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.)
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.