Flying with your dog

airport at sunrise - flying with dogs article

Traditional way : Cargo

For those of you that never flew with their pet before, the traditional way of flying is to fly them "cargo". That means you will have to book a flight for your dog, visit the veterinary 10 days prior to your flight (some airlines allow up to 30days) and buy a proper kennel**

**TSA guidelines for shipping pets state that the dog cannot be touching the top of the kennel; make sure not even the pointy ears.

They can be very picky; if they think your dog is too small for the kennel, they will turn you away. Be very sure about the size kennel you have purchased.

Once TSA has inspected your kennel you are no longer allowed to touch it. Say your goodbyes as you put your dog away. The kennel should be properly labeled with live animal stickers, arrows,

-have blankets or towels inside,
-a water and food bowls,
-and have emergency kibble tapped down to the top along with feeding instructions.

Delta then has some of their own stickers for you to fill out. They also took care of zip tying the kennel, so don’t worry about that. Also, if you are shipping your dog to yourself make sure the name/address information is what is reflected on your ID. Do not put the address you are moving to or staying at. Same goes for if you ship it to another person, make sure their information is correct. (UH, 2019)


 Here are some of the basics you need to know. Delta does not consider any cargo sized pet a checked bag. Cargo sized dog fees are charged based on the kennel size. Unfortunately, I had to get the second largest size because in the size down my dog had her head against the ceiling. My cost was **$694** (including the GPS/Temperature monitor I added). The GPS monitor was for peace of mind even though this was a non-stop flight with no layover. You also cannot book their flight until 14 days before the flight you want. There is no guarantee you will have the same flight, but I managed to book her on our flight with no issues. Booking is done online, or you can call a representative. (UH, 2019)

About temperature

Also, even if you are flying during their acceptable temperature ranges, I suggest a letter of acclimation. My letter of acclimation was for 20-45 degrees Fahrenheit. If I did not have this letter, then my dog could not fly if it was under 45 degrees and when we arrived it was about 40. For summer flights make sure you check how hot your departure and arrival area are as this may prevent you from shipping your dog during the summer seasons. (UH, 2019)

**NOTE: Sedatives are not allowed for cargo flights**.


Second way : Your dog with you in the cabin (Emotional Support Dog)

While this is a little more tricky, it is great for dog owners that plan on travelling with their dogs more than once in a year.

How to decide

I'd say that the main criteria to decide which way to choose, is why are you travelling with your pet ? Is this a one-way thing because you are moving or this is because you simply want to bring your dog with you if this is a longer stay. Sometimes, it is also domestic flight to see family or whatever the reason might be.


If you plan on flying with your emotional support animal (ESA), always contact your airline at least 48hours prior to your flight with all the documentation ready. This is a strict requirement. Also, no matter the documentation that you will bring; airlines require that as always, your animal must fit under the seat, at your feet, or in your lap, and cannot block the aisle—nor can you book an exit row. Finally, flying with your pet in cabin is a grey area because emotionally ill person is a very sensitive subject. 

Here's what you'll need to fly with your pet in cabin (domestic flights):

-Signed medical or Mental Health Professional Document
-Veterinary certification of your pet's health
-Signed confirmation of Training form

 **For international flights; this will greatly depend on the destination country so we suggest you go on where we found most of the information stated here.

Signed medical or Mental Health Professional Document

In mid-January, Delta announced it would be enforcing tighter restrictions on support animals, citing an “84 percent increase in reported animal incidents since 2016, including urination/defecation, biting, and even a widely reported attack by a 70-pound dog.” United soon joined Delta in cracking down, and today, American Airlines announced a ban on untrained animals, effective July 1, that may pose a safety or public health risk. (So that means you have to leave your emotional support hedgehog, ferret, snake, goat, spider, and more at home if you're flying American.)

Why? In part, because more and more passengers are taking advantage of airlines’ lax rules to bestow phony “emotional support” titles on animals, helping them to skirt the stipulations and fees typically required of pets traveling the proper way (on average, $125). The surge of online companies selling unofficial service vests, collar tags, and fake certificates doesn’t help, either. And, as a result, the untrained animals you see in the news give a bad rap to those individuals who genuinely require an emotional support animal—such as those suffering from debilitating anxiety provoked by flying—since their authentic need is no longer easily distinguishable from the imposters.

For now, the Department of Transportation has no uniform standards for emotional support animals. So in the meantime, as airlines continue to tighten their individual requirements, here’s what you’ll need if you need to travel domestically with a support animal—legitimately: (CNT, 2019)

This piece of documentation is the only one you’re required to obtain for all domestic air carriers. Delta, United, and American each provide a downloadable form to have completed by your medical doctor or mental health professional. Fields include proof of license, assurance that you have a psychological need for the animal, contact information, and a signature. JetBlue and Southwest ask for similar information submitted on an official letterhead. On April 19, Alaska Airlines implemented a new policy, saying passengers "must provide animal health and behavioral documents, as well as a signed document from a medical doctor or mental health professional, at least 48 hours in advance of departure" for all flights departing on or after May 1. United followed suit on March 1, and with American flights starting July 1, you'll have to "contact the Special Assistance Desk with all required documentation at least 48 hours before your flight."(CNT, 2019)

Click here to know how to get your ESA Letter (stating that your dog is an ESD)

Veterinary certification of your pet's health

In general, you should carry a copy of your animal’s most recent vaccination records with you at all times when traveling, as a precaution. Delta and United both require a licensed vet to fill out a Veterinary Health Form, where they provide their license and contact information, as well as the specific dates when your animal was given vaccinations for rabies and distemper. Once again, depending on the airline, some might require that the certification is recent (some will require 10 days or less while some will be happy with 30 days). (CNT, 2019)

Signed confirmation of Training form

Most air carriers have a somewhat amorphous policy that, in lieu of requiring physical documentation, suggests they will assess the animal’s behavior upon check-in to determine if your pet is well-trained enough to fly. This evaluation is vague and can vary not just from airline to airline, but from employee to employee. That said, Delta is now asking for a more concrete statement: a form that affirms your pet has been trained to behave in a public setting and takes direction upon command. (We’d like to see an emu roll over or play dead.) Though they don't ask for an actual certificate or the name of a licensed trainer, the form does push you as a passenger to take on more personal responsibility. As with the Veterinary Health Form, all signs indicate United will soon follow with a similar procedure. (CNT, 2019)


How to get an ESA letter

While this is usually issued by your mental health professional or doctor; there is a great resource called ESA doctors. Their website allow you to answer a bunch of questions on whether or not you qualify for a ESA letter. 

Here are some of the questions they will ask you :

questions asked when you apply for an ESA letter

Once you've completed the form, they will ask you which of their package best suits your needs, here are the packages :

packages for applying for an ESA letter
Apply here ( this is only informative and in no way affiliated with ESA doctors)

About the price

If you feel like an ESA letter is for you; then you should get yours because the price for these letters is a fraction of the cost of flying Cargo. Usually the fees for Cargo are between 100 USD to 500 USD depending on many factors. While the airlines cannot charge you extra fees for boarding with an ESD. 


List of Airline Pet Policies


While we hope this article helps you make better decision in the future, note that the airlines policies might have changed in the meantime. In no way, we provide legal advices and this content is solely for entertaining purposes.


(UH, 2019) - Click here to access original article
(CNT, 2019) - Click here to access original article

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