Be Ready For A Hassle When Flying With Your Snub-Nosed Dog

A number of airlines already have bans on allowing snub-nosed dogs like pugs, bulldogs and boxers to be checked in their planes’ cargo holds. However, traveling with one of those dogs in a carry-on bag in the cabin should be just fine. The problem is, not everyone at the airlines is aware of this fact.

Consumerist reader Karen is currently making plans to go pick up a pug in Oklahoma and called American Airlines to make a reservation.

Before contacting AA, she read through the airlines’ extensive policy for traveling with pets. And while her pug is clearly barred from being checked into the cargo hold, the only pet restriction for animals in the cabin is that they must be dogs or cats (Sorry to those of you hoping to travel with your pet marmot.)

Writes Karen:

I went ahead and booked my flight and per the website’s instructions, called the reservation desk to book the return in-cabin flight ticket for the puppy.

The woman at the reservation desk, who was quite polite and very helpful, told me pugs could not fly American Airlines at all. I asked if a refund could be provided, since the only reason I am flying out there at all is to pick up this puppy. Only a credit could be offered.

At that point I mentioned nowhere on their website was it indicated that pugs could not fly at all. While I did see the complete restriction for checked baggage and cargo, there were no restrictions at all mentioned for cabin pets.

At that point I was put on hold for about 15 minutes while she researched the issue. She returned to tell me that they could see nothing indicating that pugs could or could not fly as carry on and she provided me with the reservation.

While that eventually seemed to work out in her favor, Karen still has concerns. Even though she has the reservation for her pug, the actual ticket isn’t purchased until she gets to the ticket counter a few hours before take-off.

“I am afraid when I check into my flight home, pug in bag, I may run into the same issue at the ticket counter, and I might not be as lucky,” she explains.

Karen says she’s prepared herself by printing out the complete ‘Traveling With Pets’ guidelines from American’s website, but she’s hoping that the Consumerist hive-mind might have some advice from its experiences traveling with pets.

“I know it all boils down to the luck of the draw and the competency of ticketing agent at the counter,” she writes, “but I’d really like to be as well prepared as possible.”

First off, we would suggest arriving at the airport earlier than usual, as a stubborn ticketing agent can result in a delay, especially if you need to debate the topic with a manager or get someone from American on the phone.

And since American limits the number of carry-on pets in the coach cabin to 5 at any one time, arriving early will help to ensure you are not bumped because you happen to be on a flight with a large group of fellow pet-carrying passengers.

It also never hurts to be prepared for the absolute worst, so we suggest familiarizing yourself with pet policies at competing airlines, as it’s not unheard of for an airline employee to flat-out block a passenger from boarding, regardless of the facts in evidence.

What we most definitely don’t suggest is trying to hide your pug in a “pug purse” like the one in the above photograph; it’s both dangerous and tacky.

If you have any experience traveling with snub-nosed pets (there are a handful of cats that are also banned), feel free to share what you’ve learned in the comments.


Edit Your Comment

  1. pop top says:

    Why is she flying somewhere to pick up a dog? Are there no pugs in any of the shelters or rescues in her state? That seems like a lot of unnecessary expense.

    • AlteredBeast (Version 2.0) says:

      Since it says she is just picking it up, it could be a family pet that the family member could no longer take care of, or something along those lines.

      I do agree, it seems a little odd. Even if she is buying from a breeder, it isn’t an uncommon breed that would require you to fly out to locate one.

      • pop top says:

        That’s my point. Why put yourself through such hassle when it’s probably something that’s easily available in her area.

        • bluline says:

          It doesn’t matter what the reason is. And it shouldn’t matter to the airline what her reason is. The only thing in question is the airline’s policy.

        • BarbiCat says:

          “Easily available” is a pretty big assumption. We’d really like a dog, but the only ones available in the rescue shelters here are large dogs. Small dogs go ridiculously fast, and there’s no waiting list. And cost wise, even the small-dog breed specific rescues are on par in terms of buying a pure-bred dog. Maybe she found a dog she liked with a temperament that seemed to fit her. Maybe the dog rescues in her area didn’t have any small dogs. Maybe she wanted THAT specific dog. What does it even matter because really the issue here is how she was treated by the airline.

    • bmath18 says:

      why does this matter to you it is her personal choice on where she is purchasing a dog and has nothing to do with her question

      • pop top says:
      • pop top says:
      • shepd says:

        In that case, it’s the airlines choice if they choose to let a pug on board or not.

        If we’re playing the personal choice card, that is. And it seems we are.

        • It's So Cold in the D says:

          Sure it is, but you need to explicitly lay that out as a policy prior to purchasing a ticketing or allowing your customers to purchase a ticket or fly with you.

      • taaurrus says:

        There’s the problem right there and probably a little of what pop tart was talking about. You said “she is purchasing a dog”. With all the dogs needing rescue and adoption today – I really dislike people who PURCHASE dogs. However, that could explain why she had to fly to pick up the EXACT AND PERFECT dog she wanted – you know, complete with papers and stuff so she knows it isn’t a mutt. Cuz who wants those??

        /s btw – I am foster for a local rescue.

        • Geekybiker says:

          Rescues are part of the reasons people buy dogs. I looked into rescues and with all the forms etc they want you to fill out you’d think you are trying to get a security clearance, not trying to get a pet. Buying a pet on the other hand is simple. You have money?

          • shepd says:

            That’s unfortunate. The last two cats I was involved in adopting were as simple as this:

            Hand shelter ~$100. Sign papers that explain it’s yours, you take care of it, no returns, that you don’t have more than the legal limit of pets and that you’re not an asshole buying it for christmas/birthday/whatever gift. The form took one signature and 5 minutes to read (because I read EVERYTHING thoroughly before I sign it, most people would have signed it in about 8 seconds). They gave us a box, some booklets on how to take care of the cat, and that was that. Oh, they gave us the papers on the various vaccinations and such that were done, and a list of local vets and, being a kitten, future vaccinations to do and info on the importance of spaying/neutering.

            The selection process was equally simple. Look at the cages. Choose the one you prefer.

            From what I hear about pet stores, they don’t go to the trouble of providing educational materials, doctors lists, and, if not required in your area (in my area it wasn’t) nothing about vaccinations or spaying/neutering. The shelter does a better job at helping the customer than the pet store, although there is the one page form outlining what you would think are common sense reasons to deny the sale.

          • sponica says:

            that’s because they don’t want to end up getting the dog back. if you adopt a cat and it doesn’t work out, odds are a friend will take it for you. if you adopt a dog and it doesn’t work out, usually the only place for you to go with it is the shelter.

            if you adopt a human from the state, you’d go through the same level of scrutiny, because they don’t want the human back….

        • Naked-Gord-Program says:

          Look. I’m an animal rights activist, vegan, every cat I’ve had has been a stray rescue and everything but you’re derailing the discussion here for your personal agenda.

          Fact is this is about having issues flying with a certain type of pet (snub nosed doggies). If she was moving with her pound rescue snub nosed dog it’d still be the same issue.

        • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

          Your “strawmanning” of this issue aside, Maybe she lives in an apartment and needs a small dog. Pugs are perfectly suited to apartments. They prefer to be indoors, don’t care to walk all that much, and don’t have a particularly loud bark. Pugs also have an incredibly good disposition. With pound dogs, it is a toss up as to whether they will do well in an apartment or have a good disposition. Many rescue organizations are beyond anal about who they allow the privilege of adopting a rescue. Maybe it was the best solution for her. Rescue/pound dogs aren’t the best fit for everyone. Plus, it isn’t up to you to decide that it’s wrong for people to buy dogs instead of rescuing them.

      • Doubting thomas says:

        You are making a huge assumption. She is flying to pick up the pet, that is all you know. I flew to pick up a former pet of my own 10 years ago. I didn’t do it because I wanted the perfect pet, or because I had to have a specific breed. I did it because my a friend had died and I went to rescue his dog.

    • jwissick says:

      People do fly to rescue dogs. It’s not uncommon at all.

    • Yorick says:

      “Are there no prisons, no workhouses?”

      wait, that was probably inappropriate.

  2. CrankyOwl says:

    There was a pug in a pink raincoat on the train to work this a.m. So adorable.

    That is all.

    • pop top says:

      Aww, that must’ve been cute. Did you get a picture?

    • Mike says:

      What is it with you pug owners? They’re the same everywhere!

      A pug wearing a mini-cowboy hat was walking down the middle of the road, causing a six-car pile-up. A pug rescue group commented: “He was soooooo cute!”.

  3. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

    It’s not a marmot, it’s a marten!

  4. Golfer Bob says:

    I want to be there when someone tries to carry a Boxer on board in a carry on pet carrier and fit it under the seat. No seriously, please call me.

  5. CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

    What is so special about pugs and their noses that they cannot fly??
    I dont get it.

  6. Hi_Hello says:

    i would just drive, but that’s me.

  7. sgtyukon says:

    “A number of airlines already have bans on allowing snub-nosed dogs like pugs, bulldogs and boxers to be checked in their planes’ cargo holds. However, traveling with one of those dogs in a carry-on bag in the cabin should be just fine.”

    I owned a Boxer puppy once. That dog was the biggest Boxer I ever saw: At 11 months it weighed 90 pounds. I think taking that dog into the airplane cabin with you would not be “just fine.” Too big to fit in the overhead (LOL).

  8. lacubsfan2 says:

    Unless you are moving across the country, leave your dogs at home with a dog sitter. Idiots.

    • chiieddy says:

      Did you even RTFA? This is someone who’s picking up their new puppy from across the country. This sometimes happens when they’re rescuing a puppy or dog from some distance or making a pure bred purchase from a reliable breeder.

    • GarretN says:

      Might want to re-read it. She’s flying somewhere to pick the dog up (Likely from the breeder), and the issue is regarding said return flight with-pug.

    • frugalmom says:

      And what are you supposed to do when you do move? My MIL is moving from NY to Phoenix next weekend, and it’s been a huge pain making sure that her shih tzu can come with her on the plane. I can’t find it now, but I thought I read that AA had banned snub-nosed breeds entirely.

  9. SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

    Be Ready For A Hassle When Flying With Your Snub-Nosed Dog


    • SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

      dagnabbit that was supposed to be a strikethrough on the with your snub nosed dog part

      get me someone who can do HTML tags correctly stat!

  10. Vox Republica says:

    All I can think about now is a pug, sitting in coach, with old-timey aviator’s goggles. Subsequently, I weep with joy.

  11. 401k says:

    Also, let’s not forget – let’s not forget, Dude – that keeping wildlife, an amphibious rodent, for uh, domestic, you know, within the city – that aint legal either.

  12. BelleSade says:

    I know it’s not really about the topic, but what about birds? I’m planning on moving back to the States soon and want to take my zebra finches… but I’m in Russia, so it’s about a 20 hour trip.

    • kombi says:

      I hope its not real soon. Ask the Embassy. But birds are usually considered exotic pets. May need to be shipped and quarantined

  13. Geekybiker says:

    Be ready for a hassle when flying with your snub-nose, Dawg.

  14. Gizmosmonster says:

    The ticket agent NEVER sees our Pomeranian, he has to be kept in his travel bag the whole time. Airport and airline rules. Next time call him a mixed breed or unknown. The TSA agent is the only person involved who should even see the little guy.

    • ancientone567 says:

      You don’t want TSA anywhere near your dog! They might have to check up it’s butt! Oh wait dogs love that don’t they!

  15. redstapler says:

    I dont want to fly with dogs at all, i am allergic (to cats too) and if i sit near one for a three hour plane ride it wont be pretty. Dog owners always claim their precious fluffy couldnt possibly cause an allergy but that is BS. Plus, who wants to smell the dogs “accidents” in a tin can or hear them yap. Pets in the cargo hold or not at all.

  16. Aaron says:

    There should be an easier way to travel with pets. I own a pug myself and had to move from NYC to Seattle. I looked through all the travel options. Airlines banned him because he’s tall for his breed and, even if they let you bring a snub-nosed dog into the cabin, it has additional height and weight restrictions; trains ban them completely and busses stuff them in the luggage hold. I ended up using an airline that flies pets exclusively and then had him driven up from LA to Seattle because they don’t fly into Seattle.

    Europe is much more pet friendlier, as far as I know. Dogs can travel in trains and you can easily take them across the country. I wish there were more options here for pet owners and their pets.

  17. webweazel says:

    My mom used to bring her cat along when she would fly and visit us. (long story why she had to bring him along) Anyhoo, there’s some tricks she did that are good, and she never had a bit of trouble bringing him along.

    The cat was a large Maine Coon. She bought a collapsible soft-sided carrier with a metal frame that folded at each end. When at the airport, it was fully opened. While waiting for the flight in the terminal, she would fold down one end of the frame and put a thick towel on it, then put kitty back inside. This way, one end was easily pushed under the seat while still having the frame up on the other end for good room for kitty. When she got off the plane, she would open the frame back up to head out of the airport. She also had it so that she could put the carrier on top of her luggage, strapped onto the luggage handle, so she didn’t have to lug it by itself.

    Kitty never complained, mom never complained, the airline staff never even blinked, and the kids on the flight thought a kitty in the plane was a special delight. One thing to recommend is, print out the rules for the airline you will be flying on, highlight the pertinent rules, and keep them in your back pocket or a pocket on the pet carrier itself for easy access. No sense in arguing with these people unless you have something to back it up with.

    A mild vet-precribed sedative is always recommended for flights with animals. You just never know how they will react. The Maine Coon never needed the sedative, he was just chilled out totally and seemed to enjoy it. Animals are weird. A few years back, I had to move a few states away and drove 8 hours with our two cats, brother and sister. The male is a totally cool dude, and his sister is a skittish wreck. I figured the female would be a mess in the car. Not so. She looked out the window and napped off and on the entire trip, with barely a peep. The male howled, panted, drooled all over himself, and chewed the cage until we gave him a happy-pill. Go figure.

  18. Duplo86 says:

    Just flew Delta over Christmas with a pug in the cabin. They also restrict stub nose dogs in cargo but no issues with having her in the cabin. They didn’t even check what kind of dog she was at check in, so I think you’re probably fine. I would try to get a confirmation from someone else at the airlines though.