Which Airlines Are The Most Pet Friendly?

Petfinder.com compared airlines to see which ones are the best choices if you’re traveling with pets. You may remember our post a while back on Pet Airways, about which Petfinder says, “While Pet Airways didn’t make the rankings because they haven’t ‘hit the air’ yet, [we are] excited to see the promising airline take off.”

5. United Airlines – Non-Discriminating
United Airlines accepts small cats, dogs and birds in the cabin; rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs as checked baggage and other animals including parrots, cockatiels and ferrets, in United Cargo.

4. American Airlines – Zoo Trusted
American Airlines’ animal-trained staff is known for transporting animals from popular zoos in cargo.

3. Airtran – Budget-Friendly
Airtran is currently the least expensive airline to fly with your small pet; just $69 each way.

2. JetBlue Airways – Full-Service Pet Love
JetBlue launched its JetPaws program last summer and provides a pet carrier bag tag, two TrueBlue points each way, a welcome e-mail and a free pet travel guide.

1. Continental – Safety-First
Continental is proud of its PetSafe program, which has a 24-hour Live Animal Desk (1-800-575-3335), tracking the pets from origin to destination. It is pricier than other programs, but it’s climate-controlled, allows roomy carriers and has designated cargo staff.

“Petfinder names the top 5 most pet-friendly airlines of 2009″ [Petfinder.com]

RELATED
“Pet Airways: Free Snacks, Mandatory Bathroom Breaks, No Fights Over Arm Rests”
(Photo: Muffet)

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  1. Skin Art Squared says:

    Southwest for small animals at $75 [travel.latimes.com]

  2. Corporate_guy says:

    Thanks, now I know who to avoid.

    • Skin Art Squared says:

      @Corporate_guy: I’d love to see a list of airlines that don’t allow children on them. I’d pay double.

      • sixseeds says:

        @BZMedia: Beat me to it. I have yet to share a plane with an incessantly screaming quadruped kicking the back of my seat.

    • aguacarbonica says:

      @Corporate_guy: Ditto. Nothing against animals in general, but I like to be able to choose when I have to interact with them.

      • Etoiles says:

        @aguacarbonica: Actually, I’ve been on many (dozens) of flights in the last 2-3 years that had pets on board that I only noticed when we were sitting around in the terminal, or waiting for the godawful 3 a.m. shuttle bus from one end of IAD to the other.

        (On the other hand, I cannot say the same for my parents, who are both ferociously allergic to cats, and got stuck on a cross-country flight with a cat in a carrier at the end of their row.)

    • dohtem says:

      @Corporate_guy: Rabies on a Plane!

    • floraposte says:

      @Corporate_guy: This isn’t a list of all of the airlines flying animals, just their favorite ones. Frontier’s the only significant domestic U.S. airline that doesn’t allow pets into the cabin.

  3. jvanbrecht says:

    I have a Great Dane.. no airline will touch me :(

    I wonder if I pay full price for a ticket and buckle him into a seat.. as it is he sits with his butt on the couch and all 4 paws on the floor…

  4. montusama says:

    wait that looks like my cat!

  5. bgrigson says:

    I’ve always wondered how airlines and hotels deal with people that have allergies. I mean what if you sit down for a 6 hour flight any someone’s little dog is sitting on the lap of the person next to you? Does this bother allergy sufferers?

    What if you sit on a seat that a dog was sitting on during the previous flight? I wonder how that works. My son has asthma attacks after being around dogs and cats so we try to limit exposure.

  6. wesa says:

    What about international airlines? Say from the US to mainland Europe?

    • Cafezinha says:

      @wesa: Yeah, I’m about to move to Guam, thanks to my husband’s transfer in the Navy, and I’m a bit nervous about transporting my two cats. I’m completely willing to pay through the nose to take them on the plane, but I’m worried we’ll be stuck with a carrier who only allows pets in the cargo, which scares the bejesus outta me. That’s a long flight to have them scared and lone with the luggage.

      • MsAnthropy says:

        @Cafezinha:

        Delta allow pets to be taken as carry-on, on at least some longhaul flights. I know of several people who have flown to Europe to the US with their cats in special carriers, stowed at their feet. I think they only allow two per flight, and only one pet to be carried per person.

        Not sure about other airlines, but Delta definitely do this.

      • jamar0303 says:

        @Cafezinha: Guam is a bit special. I believe that Continental would be the only choice in that situation if you don’t want to go through Japan or another country which might impose restrictions on animals (but if you do you might as well go through one of the Japanese airlines instead; they have much better customer service in general).

    • humphrmi says:

      @wesa: You are aware that most European countries have a multiple-month quarantine period for bringing live animals into their country? Assuming that you’ve cleared all that (or confirmed that the country you’re going to doesn’t have a requirement) then American, United, and Continental as all fly to mainland Europe.

      • floraposte says:

        @humphrmi: I think these days it’s just the UK and Norway that do the old-fashioned long-term quarantine, since the U.S. is on the “approved” list for the EU. (There are a bunch of blood test, microchip, etc. standards, of course.) And I think the UK also has waivers if you’re there with the military.

  7. BadHairLife says:

    I think if airlines really wanted to be fair to everyone, they would designate certain flights as pet-free and ensure as much as possible that planes which haven’t had pets in the cabin are used on those routes.

    I say this as a crazy cat lady would would totally have her cats sitting on the seats beside her if only it was allowed.

    • jaya9581 says:

      @BadHairLife: @chus3r: Except for guide animals, I’ve never seen nor heard of any animal being allowed to travel in the main cabin of a plane that was not in a crate.

      If someone were to be seated near a crated animal that they were allergic to, I would imagine a quick chat with the flight attendants and a bit of seat-switching would fix the problem.

      • BadHairLife says:

        @jaya9581: Actually, I don’t think it would because of the fact that most people with allergies are allergic to either hair or dander, both of which will be shed outside of the crate and float around in the air – especially if the animal is agitated. Since Airplanes just keep recirculating the same, dirty air, the stuff will be distributed throughout the cabin, and the allergy will still be activated.

      • Landru says:

        @jaya9581: Oh yeah. The flight attendants are always so willing to help.

        Sorry to burst your bubble, but when was the last time you flew?

        • jamar0303 says:

          @Landru: Or rather, “when was the last time you flew” on a US airline? Singapore and a lot of other Asian airlines are known for having flight attendants who are actually helpful (and look good but that’s neither here nor there).

          • NeverLetMeDown says:

            @jamar0303:

            Then again, Singapore Airlines does get to fire its flight attendants when they hit their early 30s, hire women as FA’s and men as pursers, and do a whole bunch of other stuff that US labor laws would never let you get away with.

    • BadHairLife says:

      @BadHairLife: Geez. I apologize for the fact that I did have something more on point which was this: I am very happy to see these reviews available. I saw a baggage handler drop the carrier containing my terrified cat on the ground from about 3 feet away and then THROW a baby stroller directly on top of it. He had to jump back behind his little security door when he saw me coming at him with murder in my eyes! Had I but known in advance about that airline’s well-known shenanigans.

      • Adrienne Willis says:

        @BadHairLife: OMG I would have been arrested, my fist would have been through his face. I am very, VERY protective of my baby girl (true lap kitty, pampered in every way possible, walk her on a leash, etc) and I always want her to be happy. Dude would not have been able to hide from me and the wrath I would have unleashed on him.

      • PinkBox says:

        @BadHairLife: Oh yikes! Did you make a complaint?

  8. trixrabbit says:

    my kitty took a san diego to indianapolis pet flight on continental (san->iah->ind). kitty had a layover at the houston kennel (iah) for a drink & some smooches at their kennel.

    cat arrived safely, price was reasonable and made me feel totally at ease. availability of tracking info & the folks at all of the airports –> AWESOME!

    please check it out their petsafe program if you have to send some of your precious cargo.

  9. SiyaVespa says:

    When I moved from NYC to Indianapolis, Delta was the only airline that would let me fly with my guinea pig – no fee and in the cabin with me. At the time (2003) United wouldn’t deal with a rodent of any kind, not even as cargo. Though I can’t imagine any small critter owner willing to fly their pet in cargo.

    • Adrienne Willis says:

      @SiyaVespa: You were able to do this? I have 6 guinea pigs and I wanted to take two of them away with me but every airline I called said they do not allow transport of them. Its good to know Delta does.

      • SiyaVespa says:

        @Adrienne Willis: As I say, that was back in 2003 and things may have changed, but it’s worth calling them. Also be prepared to remove your piggies from the carrier at security.

    • Adrienne Willis says:

      @SiyaVespa: There is no way you could ever put a GP in the cargo area and expect it to survive that flight. They are very fragile animals and between the noise and the temperature they wouldnt make it.

  10. slickdealer says:

    A couple of years ago when I moved down to Florida, my mom flew UsAir from Hartford to Ft Myers with my cat. The entire staff was in love with my kitty Mikey and because he was so good they gave him his very own set of wings (like they give to a little kid) and a “First Flight” certificate. I think UsAir treated my cat better than most kids!

  11. llsee says:

    Between 2002 and 2004, I worked on the ramp at a class C (not SFO or LAX, they are class B) California airport and interacted with the baggage handlers and ramp workers of several major US carriers. I had the opportunity to see how many of them handled pets sent as baggage. First, I would say that anyone who loves their pet should NEVER ship them as baggage. It is a terrifying experience for most pets. They will sit on the ramp with other baggage, often in full sun, with extremely loud noise and activity. Even if the baggage handler is a pet lover and cares about your per, they likely will be too busy to pay much attention or really be concerned.

    At my airport, the best experience seemed to be with Delta. The ramp workers for delta, kept the pets inside until the flight was loading. I even saw them force a person to purchase a bigger kennel, because they thought the one the customer had was too small for the dog.

    The worst airline (at my airport) was United. The baggage handlers were careless and insensitive to the fact that they had a living creature. One time I suggested to a United baggage handler that there was shade only 10 feet away from where he had set a dog. He grudgingly moved the dog, but then forgot to load the animal on the plane and the dog missed the flight.

    In between was Alaska Airlines. The ticket agents were very careful and concerned about the pets they shipped. Unfortunately, Alaska used contract ramp workers, who actually loaded planes for several airlines and were simply too busy to really care.

    After my experience at the airport, I will never ship a pet via an airline, unless they can travel in the cabin with me. Personally, I find most pets to be better mannered and behaved then small children.

  12. Clumber says:

    Northwest & Alaska were both wonderful with my critters when I have shipped them. I also have not heard before of non-service animals being in the cabin but not in a carrier… I don’t have any qualms about shipping them cargo, just take basic precautions, and don’t act stressed about it when you drop your pet off. They feed on that – at least the dogs do, my cats probably don’t give a flying… Anyhow, have not had any problems myself, in probably over a couple dozen flights for our critters.

    In fact, the only problem I have had was when a very dear trusted friend insisted that the pup she sent home with me (dog showing) be in a carrier in the cabin with me. He was 4 months old at the time.. I show Clumber Spaniels, and a 4 month old male Clumber Spaniel is easily 40lbs. Crammed into a Sherpa Bag. Slung over my shoulder. With 2 transfers. Each time we went through the gates I hoped that some airline employee would challenge that he was under the weight minimum of 25lbs, but no one did… I would have been happy to pay 400% retail for a crate from the airline! Worst of it was that the middle flight was very late and I ended up having to RUN through the gawdawful Atlanta airport from 1 end to the other to make the last leg, and wasn’t able to give the poor guy a rest stop. Amazingly, he ‘held it’ anyway until we were home at Sea-Tac.

    I tore several shoulder muscles, it turned out. He’s an awesome dog, so well worth it… but that is the LAST time I agree to do that.

  13. sir_eccles says:

    For the uninitiated:

    - Animals must stay in their carry cases.
    – Carry cases must fit under the seat in front of you and stay there.
    – There is usually a limit to the total number of pets on a flight (JetBlue is 4).
    – You’ve probably flown on a flight with pets and not known.
    – You’d probably get a worse allergic reaction from the t-shirt I’m wearing which is covered in cat hair because she slept on it last night, even if she isn’t on the flight.

    • sir_eccles says:

      @sir_eccles: almost forgot, it is usually in JetBlue’s case at least only one pet per customer.

    • Anonymous says:

      @sir_eccles: @sir_eccles: @sir_eccles:

      I was on a United flight last week (Aisle Seat). An older couple in the two seat next to me had a German Shep puppy in a nice carry bag. I did not notice for the first twenty minutes; until she barked. I have a lab and I am slighly alergic to dogs and cats (I have to wash my hands after petting/playing). She was told by United not to let her out of bad. I said, “let’s break the rules”. So we played with the puppy for the next 2 hours. About 45 minutes before landing, the air waitress notcied the puppy and said should should not be out of the bag. I spoke up and said I didn’t mind and she mostly backed off and only spoke up again during landing prep. to put her back in the bag. After we landed; I said enjoy your new puppy. I washed my hands and had a nice calm drive home.

    • sponica says:

      @sir_eccles: hahaha, yeah my friend is allergic to cats and I was wearing one of my shirts that absorbs all sorts of fur one time, sat on her bed back in college and she was like, WHY AM I GETTING MY ALLERGIES THERE IS NO CAT IN THIS ROOM???!

  14. MercuryPDX says:

    Pet friendly air travel information. Details on each airlines’ travel requirements and monthly reports of pet related air travel incidents.

    [www.petflight.com]

  15. jp says:

    Pre 9/11 we took 2 Blue Gold Macaws (large parrots) on Delta. $150 each way each. Only two animals in cabin allowed so we had both. Sat in (upgraded to first class) and when the fight attendant read on her sheet we had 2 parrots she said right after take off we can let them out of their cramped carriers and let them perch on our seat arms for the entire 4 hour flight. Doubt they would allow this today.

  16. Smashville says:

    Cute kitteh. I miss my cat…

  17. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    5. United Airlines – Non-Discriminating
    United Airlines accepts small cats, dogs and birds in the cabin; rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs as checked baggage and other animals including parrots, cockatiels and ferrets, in United Cargo.

    Since I’ve always been a passenger on a plane and not checked baggage or cargo (cue passengers are cargo joke) ….what’s the difference between where checked baggage is kept and where cargo is kept? I thought that when you checked your baggage, it all just gets tossed into the cargo hold.

    If I had to check my pet, where would it end up going to? And if they accept cats in the cabin, why not rabbits, which are usually the same size or smaller? If you have to travel with your hamster or guinea pig, why in the world would they have to travel in checked baggage? They’re so small, why not let them sit in a carrier with the passenger?

    • floraposte says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: I wonder if the small mammals’ health certifications aren’t as widely recognized or accepted. But I do know of a woman who traveled with a “cat” back before 9/11; a lagomorphic cat with suspiciously long ears and a vegetarian appetite.

      I think “United Cargo” is a shipping service rather than a flying-with-you service, sort of United-specific UPS. It’s not so much a statement about where in the plane as how connected they’ll be to you.

      • Skin Art Squared says:

        @floraposte: “I think “United Cargo” is a shipping service rather than a flying-with-you service, sort of United-specific UPS. It’s not so much a statement about where in the plane as how connected they’ll be to you.”

        It’s both. You can fly them “unattended”, meaning, you aren’t on the flight, or you can fly with them on the same plane. Your choice.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        @floraposte: Well that’s kind of dumb cause there are cat clinics and hospitals everywhere but good luck finding a convenient ‘exotic pets’ vet. Rabbits are usually lumped in with exotics and have far more sensitive systems than cats. Rabbits would not be fond of air travel so I’d avoid it…but if I had to, you bet it would be sitting with me and not in some back area where he can be scared by noises (which most rabbits are prone to be) without anyone to calm him down.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      @pecan 3.14159265:

      there are different cargo areas – pets go in an area that’s pressurized and heated. Most luggage doesn’t.

  18. I Love New Jersey says:

    What about those of us who have normal size dogs, you know 120 lbs and up.

    • tbax929 says:

      @I Love New Jersey:

      That’s normal-sized???? Yikes.

    • Skin Art Squared says:

      @I Love New Jersey: “What about those of us who have normal size dogs, you know 120 lbs and up.”

      Cargo. United. My two dogs flew Maui to San Francisco in the belly of the plane directly beneath my first class seat. They have to be in airline approved carriers, which for 120 pounders + means the biggest ones they make: Giant Skykennel. (and they’re expensive) They have to have all their shots and papers from the vet pre-flight, and get checked in with you at the counter. Feeding and watering requirements must be met, documents must be signed, and TSA will search them. Depending on your destination, there may be other requirements. You pick them up at baggage on the other end. Certain types of dogs are restricted at certain times of the year.

      It is a massive pain in the ass. Especially when your flight gets delayed four hours and they leave your dogs sitting out in the sun to roast. The dogs aren’t too keen on it either.

  19. spanky says:

    Continental has some really nasty breed discrimination policies. I can’t imagine what Petfinder was thinking giving them the number one spot.

    • Skin Art Squared says:

      @spanky: Most of the breed “discrimination” has to do with short nosed breeds that have been proven to have breathing issues are higher altitudes, and other breeds that are temperature sensitive. It’s not actual discrimination, but designed to keep your animal from being dead on arrival.

      • spanky says:

        @BZMedia: No, they have a different policy for short nosed breeds, requiring certain restrictions. As far as I’m aware, all airlines do that.

        Continental has an ‘embargo’ against APBTs and crosses, citing “danger presented to our aircraft and our customers.”

        They also ban several types of bulldog outright, including American Bulldogs and AmStaffs, which they claim is because they’re unusually susceptible to heat. (Moreso than pugs, which are allowed?)

        Anyway, here. Check it:
        [www.continental.com]

        • Skin Art Squared says:

          @spanky: Wow…. you’re right. That’s really retarded on their part. The dog can’t hurt anyone from inside a kennel. And of course, the ban on pit bulls exclusively is purely fear driven, based on nothing. that’s too bad, those are incredible dogs.

          They also have the Hawaii information completely wrong. “Animals are accepted as Cargo travel only. Dogs (including service dogs) and cats must be quarantined 120 days upon arrival. The quarantine may be reduced to 30 days.”

          Hawaii did away with the quarantine several years ago. You are required to stop in Honolulu first if you have an animal, which mean no non-stop to other islands, and your animal MUST be up to speed on all shots and have vet papers, but there’s no longer a quarantine. Reason is, Hawaii has no rabies. Since my dogs were born there, they never needed a rabies shot until I brought them to California.

          • spanky says:

            @BZMedia: I know, right? Like a 40 pound pit bull is going to tear through the kennel and the aircraft in midair, destroying the plane and sucking all the passengers out to plummet to their deaths.

            Then, based on bitter personal experience, I can assure you that the vicious pit bull will steal the vacated seats, where it will sit and lick its butt until the upholstery is unpleasantly damp.

      • PinkBox says:

        @BZMedia: Agreed. I found a site a long time ago that was specific about what animals died (if any) from being shipped.

        A LARGE amount of those are the very type of dogs they now have banned.

        I’d gladly rather have my animal banned than have them still ship it and risk having it die.

    • veronykah says:

      @spanky: I’m curious who gets to decide that your dog is a a american pit bull? You? The airline? The desk agent?
      Since there is no such thing, as recognized by AKC, how would one determine a “pit bull”?
      I have a bull terrier, very obvious, can’t mistake him for anything but a bull terrier but people still call him a pit bull half the time, when they aren’t calling him a Jack Rusell [?!].
      As evidenced by this quiz
      [www.pitbullsontheweb.com]

      I always wonder why bull terriers are included in the hereditary respiratory problems part. There are a few hereditary problems with BTs but I’ve never heard of breathing problems as one of them.
      I’ve never noticed my dog to be any different than any other dog of similar build when it comes to breathing/heat stress.

      However, I would never fly my dog. I used to date a pilot and he said he wouldn’t put a dog in cargo. I take his advice.

      • spanky says:

        @veronykah: That’s the thing about breed discrimination. It makes no sense no matter how you approach it.

        Continental specifically says APBTs (recognized by the UKC and some other special purpose registries) and mixes are embargoed for being vicious, but they also ban AmStaffs and other bully and bullyesque breeds for heat sensitivity. They do not say how they go about applying these definitions. I’ve seen BSL applied to dogs despite concrete pedigrees that prove the dogs are not the targeted breed.

        As such, I read any kind of breed discrimination policy as ‘any short haired dog might be capriciously banned, restricted, or killed by any old random dingleberry who decides they feel like it.’

  20. Skin Art Squared says:

    Oops, forgot… the other requirement for Hawaii is they have to have a microchip implanted in their neck. But it’s no big deal. I think it’s like, $7 dollars or something.

  21. Howie411 says:

    Everytime I read these articles it annoys me. Pet friendly would be letting me take my dog on the plane for free. Paying 300 roundtrip to squish my dog under the seat in front of me and give up my footroom is not pet friendly. I’m sorry, the only airline I like for pet travel is Airtran.

  22. gethenian says:

    Any information on which, if any, are good if you’re traveling with reptiles? Most of the sites I checked don’t mention them.

    I’ve been wanting to get a snake for a while, but I keep holding off on it, partially because I’m not sure how I could transport it – I spend my summers halfway across the country from where I go to school, and I doubt I could find anyone willing to take care of a snake for me while I’m gone. I know that snakes are sensitive to temperature, so I’d be very wary about putting one in the cargo hold…

  23. PinkBox says:

    This is an EXCELLENT site that documents pet deaths/incidents. It also gives you the option to sort them by airline.

    [www.petflight.com]

  24. donovanr says:

    I would love a list of the top 5 pet unfriendly airlines as those would be the ones I want to fly with. If the fat 50 year old woman with the wrong colored hair pulls out poochie I would be more ticked than with a rude stewardess.
    How ’bout this: you bring your dog and I’ll watch faces of death the entire flight on a 17 inch laptop. Or, on the other hand, how about we treat each other with respect and you put the dog in cargo and I will put away the stress-disorder-inducing videos.