the NUMBER ONE question we get asked time after time is about how ella flies and how they can fly with their dog. when we first decided we wanted to try bringing ella with us on vacation, we picked miami, a short 2.5 hour flight. we decided if ella wasn’t happy, it was a short enough flight that we could comfort her and get on and off the plane pretty fast.
ella was already a seasoned stealth traveler - when we first moved to nyc from our home in dc, we’d go back and forth via bolt bus or amtrak, where dogs weren’t allowed. transparently, we’d sneak her on in a black non-descript travel bag and keep the bag with us underfoot, unbeknownst to the train staff. she was skilled at napping quietly through the 4 hour train ride, so flying didn’t seem like a huge leap. (ps: we don’t recommend sneaking your dog on trains - we got lucky. now that dogs are allowed on amtrak, we do it the honest way.)
ella also had the ‘right’ personality to try out flying. she is a generally chilled out dog, unphased by much. she doesn’t have separation anxiety and she already had a great relationship w her travel bag from our trips back and forth from dc.
so, how can YOU fly with your dog?
asses his or her personality: is your dog high strung? does your dog get excessively stressed in new situations? is your dog too big to fit under a plane seat? if the answer to any of these questions is yes - flying may not be right for her.
choose a travel bag & make it your dog’s bff: we use a sherpa airline approved travel bag that is closed on all sides. some dogs need more ventilation, but ella gets chilly and likes to snuggle into the shearling bottom and starts shivering if we lift the flaps mid flight. you should start with training your dog to go into the bag using a lot of treats and getting her comfortable with closing the bag. once she’s ok being zipped into her bag, start testing traveling varying distances, starting with short car rides, and ideally working your way up to multi-hour road trips. your dog should be OK to spend more than a few hours zipped in before you attempt to fly. we also pack the side storage with some of ella’s must haves: buffalo jerky twists, a collapsible water bowl, a few pee pads in case of delays. if your dog has a favorite toy, include that too!
find and learn the rules! all airlines have different rules about pet travel and you should make sure you familiarize yourself. for domestic flights, as a general rule, if your pet & carrier fit under the seat in front of you, you can purchase a ticket and fly without much issue. as a general rule, less than 20lbs including the carrier is allowable. before you purchase your flight, call the airline and ensure they still have room. many airlines limit how many pets can be on a flight. you will need to have a veterinary issued health certificate that shows your pet is up to date on her vaccines. keep this on you!
international travel: this will be it’s own post, but for now, know that you need to make sure your veterinary paperwork complies with your destination. not all locations will accept pets, for instance australia and new zealand. do your research! check out our milan travel diary for details on international travel.
If you book your flight online and the actual plane is being operated by a different airline carrier, you may not be able to book a pet ticket. make sure if you are flying Delta for instance, that the flight is operated by Delta and not a partner. often, it’s best to book on the airline’s website directly so you can have the best customer service.
call ahead, pre pay & get a confirmation number or email receipt. if you don’t pay in advance you run the risk of being denied at the airport. if a customer service rep won’t allow you to pay for the dog’s flight in advance, pick another airline. (we had this issue with american airlines on our recent flight home from mexico)
get to the airport an extra hour early. you can’t check in online if you are flying with a pet, so you’ll need to allow time to wait in potentially long lines to check baggage and get your boarding pass.
scope the airport in advance for pet amenities. jfk in new york has pet relief areas in most of the terminals. we always leave time to hit that up before boarding so ella can get a potty break after braving security.
get naked. did you know your dog can’t wear a jacket when you go through security? true story. some agents require the dog not be wearing any clothing. in effort to be prepared, we put ella’s warm travel sweater on AFTER security.
note that all charges are PER FLIGHT and not round trip.
Pet Policies linked below (as of January 2019)
Delta Pet Policy: $125 each way for domestic flights/ $200 each way for International flights
contact delta to double check max carrier size prior to flight, certain planes have smaller requirements.
your pet counts as a carry on - you will need to check additional baggage.
American Airlines: $125 each way
pets must be able to stand up, turn around and lie down in a natural position in their kennel (without touching any side or the top of the container)
non-collapsible kennels can’t exceed the under seat dimensions of any aircraft included in your journey. Please contact reservations to verify maximum dimensions for your journey.
soft-sided collapsible kennels can be slightly larger but still need to fit under the seat without having to excessively collapse the kennel, have to be secure, padded, made of water-repellant material and have nylon mesh ventilation on 2 or more sides.
JetBlue: $125 each way
one of the pet friendliest airlines, jetblue has it’s own JetPaws program where frequent fliers can earn 300 points per pet flight!
pet carrier cannot exceed 17"L x 12.5"W x 8.5"H and the combined weight of your pet and the carrier must not exceed 20 pounds.
United: $125 each way
United allows the pet and a carry-on bag, which is unusual!
Alaksa Air (includes former Virgin America): $100 each way
Alaska has blackout dates during the holidays where pets cannot travel in cabin (Thanksgiving/ Christmas/ New Years)