Being able to take your furry friend along as you travel the world is a dream for many pet owners — but if you chose the wrong airline, the whole experience could be nothing short of a nightmare.
Safety is the utmost priority. You want to make sure your pet gets from Destination A to Destination B safe and sound, and hopefully without any smelly accidents. And if you've been paying attention to the news lately, you've seen that there's no shortage of airlines who have failed to keep their passengers pet from harm.
Pets have gone on the wrong flights, flown to the wrong continents and in some, very tragic cases, passed away while in mid-air. According to a report by the Department of Transportation, during flights in 2017, 15 animals were injured and sadly 24 didn't make it at all.
Even though traveling by plane is risky, many pet owners are still bringing their dogs and cats along for the adventure. A survey by American Pet Products Association found that the number of dog owners taking their pups on trips more than doubled between 2006 and 2016; jumping from only 20% to 40%.
Thankfully many airlines are noticing this disturbing trend and taking action to review and improve their pet policies. But it's more important now than ever to make sure you do your own research and pick the best airline for you and your furry friend.
To help you out, we've listed the 10 best airlines to fly when traveling with pets and 10 airlines you should definitely avoid.
20 American Airlines (Purr-Fect) — home of the "cuddle class"
Probably the most pet-friendly airline, American created a next-level experience for pets and their owners by creating the "Cuddle Class." Found on flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to New York City, this animal-designed class gives pets a special compartment next to their owner's seat.
It costs the same as the standard $125 pet fee and gives the animals a comfortable place to enjoy their flight. Really beats being stuffed under a seat, right?
19 Hawaiian Airlines (Purr-Fect) — welcoming for service animals
Named the "Best Airline for Pets" in 2018 by Veterinarian's Money Digest, Hawaiian Airlines allows dogs, cat and even household birds. You have the option to bring them along in the passenger cabin — as long as they can fit under the seat in front of you — or as check-in baggage, so long as they don't weigh over 70 lbs.
The airline also allows trained service animals and emotional support and psychiatric support animals on the aircraft as long as they meet the airlines' conditions of not displaying aggressive behavior, causing disruption or blocking the aisle from other passengers.
In regards to safety, they have a strict policy against transporting pets in cargo if the temperature is too extreme. Fees range from $35 to $225 depending on the pet and destination location.
18 JetBlue (Purr-Fect) — more points for your pooch
Not only does JetBlue have an affordable $100 fee per flight for your pets, but it also gives JetBlue members 300 additional points from their flight. Pair that with the fact that you can buy a specialty pet carrier specifically for traveling on JetBlue flights with your pets, and this airline is a win-win.
Their JetPaws program is designed with pet-carrying travelers in mind, and their tips include information about making reservations, keeping little Fido calm mid-air, plus locations for your pets to relieve themselves.
17 Allegiant Air (Purr-Fect) — the BOGO option
Traveling with multiple pets can be pretty expensive. Thankfully Allegiant Air offers their own BOGO deal by allowing two animals per pet carrier. The fee is the same as JetBlue's, but you get more bang for your buck with larger carrier sizes being allowed. Twice as large, in fact, according to PureWow.
While there are no checked kennels or big dogs allowed on this airline, it's perfect for the tiny, yet inseparable pair of pooches or kittens.
16 Southwest (Purr-Fect) — same as Allegiant, but slightly cheaper.
Southwest Airlines also hopped on that BOGO deal and also lets passengers keep two animals in a pet carrier for the price of one. The only difference is that the sizing of the carriers allowed is slightly smaller, so they knocked off a few bucks and priced it as $95.
Unlike most airlines, Southwest will allow people to take cremated pet remains onboard under certain conditions, according to their site. Thus is a sweet sentiment if you're hoping to spread your beloved pet's memory in a special place.
15 Frontier (Purr-Fect) — cheap flight to Mexico
Many airlines don't allow pets to fly internationally, and for good reason. It's much safer for a pet to fly short distances than long ones.
However, affordable airline Frontier allows pets to travel on not only their domestic flights but their flights to Mexico and the Dominican Republic. All you need is a health certificate and $75, and you and your pup could be headed on an international adventure.
14 WestJet (Purr-Fect) — big dog's best friend
While it seems like most airlines are only small-dog friendly, there are a few out there that cater to traveling with large or multiple animals.
WestJet doesn't allow big dogs in-cabin — unless their service or emotional support animals — but it is very cheap to check them in a kennel. Ranging from $75 to $89 per pet, that's probably the best deal you'll find. Even in-cabin carriers are cheaper, ranging from $50 to $59 per flight.
13 Lufthansa (Purr-Fect) — the international pup
If you're looking to take your beloved pet from Europe to the United States (or vice versa), then you'll want to book your flight on Lufthansa.
This pet-friendly airline welcomes any dog over four months old to travel internationally at a cost-effective rate. Each passenger is allowed up to two animals for the price of $100. Larger breeds are a little more expensive — anywhere between $200 to $400 depending on size — but it's worth it seeing as this airline has the most room for kennels on international flights.
12 Alaska Airlines (Purr-Fect) — understands your clinginess
We know how attached we can get to our pets, but does our airline know? Well, Alaska Airlines does.
If you check your dog into a kennel, a flight attendant will personally hand you a card once your dog has safely boarded the plane, ensuring that he's exactly where he needs to be and not on the wrong flight to Mexico.
It also costs the same amount to take a pet in the cabin as it does to check them, so it's a great option for pups over 20 pounds. Alaska is also a great airline for "unusual" pets as it allows ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, household birds, non-poisonous reptiles, pot-bellied pigs, rabbits and tropical fish, according to AJC.
11 Virgin Airlines (Purr-Fect) — No frills, but pretty good
Honestly, there's nothing super special about Virgin Airlines pet policy. It's decently priced, with in-cabin pets costing only $100. They only allow cats and dogs and require a recent health certificate proving the animal is more than 8-weeks-old and up-to-date on all its shots.
The certificate must include the animal's date of birth, according to their website.
10 United Airlines (Avoid) — incidents result in more bans
While animals not making it through a flight are rare — like 24 out of 500,000 rare — last year most of those instances occurred on United Airlines, according to The Fiscal Times.
In addition to those, United also had 23 incidents of animals being injured. This led to a new pet policy being implemented, which only allows 21 dog breeds and four cat breeds to fly. Pets are also banned from flying anywhere where the ground temperature is below 45 degrees or above 85 degrees (Fahrenheit). Four airports - Phoenix, Tucson, Palm Springs and Las Vegas — stop all pet travel during summer months, according to WAVE3News.
9 Delta Airlines (Avoid) — no checked animals
In addition to coming in second place for most animals not making it (five), Delta is known to have stricter rules when it comes to flying with pets.
The fees cost anywhere from $75 to $200 depending on where you're traveling to, and dogs and cats must have proof of required vaccinations. They do allow reptiles, amphibians, and fish as air cargo, but they cannot be carried on as checked baggage. In fact, Delta doesn't accept any pets as checked baggage, according to Pets Welcome.
8 WOW Air (Avoid) — service dogs only
WOW Airlines gained popularity in the last few years for being an affordable, low-cost way to get to Iceland. They're great price-wise, but don't expect to bring Spot along for the ride.
WOW does not allow pets on their flights, per their website, but service and emotional support dogs are permitted.
7 Etihad Airways (Avoid) — not great for your dog, but good for your falcon
Bad news if you have separation anxiety from your pet: Etihad Airways, a flag carrier airline of the United Arab Emirates, does not allow dogs, cats or any other animals to travel in the cabin. However, if you want your falcon in the cabin with you, that's totally allowed.
Cargo travel is an option, but they suggest you let your captain know your pet is back there so they can keep the temperature at the proper level.
Which feels, uh, sketchy to say the least.
They also come with breed restrictions for both dogs and cats, as well as a required health certificate, and weather restrictions.
6 Eva Airways (Avoid) — potential for rabies
While this Taiwanese airline allows some pets per flight to travel as checked baggage, it may not be the best time to make a trip.
According to their website, rabies reappeared in Taiwan in 2013, and pet travel from Taiwan to other countries may be affected. They lightly suggest that you verify the quarantine regulation of the country you're coming from or going to before your flight.
They also are done letting live birds travel — which means ones that are no longer with us are okay? — and have restrictions for "snub nose dogs and cats" due to their trouble breathing.
5 Cathay Pacific — not cool with skunks
Cathay Pacific is a flag carrier airline out of Hong Kong that seems to have had some skunk-based trouble in the past.
While they require all pets to be transported as checked baggage — except for those snub nose breeds again — they make it a point to say: "other animals that are not accepted are the Korean squirrel and the Skunk."
Makes you think the Skunk did something stinky to scorn them in the past, doesn't it?
4 Emirates (Avoid) — just a hassle
There are technically no restrictions on the number of pets you can bring on an Emirates flight, but it depends on what country you're flying into. And you've got to find out that information on your own by calling Emirates directly before your departure date, which is a real hassle.
Pets are riding cargo-only on this airline — again, with the strange exception of falcons —and the fees range from $500 to $800 according to Bring Fido.
3 Air Canada (Avoid) — only so many pets allowed.
While pets are allowed to fly in this airline's cabin, they only allow so many. Specifically, two to four.
So before you book your flight, you're advised to call customer service and give them all your pet info as well as make sure you arrive 30 minutes earlier than you normally would. Pet fees are cheaper than average, running $50 to $118 depending on if the flight is domestic or international.
2 Spirit Airlines (Avoid) — limited amount of pets
Like Air Canada, Spirit Airlines only allows four pet carriers per domestic flight (pets are not allowed to fly internationally). While they suggest reserving your spot on the place with your pet as soon as your plans are confirmed, many reviewers on Bring Fido complained that they were still unable to bring their pets and lost out money switching their flights.
In regards to service dogs, there were also complaints about not having room for dogs and forcing them to lay in the aisle. Yikes.
1 (Avoid) AeroMexico — your dog might not be on the same plane as you
So according to AeroMexico's pet policy, your pet in cargo "may be transported in the hold of a different aircraft heading to the same destination" in order for them to have "the most comfortable journey."
In addition to having no guarantees on just where your animal is, you also have to drop them off at the cargo location three house before departure time. So make sure you get to the airport nice and early.
References: PureWow, Bring Fido, Veterinarian's Money Digest