed to fly into the country you are visiting. Check with each country you will be visiting, even if it is only for a quick layover. Some countries have strict quarantine regulations and do not allow dogs to enter the country without being quarantined.

Find the Right Carrier

Make sure the carrier you have for flying your pup with you in cabin fits the size requirements. Most airlines expect the carrier to easily fit underneath your seat. Carriers can be hard-sided or soft-sided and your dog must fit comfortably in the carrier with plenty of room to turn around and stand up. American Airlines has posted carrier guidelines on their website.

Hard-sided carriers for in cabin travel can be a maximum of 17.5 inches long x 12 inches wide x 7.5 inches tall. Soft-sided carriers have a little more wiggle room in regards to dimensions since it is collapsible. The recommended maximum size for soft-sided carriers is 18 inches long x 11 inches wide x 11 inches tall.

When I am traveling with a dog, I always make certain the dog is fully comfortable with the carrier and will travel without throwing a tantrum and disturbing other passengers. I have found that it usually takes about two weeks to make sure the pup is completely comfortable with the carrier.

A pup that is disruptive to the other passengers will not be allowed to remain on the flight. Training your dog to sit quietly in their carrier is an important part of preparing to fly. You do not want your pooch to stress during the flight and possibly become ill because of the stress.

Make a Vet Appointment

note Brachycephalic breeds likely not eligible to travel in cargo hold

While many airlines do not require special documentation when your dog flies in cabin with you, it is still always a good idea to make an appointment with your veterinarian for a wellness check, fill prescriptions, and update vaccinations.


Check with the airline you are planning to travel with for their requirements regarding a state health certificate and vaccinations. When travelling abroad, you will be required to have a health certificate and current vaccinations including rabies. Each country has specific requirements for dogs coming into the country, be sure to research what is needed before you book your flight.


I always carry copies of my dog’s health papers with me when I fly with them. I keep their medical information in a folder in my bag in case of an emergency so the vet hospital treating my dog has their full medical history.

Book Easiest Flight for Your Pup


When you are searching for pet approved flights, keep in mind that the less time your dog has to travel, the better. You want to avoid long layovers and book direct flights when possible. Long layovers will add to the stress your dog is experiencing, especially if your layover is in a non-pet friendly airport.

Do a bit of research on the airports your will be flying into regarding their pet policy. The international airport closest to me used to not be pet friendly, but with the influx of people travelling with their dogs, a new dog rest area has been added along with watering stations and potty areas.

Get There Early for Check In


Everyone can relate to the scenes in the movies with people racing through the airport trying to catch their flight, but this is not an ideal situation for anyone but especially not for your dog. It will take a while to pass through security checkpoints and make certain that you and your pup are approved and ready to board the plane.


Plan to arrive about two hours before your flight starts boarding so you can ensure you are on time. Have your paperwork in order and ready for check in. Also, remember, your dog does require their own ticket to be able to board the plane.

Flying Your Pup in Cargo

animal crate being stored in cargo

While flying your beloved companion as checked baggage in the cargo hold is not ideal, sometimes it is the only solution to get from Point A to Point B. Medium sized dogs and larger that are not working as a service animal will need to travel in cargo.


I always find it helpful to have a checklist with all the things needed prior to my dog’s flight so I can be certain everything goes smoothly. When your dog is flying in cargo and cannot be in the cabin with you, it can be very stressful for you because you are entrusting their care to airport staff.


Check the airlines website and make sure you have everything ready before arriving at the airport. If you are not sure about the requirements for your dog to fly in cargo, call your airline and speak directly with customer service.

There are five essential tips to keep in mind when preparing to travel with your dog in the cargo hold. These tips will ensure your dog is comfortable and has a happy, safe flight.

animals prohibited from carriage in cargo








There are certain breeds of dogs that are not allowed to travel in the cargo hold. All airlines have implemented a policy that does not allow brachycephalic or snub-nosed dogs to travel in the cargo hold.

Brachycephalic breeds include Affenpinscher, Boxer, Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Chow Chow, Japanese Chin, Mastiff, Pug, and Shih Tzu.  American Airlines has a full list of dog breeds not allowed to travel in cargo.

Dogs traveling within the United States must be at least eight (8) weeks old. If you are traveling outside the country, check with your destination country’s age requirements.


Go Carrier Shoppingairline logos

Your dog will need a specific carrier when traveling in the cargo hold. The carrier must meet International Air Transport Association (IATA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requirements.

Carriers must be hard-sided, no soft-sided carriers are allowed in the cargo hold. The crate must also be large enough that your dog can stand comfortably and turn around. Crates that are too large for your pup will not be accepted as they can be thrown around the carrier and be injured from being jostled.

If you have any questions about what size or type of carrier your dog needs to travel in cargo, visit your airlines website or call their cargo department.

Get the Right Documentation

pup medical certificate

When your dog travels in cargo, you will be required to have a health certificate issued by a state licensed veterinarian. The health certificate must have been issued within ten (10) days of your flight and within 60 days of your return flight provided it is a round-trip ticket.

Dogs that are 12 weeks and older must have a current rabies vaccination. Have your veterinarian make you a copy of your dog’s rabies certificate to keep with you while traveling.




Temperature Requirementscargo hold temperature controls

Many airlines will not allow pets in the cargo hold during specific times of the year or when temperatures rise too high or dip too low. Check with your airline before booking your flight and verify the temperature requirements for a dog flying in cargo.

For instance, Delta Airlines will not fly pets in the cargo hold when temperatures rise about 80 degrees Fahrenheit or below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Other airlines place an embargo when temperatures rise above 84 degrees or drop below 32 degrees.

There are some special instances when a Certificate of Acclimation will be required from your veterinarian if the temperatures during any part of the journey are expected to dip below or rise above the standard temperature requirements.

Proper Identification

live animal id

Your dog’s carrier will need to be properly marked prior to being accepted by airport personnel. A document with your dog’s feeding and watering schedule will need to be attached. This document states the time your dog was last offered food and water, which needs to be within four (4) hours of your flight’s departure.

Mark your pooch’s carrier with the words “Live Animal” in large letters, or purchase the large stickers with this wording for your carrier. Make sure there are directional arrows placed on the carrier letting airport personnel know how to position the carrier properly.

Your name, phone number, and email address should be visible on the carrier.  Your pup’s name should also be visible so airport staff can call your pup by his or her name and help calm them when being loaded on the plane.

Attach a tag to your dog’s collar with your name, address, and phone number. While it is uncommon, accidents do happen and if your dog gets out of their carrier, having a tag with this information can help them get back home to you.


Other Things to Consider When Flying With Your Pup

items needed for animal travel

food for animal travel

Pack Food for the Trip

When traveling with your pup, make sure you pack plenty of food for your trip, if it is a longer flight with a layover, offer your dog a small snack so they do not get overly hungry. Do not switch foods while you are traveling, this can cause tummy upset.





Rx for animal during travel






Pack any necessary medications for your dog in sealed containers and clearly labeled. If your dog requires medication during their flight, you will need to check with the airline prior to booking your flight to ensure your dog can get their medications during the flight.


Toys and Chews

pup toys

When traveling in cabin, have a few chew toys on hand to help keep your pup occupied so they do not become restless and disturb the other passengers. Avoid any toys that make noisy such as squeak toys or crinkle toys as these can grate on the nerves of your fellow passengers.






Always Check Pet Policies

airline pup policies


Flying with your dog should not be a stressful situation and once you have flown a time or two with your four-legged friend, you will know what to expect. Just remember, each airline is different in regards to their pet policy. Be sure to review policies before you book your flight to keep surprises and headaches to a minimum. Most airlines will post updates to their pet policy on their website.

fluent woof woof logo


Scarlett Gold is the head of content at FluentWoof. She is a Yorkie-Mixed mom and a true animal lover. Her primary focus is bringing readers the very best dog care resources and info to help owners better care for their canine companions.


NOTE: the illustrations are not precise representations of any rules or policies, nor are they intended to endorse any product shown

pup and cat paws







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