When you travel, you shouldn’t have to leave your beloved canine at home if you don’t want to (or can’t) travel without him or her. Fortunately, on many airlines you don’t have to. Whether traveling with your dog as a pet or an emotional support animal, there are certain points to be aware of to make sure your dog is indeed allowed to fly with you and that your air travel experience with your dog goes as smoothly, effectively and trouble-free as possible. One thing to keep in mind only service dogs are exempt from airline fees. Emotional support dogs are treated as pets, however with appropriate training ESA dog can become s service dog.
Do’s and Don’ts for Taking a Dog on a Plane
Follow these do’s and don’ts for taking a dog on a plane, and you and your dog should fly together in peace and comfort every time.
DO Know Your Rights
Not all airline and airport personnel can be expected to be 100% up to speed on current laws and regulations involving traveling with animals. There’s the Air Carrier Access Act and Americans with Disabilities Act to be aware of, as well as specific airline policies for each type of traveling animals: pets, service animals and emotional support animals. Plus, new laws, amendments and policy changes are instituted all the time, creating the potential for even more confusion at the airport.
It is therefore incumbent on you to know your rights regarding travel with your dog, whether it be a pet, service dog or emotional support dog, and to know the relevant laws and policies of the particular airlines you’ll be traveling. That way, if you encounter a worker who tries to contradict what you know to be true, you can calmly and respectfully inform that worker of what’s actually so and, if necessary, ask for someone with more authority to step in and help you clear up the confusion.
DON’T Call Your Dog a Service Dog or Emotional Support Dog If it Isn’t
In order to receive the benefits of having a service dog or emotional support dog, you must meet the qualifications for that status. You cannot, under any circumstances, expect to exercise the rights given to the owner or handler of a service dog or ESA if you do not meet the respective qualifications, as described below, even if the dog does provide legitimate emotional support or other services.
To call your dog a service dog, you must have:
- A qualifying diagnosis of a physical or psychiatric disability or disorder
- A dog trained to perform specific tasks related to your diagnosed disability or disorder
To call your dog an emotional support dog, you must have:
A consultation with a doctor that results in you receiving a doctor’s letter attesting that you have a diagnosis of a qualifying mental or emotional disorder or disability and that an emotional support dog could help you deal with the symptoms of that condition.
In both cases, you can get the necessary doctor’s appointment via telemedicine through CertifyMyPet. As for the training required for a service dog, CertifyMyPet can also provide you with a list of qualified trainers in your local area, as well as helpful training tips you can apply on your own. Both emotional support dogs and service dogs must also be trained in basic obedience and be able to follow your instructions and avoid causing a problem or disturbance whenever you’re out in public.
DO Retain Current Vaccination and Health Records for Your Dog
Whether your dog is traveling as an emotional support dog, a service dog or a pet, an airline may very well require you to present documentation that your dog is in satisfactory health to travel by air and is current with all its vaccinations.
DON’T Pay for ESA Registration or an ESA Letter Without a Doctor’s Consultation
There are many companies and websites out there offering registration without doctor’s consultation. The problem is, registration alone is not required and might be even self incriminating.
When you receive an ESA letter without first consulting with the doctor signing the letter, that letter holds very little weight. For one, if an airline calls the doctor to verify the letter or ask legally-permissible questions about it and your qualifications, the doctor cannot be of much help. He or she doesn’t even know you. In most cases, the airline won’t even be able to reach the signing doctor in this scenario.
If a company offers ESA registration, just make sure they’re honest about it and that it does not purport to take the place of a valid letter. An honest company will tell you that registration with them gets you and your ESA listed in their database for easy verification if and when needed, but that there is no such thing as an official, comprehensive or nationwide database.
As for the letter itself, by having it be written by a doctor who has met with you at least once, knows your situation and diagnosis and can confirm that you qualify for an ESA, it gives your letter the credibility you need to travel reliably with your ESA with total freedom and peace of mind.
DO Restrain Your Dog Appropriately
At the very least, any dog traveling on an airplane should be leashed and kept by the owner’s side or held in the owner’s arms or lap and within the owner’s control at all times, regardless of whether the dog is an emotional support dog, service dog or pet. Alternatively, a dog can travel in an airline-approved travel kennel. A dog cannot travel, however, without either a leash or kennel, including in airports pre- and post- flights.
Check out also: Pet Carrier to Take Your Emotional Support Dog on a Plane
DON’T Expect Your Dog to Understand What is Happening
A service dog is trained to remain calm, quiet and obedient in public settings and stressful situations. The same cannot be said for pet dogs and emotional support dogs. Therefore, do not expect your dog to be the consummate traveler just because it’s sweet and well-behaved at home and under familiar conditions. Instead, prepare your dog for the unfamiliar situations to be expected when traveling by plane.
Don’t let travel day be the first day your dog experiences the pet carrier in which it will be traveling. Introduce your dog to the carrier in advance and get the dog comfortable in it and familiar with it, even placing treats inside and heaping praise on the dog while inside the locked carrier to encourage good behavior.
Maybe you can’t bring your dog to an airport or confine your dog beneath an airplane seat for practice in those settings, but you can simulate them to some degree. Bring your dog to the mall to expose it to crowds. Travel with your dog in its carrier on a lengthy car ride. Help familiarize your dog with the types of experiences at least that it will encounter in an airport and while traveling by plane.
Dog Policies of Various Airlines
Within the bounds of federal law and FAA regulations, each airline sets its own policies regarding traveling with dogs on its airplanes. Each airline has different sets of policies for taking a dog on a plane in-cabin if that dog is a pet or an emotional support dog. Most of the airlines no longer allow ESA to fly for free and instead treat them as pets. Service dogs are always allowed but the owner is responsible for dogs behaviour. Learn how emotional support dog can become a service dog
Check out also: How Much Does it Cost to Fly a Dog?
The following are the dog policies at some of the largest and most popular airlines.
1. American Airlines Dog Policy
Like on most airlines, the American Airlines moved forward to ban emotional support animals from traveling for free.
When traveling with a dog as a pet, you will have to pay an American Airlines pet cargo cost or travel fee. If the dog is allowed to travel in the passenger cabin with you, there is a pet travel fee charged, while for any dog that has to travel in the cargo hold, such as if flying with a large dog, there is an American Airlines pet cargo cost charged.
The American Airlines pet policy allows service dogs to fly on domestic and most international flights in the passenger cabin with their owners without the owners incurring any pet travel fees or deposits. However, to qualify for this provision, the passenger must sign U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Service Animal Air Transportation Form attesting to the animal’s health, training, and behavior to the Special Assistance Desk at least 48 hours before your flight. Also passenger must sign DOT’s Service Animal Relief Attestation Form. American Airlines will issue SVAN ID upon verifying the request. SVAN ID is good for 1 year and allows to fly AA without filling the forms out every time.
2. United Airlines Dog Policy
Dogs are allowed on most United Airlines flights, although only service dogs are permitted on United Airlines flights to the UK. Taking a dog on a plane in cabin is not permitted, however, if traveling to Austria, Hawaii, Guam or any other country requiring pets enter only as manifest cargo. On flights to Dubai, Lagos and Nigeria, dogs cannot even fly as cargo. Moreover, on Boeing 777,767, 757 and 747 airplanes, flying with a dog in cabin is not permitted in first class or business class because of a lack of sufficient room beneath the seats.
To travel with your dog on a permitted UA flight requires advance approval for your dog. Your dog must be transported in a UA-approved travel kennel. If your dog is not traveling as a service dog, you must pay a fee. An extra fee is applied to every flight that undergoes a layover longer than four hours in the US or longer than 24 hours outside the US. All dogs flying on UA flights from the US and Canada must submit a health form specific to the country of origin (ie. a USDA form for flights originating in the US.) On international flights, your country of destination may also have forms required for your pet to be granted entry.
United Airlines also runs a PetSafe program for dogs that cannot fly in the cabin. Any dog at least part American Bulldog or Boston Terrier cannot fly on UA flights under the PetSafe program between May 15 and September 15. Between September 16 and May 1, PetSafe travel is only available on flights during which the temperature will not exceed 85 degrees F.
United airlines requires U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Service Animal Air Transportation Form to be signed as well as DOT’s Service Animal Relief Attestation Form
3. JetBlue Airlines Dog Policy
JetBlue honors all laws and regulations regarding service animals. As for the question, “Can you take dogs on planes with JetBlue if they’re not service dogs?” the answer is “Yes, in most cases.”
JetBlue does reserve the right to refuse a dog permission to board one of its flights if that dog is deemed to be too dirty or stinky to fly without disturbing other passengers and crew.
Regardless of whether your dog is a pet, service dog or ESA, if you are traveling by JetBlue internationally, you are required to produce a current veterinary health form called USDA APHIS 7001 Form within 10 days of your planned travel. For dogs flying internationally on JetBlue, you’ll also need to provide a copy of the dog’s updated vaccination record.
Be aware that flying with a large dog on JetBlue could be a problem, as the airline does not let any pets travel in the cargo hold or as checked luggage on any flight at any time under any conditions. That said, while service dogs are required by law to be allowed on flights in cabin no matter their size, JetBlue does restrict dogs flying as pets to only small dogs.
Dogs brought on JetBlue flights must be carried in an approved carrier and remain in that carrier at all times, including in the terminal and during takeoff and landing.
With the JetPaws program, any passenger traveling with a dog is given a tag for the dog’s carrier identifying the dog as an approved passenger, a page of tips for air travel with a dog and extra TrueBlue loyalty points.
4. Southwest Airlines Dog Policy
As long as your dog is at least eight weeks old, you can bring it in cabin with you on a Southwest Airlines flight, although it must be kept in an approved carrier at all times. Southwest Airlines retains the right to refuse any animal that seems aggressive entry onto any of its flights.
The answer to the question, “Can i buy a seat for my dog on an airplane?” is that Southwest Airlines does not require it unless your dog is so big it can’t fit in just one seat alone.
If your dog is unable to be accommodated in cabin for whatever reason, you will have to either rebook your flight or plan to travel without your dog as Southwest Airlines has no checked baggage or cargo option for dogs.
You cannot reserve your dog’s space on a Southwest Airlines flight in advance of the flight. Rather, dogs are granted permission to board on a first come, first served basis. You must arrive therefore at the airport early enough before you take off to reserve a space in person for your dog on that flight. Once the quota of dogs permitted on a given Southwest Airlines flight is reached, you must rebook your flight to fly with your dog.
Just like any other airline Southwest airlines honors service dogs.
5. Spirit Airlines Dog Policy
Spirit allows small domestic dogs to fly in-cabin onboard all domestic flights, including to the US Virgin Islands, St. Thomas and Puerto Rico. As of January 11, 2021, Spirit Airlines requires all emotional support dogs to travel as pets and, accordingly, to meet all guidelines for pet travel on Spirit.
To travel with a dog, you must check in with your dog at the ticket counter. Self-service and curbside check-in options are not available to those traveling with pets. Therefore, plan to allow for more time to check in before your flight’s departure time than the airline usually recommends for passengers not traveling with pets. Your dog must also pass a screening at the security checkpoint before being permitted on board.
If you are traveling with a dog in-cabin to U.S.V.I., your dog must have a health certificate. For travel to all other destinations Spirit serves, the airline does not require a health certificate.
Your dog must travel in an approved carrier, and each passenger is allowed only one carrier on board. The dog must be able to stand and turn around in the carrier and must remain in the carrier for the entirety of the flight. The combined weight of the dog and carrier cannot be more than 40 pounds. The fee to travel with your dog on board Spirit flights is $110 per carrier, each way.
The dog must be well-behaved, free of offensive odors and pose no observable threat or risk to passengers. The dog also cannot be visibly ill or in distress. You may sit anywhere on the plane with your dog except the emergency exit rows and the front row.
Spirit Airlines does not allow dogs to fly in cargo on any flights and prohibits domestic dogs, though not service dogs, from traveling on international flights.
6. Delta Airlines Dog Policy
Depending on the dog’s size and your destination and departure points, your domestic dog may be able to fly with you in-cabin or as cargo. Small dogs can travel in-cabin to and from the US, Puerto Rico and Canada for a one-way fee of $125 paid at check-in. Special rates apply to dogs traveling in-cabin with you to or from Brazil, the US Virgin Islands or internationally.
To qualify as a small dog, the animal must fit in a small and well-ventilated carrier that you can stow easily beneath the seat in front of you. Pets traveling in-cabin with you count as your sole permitted carry-on item, though Delta allows you one personal item onboard with you as well. Only one dog is permitted in any carrier with the exception of female dogs traveling with an unweaned litter at least 10 weeks old and no older than six months. In addition, two puppies of the same size and breed between 10 weeks and six months old can travel in the same kennel, and Delta will charge you for only one pet as long as the pups can fit comfortably in the kennel and behave with one another. The dog(s) must remain in the carrier in the boarding area, while boarding and deplaning and for the entire length of the flight.
If you are traveling to or from Hawaii or certain international destinations, your dog must travel as cargo, even if small enough to qualify for in-cabin travel domestically.
Delta Airlines permits only a certain number of pets onboard any given flight, and accepts pets on a first-come, first-served basis.
7. Frontier Airlines Dog Policy
Frontier allows domesticated dogs on all flights within the US and to and from destinations internationally. For all flights within the US and to and from Mexico and the Dominican Republic, the dogs can travel in-cabin with their owners.
Dogs must remain in an approved travel carrier at all times, and it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure the dog stays calm without removing the dog from the carrier. In addition, the dog cannot be disruptive, behave violently or have an offensive odor.
You may not sit with a dog in the front row or any exit row. Frontier requests you avoid providing your dog water or food during the flight.
Frontier Airlines does not require a health certificate to travel with a dog domestically, but certain points of destination, like certain states or countries, may require it. For all international travel, a pet health certificate is required.
The fee is $99 each way to travel on Frontier Airlines with a dog.
Check out also: Delta Airlines Pet Travel Policy for Flying with a Dog
Flying with an Emotional Support Dog
Airlines moved forward to ban emotional support dogs from free flights and now only service dogs are permitted. Learn how your emotional support dog can be trained to become a service dog here
Flying with a Service Dog
When flying with a Service dog whether it’s a psychiatric service dog or any other type most Airlines require to fill out two DOT forms:
1. U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation Form
2. United States Department of Transportation Service Animal Relief Attestation Form
Remember there are no specific training requirements, you can train your dog yourself or hire a training. Here is the list of best online dog training organizations.