There are a lot of airlines that claim to be "pet-friendly," but which airlines are actually pet-safe? Just because an airline accepts pets on your flight doesn't mean they know how to properly treat them. Just this year a dog suffocated to death on United Airlines flight 1284 from Houston to New York because a flight attendant stuffed him in the overhead bin!
Sometimes leaving your furry, four-legged child behind simply isn't an option, so it's important to do your research and fly with an airline that will treat them well. Here are the 10 safest airlines for pets (100% paw-approved) so you can feel comfortable visiting all of the dog-friendly cities this world has to offer!
Are you ready for an animal lover's dream come true? Just last year Japan Airlines launched its first “wan wan jet” charter service that offers two-hour domestic flights especially tailored for pet owners and their dogs. These "pet-centric travel packages" include a dog-friendly hotel stay, meals, and sightseeing by rental car, all for about $1,300. The first trip sold out in one hour!
“Air travel with pets will lead to the opening of new markets for domestic flights,” an airline official told MailOnline.
This is something we can get behind!
WestJet is often used by dog lovers to transport their dogs all over Canada without any issues. If you are traveling with one or more big dogs, WestJet is definitely the most affordable, with a $75-$85 cost to check a kennel (up to 100 pounds, including your pup), which is less than some airlines charge to carry on a small bag. And the cost of an in-cabin carrier is even cheaper at $50 to $59 per flight.
When it comes to pet safety rankings, Mesa Airlines is ranked third on the charts and is 42% safer for pets than the average airline, which isn't too shabby. In case you're not familiar with them, Mesa Airlines is based in Phoenix, Arizona, and provides regional service for American Airlines under the American Eagle banner and for United Airlines under the United Express brand. Honestly, most regional airlines are relatively safe. On average, it’s 193% riskier to fly with your pet on a long-haul route/airline.
Coming in right after Mesa Airlines is Republic Airlines, which is 41% safer for pets than the average airline. Republic Airlines is another regional carrier headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana that partners with United, American Airlines and Delta. It’s only $100 to slide a carrier under the seat in front of you (provided the carrier does not exceed 18in x 11in x 11in in its dimensions). Pets can also be checked as baggage in a pressurized and temperature controlled area of your aircraft or shipped as cargo at an affordable rate.
The best thing about Allegiant Air is that they offer a bit of a BOGO deal: You can carry on two dogs for the price of one, as long as both fit into the same carrier. Even better, at $100 the space allowed for carriers is twice as large as that which JetBlue offers. Bear in mind, while Allegiant Air pet policy allows for in-cabin pet travel, they do not offer a checked baggage or cargo option. Service animals and emotional support animals are excluded from the standard pet policy, which can help you save money on airline fees.
SkyWest Airlines is 40% safer than your average airline when it comes to pet safety, so it's definitely an airline you should consider when planning a trip with your four-legged friend. Kennels must fit under the seat in the cabin, and for pets that are checked as baggage, maximum kennel size accepted is limited to a reservation of one large kennel or two small or medium per flight (SkyWest doesn't accept extra-large or giant kennels). Not terribly convenient for owners of big dogs, but in terms of how safe pets are traveling onboard their flights, SkyWest definitely comes out on top.
JetBlue has a program called JetPaws which is designed specifically to cater to travelers with animals, so I think it's pretty safe to say they love dogs. Travelers paying the $100 pet fee per flight automatically earn 300 TrueBlue points for each leg of the trip. You can also read the Petiquette™ tips for safe puppy travel while stowing your furry better half in a JetBlue carrier designed specifically for in-cabin doggie guests. Not only that, but your pet will receive a nifty JetPaws travel kit. Pretty sweet, right?
According to the stats, Horizon/Alaska Airlines was the #1 safest overall airline (+49% safer than average) for pets. Whatever they’re doing, it's definitely working. They've flown a lot of animals (260,703) in the last two years (on the same routes as bigger carriers) and they have done it safely and consistently. Not only that, but if you check your dog in a kennel, a flight attendant delivers a card to you once your dog has safely boarded the plane so you won't be anxious. They charge a flat fee ($100) to carry on a pet or to check one, which is great news for anyone with a larger dog.
American is +73% safer than other long-haul airlines, making it the safest long-haul airline around for pets.
Like most airlines, American allows smaller dogs (under 20 lbs) to be in the cabin for a fee of $125 per flight and charges $175 to check a kennel. American is also "big dog friendly," meaning they don't have any kennel size requirements for checked dogs. Be aware, however, that checked pets can no longer travel to/through/from Phoenix (PHX), Tucson (TUS), Las Vegas (LAS) or Palm Springs (PSP).
There are a lot of regional carriers on this list (as they're safer, in general), but Lufthansa has definitely proven to be a safe and affordable airline for flying pets to and from Europe. As long as your dog is four months or older, Lufthansa allows each traveler two animals and they only charge $100 for carrying a dog on an international flight (that's pretty freaking good). A larger breed costs a little extra to check ($200 to $400 depending on size), but it’s worth as Lufthansa offers far and away the most room for large kennels and carriers.