Taking Flight With Your Dog: A Comprehensive Guide to Canine Air Travel

So, you’re gearing up for summer vacation; everything seems like it will be perfect: you booked your hotel, you are sizing up activities and the ideal spot to go out to eat. There is one flaw in your plan, though, your pup may not be able to come! This does not have to be the case, and there are plenty of options for traveling with your dog. Here is some information about traveling by air with your pet.

What does the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) consider a service animal? Well, for travel purposes, a service animal is a dog, regardless of breed, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for someone with a disability, including psychiatric and mental disabilities.

As of January 11th, 2021, airlines are no longer obligated to accommodate emotional support animals (ESAs). ESAs are companion animals who help their owners cope with challenges associated with emotional and mental health conditions by providing comfort with their presence. Unlike service dogs, ESAs are not expected to perform specific tasks related to their owner’s condition, nor must they adhere to any behavior standards or training.

A fully-trained service dog may fly in the cabin at no charge if they meet the requirements. To travel with a service animal, you must submit the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Service Animal Air Transportation Form attesting to the animal’s health, training, and behavior at least 48 hours before your flight.

There is no categorical weight limit for service dogs, but airlines can require that a service animal fit within the handler’s foot space or on the passenger’s lap. Under DOT’s rules, an airline cannot prohibit a service dog because it is a certain breed. It can, however, prohibit boarding if the service dog is acting aggressively or being disruptive.

Typical requirements for service dog include:

  • The dog is leashed, clean, and well-behaved.
  • The dog has required documentation, including DOT’s Air Transportation Service Animal Training and Behavior Attestation Form. For flights scheduled to take 8 hours or more, DOT’s Service Animal Relief Attestation Form. Both forms more than 48 hours before the flight.
  • The dog must not occupy an exit row.
  • The dog should sit in the floor space in front of your assigned seat or within your ticked personal space and cannot extend into the aisles or the foot space of adjacent travelers.

Each airline has specific policies and a set of requirements for pets  traveling in the cabin. Their policies usually focus on regulations for carrier dimensions and the combined weight of the dog inside the kennel. Depending on the airline, there can be further specifications, including breed-specific regulations and a limited number of pet slots per plane.

Most major U.S. airlines allow in-cabin dog travel. For regional airlines, you may have to call for more information. No matter what, it is best to contact your chosen airline to review their specifications and get a good understanding of the required documentation. Further, some airlines will only allow you to book a spot for your pup over the phone 14 days in advance – so it is best to call.

Generally, requirements for in-cabin pets include:



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