How to take your Service Dog on a plane?

Air travel with pets can seem difficult and inconvenient to many. However, actually traveling with your dog in the cabin is much easier than it may seem at first glance.

How do I fly with my dog in the cabin?

young passanger flyes with service dog

Most airlines that still permit pets to be transported in a cabin have lists of animal requirements, ranging from species, age, and size, to suitable carriers and other equipment. You can usually read the airline’s pet policy on the website, as well as learn about all the necessary documentation, equipment, and other requisitions that must be met when conveying an animal in the cabin.

The same rules apply to air transportation of emotional support animals. At the same time, other regulations apply to the carrying of service animals.

What is the pet policy of airlines?

The law doesn’t oblige airlines to accept pets in a cabin. Therefore, most airlines make their own decisions about the possibility of transporting pets and emotional support animals in the cabin of a plane. Even pet-friendly airlines reserve the right to refuse to convey an animal in the cabin if the animal behaves aggressively or looks untidy. In addition, air transportation of animals is a separate service and is paid extra.

However, airline pet policies don’t apply to service animals. The directives for conveying service animals are regulated by law, and the air carrier cannot deny you transportation of service animals in the cabin without good reason. Yet, even with such privileges, a service animal handler must prepare in advance for the flight with his or her four-legged helper.

The Department of Transportation (DOT)

Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation Form

The U.S. Department of Transportation is a state body responsible for the development and maintenance of the country’s transport infrastructure, as well as it regulates all processes related to transportation.

The department’s most important role is in the field of air travel. For example, the DOT regulates the work of all airlines and airports, as well as ensures the rights and safety of passengers. In particular, the Department decides on the air transfer of animals.

Some airlines may require a special permit from the Department of Transportation to carry service animals. You can obtain this permission by filling out a special form on the Department’s website. Despite the fact that the form is quite large and requires detailed information, it is quite easy to fill out.

The role of animal status

As we said earlier, some airlines allow animals to travel in the cabin. However, the status of the animal plays an important role in its rights. Pets, emotional support animals, and service animals have different freedoms in air travel.

Pet and ESA owners should choose pet-friendly airlines or transfer their animals in the climate-controlled baggage compartment. The owner of a service animal has the right to take his/her animal into the cabin of an aircraft without hindrance and free of charge. Service animals often help their handlers perform basic daily tasks, so they are a necessity for humans with disabilities.

Transportation of pets

Some air carriers, for instance, United Airlines, allow their clients to travel with domesticated cats and dogs in a cabin. Other small animals, such as guinea pigs, are normally also allowed to travel in the cabin.

Also, please note that the transportation of animals in the cabin is carried out only in the right pet carrier. A kennel is located under the seat in front of you and is there during the whole flight. Its choice should be approached very carefully because the animal must be comfortable.

Air travel with emotional support animals

Funny photo of the Akita inu dog

Until recently emotional support animals had the opportunity to accompany their owners during the flight in a cabin for free. But recent changes in the law made by the Department of Transportation have taken away this privilege from the ESAs.

Therefore, today an emotional support animal can fly in the cabin with the same rights as pets. That is, the conveying of animals in the cabin should be allowed by company policy, and the passenger must pay for the service separately.

The rights of service animals

Trained service animals and their owners have an expanded list of rights and opportunities. One of them is the ability to accompany its owner in the cabin of a plane during the flight. This right is enshrined in the legislation and the airline personnel may refuse to transfer a service animal only in rare cases provided by law.

In most cases, only dogs can use the right to fly in the cabin. Requirements for the transportation of service dogs are much lower than for the transportation of pets. Therefore, failures are very rare. Please note that one person can carry no more than two service dogs in the cabin.

What documents are required?

Service Dog Registration Set

The list of documents required for the conveying of animals is usually easy to find on the airline’s website. The documents for domestic and international flights can differ significantly, so we recommend that you read the list of required papers in advance. Also, make sure that your pet has a health declaration and all the requisite vaccinations required by the American veterinary medical association.

It is important for a service animal that you complete the Department of Transportation form before the flight. You can find this form on the Department’s website and fill it out electronically or order filled DOT form on our website. Questions may require sufficiently detailed answers about your disability, as well as information about the size, weight, and health of the animal.

For flights lasting more than 8 hours, you need to fill out another form, which will confirm that the animal is able to safely and without harm to its health to endure such long flights.

If you have a letter confirming the status of your service animal from a doctor, and you want to receive additional confirmation of status, you can order a service dog registration in the database with id card confirmation from the MyServiceAnimal register and also buy there all the necessary accessories such as harness and animal tag.

You can also check What to Do If Your Therapist Won’t Write You an ESA Letter.

Register your animal

ID card & online registration
Online Certification
Only online registration
ID card & online registration
Online Certification
Only online registration
ID card & online registration
Only online registration

Requisitions to the animal’s health

Consult an animal health professional to ensure your dog is flight-ready. Most species of dogs like boxers and bumblers are prohibited from traveling on many airline routes because their breathing is difficult.

During your travels, the aforementioned airline group says the health certificate must be issued at least 7 to 10 days ahead of your departure. In addition to veterinary medicine and the breeding process, keep an eye out for possible restrictions or regulations.

All animals traveling by air, whether in the cabin or in the baggage compartment, must be healthy and vaccinated. The animal vaccination certificate must be signed by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccinations should be given in advance, at least 30 days before the date of travel.

Reasons for refusal

The DOT allows airlines to refuse to carry service animals only if they behave aggressively and may pose a threat to other passengers on the flight. Remember that there are no legal breed restrictions, so the airline staff can not prohibit the transportation of the animal, arguing it with the animal breed.

Another possible reason for refusal is the insufficient minimum age of the animal. You have to remember that for domestic flights, dogs and cats must be at least 8 weeks old. For the international flights, the minimum age of the animal is 4 months, because at this age dogs and cats receive the last dose of the required minimum of vaccinations.

For a service animal, the minimum age for the air transfer is also four months, because at this age the animal already knows the basic commands and rules of behavior and obedience.

Most airlines allow you to transport pets only if there is free space. In addition, there are some aircraft restrictions that differ for each carrier.

What size dog can fly in a cabin?

There are no clear demands for the size or maximum weight of the dog so that it can travel in the cabin. The basic principle is that the animal should fit in a pet carrier that is placed under the seat in front of you. The approximate maximum weight of the animal can be about 20 pounds. However, the size of the space under the seat may vary depending on the type of aircraft. Therefore, this figure is quite proximate.

What about the international flights?

tracel concept

The organization of an international flight with an animal is more complex and requires longer preparation. Some airlines do not allow animals on international flights at all, so we recommend starting with the rules of the carrier. If animals are allowed they need a medical international passport.

During international flights, you must follow not only the rules set by the carriers but also the regulations set by the International air transport association, as well as know the laws of the country you are traveling to.

In some countries, the import of animals is prohibited, while in other countries, imported animals must be quarantined for some time. The easiest way to quickly find out the regulations of your country of destination is to contact the appropriate embassy at least a month before your planned trip.

How to protect your rights

Start preparing for an air trip with an animal in advance. So you will have more time to get acquainted with the laws and regulations of animal transportation, as well as gather all the requisite documentation, purchase equipment and prepare the animal.

If you are sure that your pet meets all the requirements, but you have been refused to convey the animal in the cabin, you can file a formal complaint with the company. If the airline staff forbids the service animal to fly in the cabin, the owner of the animal has the right to file a complaint to the DOT, as such actions of the air carrier may be considered discrimination.

You may be interested in the article How to Fly with a Service Animal Legally

Which airlines can dogs fly in a cabin?

Among the most popular American carriers that provide their clients the opportunity to travel with their pets as a carry-on are United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and American Airlines. Much depends on the size of the animal. Smaller animals do have the opportunity to travel in a cabin, while larger animals generally fly in the baggage compartment.

Most of the conditions for transporting pets in the cabin at these airlines are the same. The animal must meet the established requisitions, have a veterinary passport, and be placed in special carriers under the seat in front of you. However, some details may differ. For example, some airlines consider a pet carrier as a separate item of baggage, while others add it to a carry-on.

Using the services of United Airlines

United Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the United States and the world. In addition, it is one of the air carriers that allows you to transport pets in the cabin. The airline personnel will allow you to carry cats and dogs if the animal is small and its carrier can fit under the seat in front of you.

The animal carrier is a separate item of baggage in addition to a carry-on bag. There is an additional charge for conveying a pet in the cabin, and when booking tickets a place for the pet is booked separately.

If we talk about the transportation of service animals, United Airlines is completely guided by the laws established by the DOT. To be eligible for a flight with a service animal, you must complete a Service animal training and behavior attestation form on the Department’s website. And for flights lasting more than 8 hours, the carrier also requires a Relief form for the animal.

The stress during dogs flying in a cabin?

fly with servicedog

Air travel can be stressful not only for humans but also for animals. This is one of the reasons why not all airlines allow animals to be carried in the cabin next to other passengers. In a stressful situation, the animal’s behavior can be unpredictable and aggressive. Therefore, if you still decide to transport your pet to the cabin, take care of his comfort and tranquility.

You can put your pet’s favorite toys in the pet carrier. Also, do not forget about food, but you can not feed the animal from the table on the plane. Another important factor is the ability of the animal to be relieved.

Be aware of the prices

Prices for air travel for pets are not twopenny. You must book your dog in advance. Yet, animal transport services are normally paid for at the airport, not when booking tickets. Also, if you have a long layover, be prepared that you will have to pay twice for the animal carriage.

You can also transfer the animal as a cargo. In this case, the price of transportation will be determined based on the combined weight of the animal, as well as the distance over which you want to deliver it.

In addition, it is important to remember that service animals can accompany their owners to the cabin free of charge. Therefore, if the airline requires you to pay pet fees for the conveying of the service animal, it violates your rights.


Book non-stop flights whenever possible. This differs from the direct flight, where stops may occur. Some airlines require minimum travel times for pets. Also, it’s not recommended for animals to travel in cabins during holidays due to the large number of people.

Arranging things for your pet

Animal scientists usually don’t mind using sedating agents. So to soothe your pet, you can use special medications in consultation with your veterinarian. Also, prepare water and pet food in advance for the flight. However, we do not recommend feeding the animal immediately before the flight, as a full stomach can cause irritation to your pet.

The average domestic flight time could take a couple of hours or a half of a day, and a flight to the southwestern United States might take the whole day to get there. If you transport an animal in a baggage compartment a pet carrier may tape food bags around your pet’s nest to allow workers to feed it during this time. You can also attach a photo of the animal to the carrier, just in case the animal is easier to find if it escapes.

Buying accessorize and equipment

Dog Leash

Only animals in special kennels are allowed to fly. It can be either a pet carrier or a carry-on bag. The choice depends on the animal’s size and its comfort. You have to meet all the pet carrier requirements of an airline. They normally can be found on the company’s website in the section with the rules of animal transportation.

You may also need other equipment and accessories. In particular, be sure to buy a harness, a leash, and a muzzle for your dog. You can also put a special comfortable pillow and a few toys for your pet.

Postulates for a pet carrier

Pet carriers must fit under the seat in front of you and at the same time be a comfortable size for your pet. A carrier can be either hard-sided or soft-sided. The size of the carrier should be larger than the size of the dog so that the animal has enough free space and feels comfortable. The animal must be able to stand up and turn around.

Pet carriers should have special pet relief areas and not leak. It is best to cover the bottom of a pet carrier with a special absorbent fabric that will make the flight as comfortable as possible for you and your dog.

It is important that one pet carrier is for one animal only. This means that you cannot use a large kennel for a few small puppies, as this violates air traffic rules.


On the day of the flight, it is better to arrive at the airport in advance to be able to resolve all issues on the spot. Check out at the ticket counter if the animal is flying in a cabin. During the check-in, you also have to pay pet fees if it’s needed.

If the animal flies as checked baggage or is transported as cargo, take care of the animal first. Passenger and cargo terminals are usually located in different areas of an airport. So, make sure you deliver the animal to the right place and your dog will get to the destination with you.

Security screening

When dogs have been transported inside a vehicle, they are carried by truck to the conveyor belt and through the scanner while you lead or carry your dog to a metal detector. It is advisable to have pre-check membership to avoid hassles, as the program provides you with quicker lines and eliminates the need to remove your boots or a light jacket.

Keep in mind that the pet policy differs significantly from airline to airline, which makes checking directly with the carrier a good option. It is possible for you and your dog or other animals to have an enjoyable and comfortable flight.

Caring for an animal during long flights

As flights can frighten not only people but also animals, it is important that the pet owner closely monitors the condition of his or her pet during the flight. In stressful situations, the animal may need more care and attention. Try to calm your dog down using its favorite treats.

If the flight lasts more than 8 hours, you must be sure that the animal will be able to tolerate it normally, so first consult a veterinarian. Also, take care of food and water for your dog. In addition, an animal has to feel free to relieve itself whenever it’s needed.

Animal behavior on the board

The dog must behave calmly during the flight, not show aggression, not bark, and not growl at other passengers. Service dogs are more obedient and behave better because they undergo specific preparation.

If you have an ordinary pet or an emotional support animal you have to exercise with it so that the animal respects you and obeys you. If the temperament of the animal is very mobile and playful, consult a veterinarian about the use of sedatives that will not harm the dog.

The dog must stay in the carrier throughout the flight. The animal is not allowed to walk on the plane, take up seats, or the emergency exit row. Also, you can not feed the animal from the table, so the dog must eat in its kennel.

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