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Pet Policies For Pet-Friendly Airlines

Published on: August 11, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

airplanes at JFK

The pet policies for major airlines can vary based on a variety of factors including your destination, the weather, the size of your pet and the breed of your pet. Many airlines have become more strict in their pet policies and some have stopped accepting pets entirely. The best way to know what is allowed (or not) by the carrier you’re considering is to check their website and/or call them to ask questions. It’s often best to do both, to be sure you’re getting the correct information.

The articles below outline the pet policies for the major airlines that Starwood uses the most.

Continue reading below if you're looking for general guidelines referring to pet policies on all major airlines. And check out our article what to look for in an airline pet policy.

Where pets can ride

Many airlines allow dogs and cats to ride with you in the cabin, as checked baggage or as cargo. Some airlines allow two out of three, and some only offer cargo service for pets. The more types of aircraft the airline flies, the more convoluted the rules. That’s because smaller planes have smaller cargo holds. Either there isn’t enough room for both luggage and pets, or larger dog kennels literally do not fit. (Unlike your suitcase, your pet has to remain upright at all times!) 

For in-cabin travel, some airlines have different policies depending on what class of ticket you purchase or your final destination.

Breed restrictions

Many airlines will not accept dogs they consider to be "dangerous breeds". The breeds on this list can vary by airline but pit bulls are often included. Some airlines may accept "dangerous breeds", but will require a special type of travel kennel.

Brachycephalic (snub-nosed) dogs and cats also face restrictions on most airlines. This can get really complicated. The goal is to ensure your short-snouted dog or cat can breathe comfortably at altitude, so there are a lot of factors at play, from plane size to pet size. If your pet fits this category, it is critical to discuss the situation with your vet as well as the airline.   

Weather restrictions

Most airlines have some type of weather restriction in place that prevent pets from flying when it’s too hot or too cold. These rules apply to any location along your pet's itinerary. So if your pet is traveling from, to or transiting through an airport experiencing extreme weather conditions, flight plans could unravel. Airlines make day-by-day decisions about this in cases of extremely hot or cold temperatures. Some airlines will place a complete embargo on pet travel for certain airports during certain times of year.

The temperatures you need to worry about most are above 85o F or below 45o F. Some airlines will allow pets to travel when it’s as cold as 20o F, but may require an acclimation certificate from a veterinarian.


Although a few airlines will allow sedated pets only with a veterinarian’s permission, the American Veterinary Medical Association strongly recommends against using any tranquilizers on animals that will be airborne. Reputable professional pet shippers, such as Starwood, do not accept tranquilized animals and will not transport them. 

Current best practices no longer support sedation because the dangers outweigh the potential benefits. Cats and dogs who have been sedated are physically and mentally disoriented. That can increase their anxiety instead of relieving it, and it can put them at risk of injury because they cannot maintain balance. Additionally, sedatives can cause cardiac or respiratory problems when pets are up in the air at high altitudes.

There are some universal truths:

  • All airlines make special accommodations for verified service animals, but again, the rules differ from one carrier to another. Some airlines also make special accommodations to transport pets of certain military or State Department families.
  • Pets traveling in-cabin must be in a carrier that fits under the seat in front of you. It has to be roomy enough for them to comfortably stand up and lie down. That sounds simple, but bear in mind that the dimensions of under-seat space can vary considerably from one airline (or type of aircraft) to another.
  • Pets traveling as checked baggage or cargo must be in a kennel that meets guidelines set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The requirements are very detailed, to ensure your cat or dog remains safe, secure and as comfortable as possible during their journey.
  • Advance reservations are required. The earlier, the better, because all airlines limit the number of pets they will accept in different areas on different flights. Do keep in mind that the booking window for pets traveling as cargo is usually between 10-30 days prior to departure. The booking process for cargo is different from the way you would book your own flight ticket and also varies for in-cabin pets and checked baggage pets.

What’s the best policy?

Contact a professional pet transport company as soon as you know your pet will need to travel by air. Whether you’re headed from San Francisco to Atlanta or Chicago to Singapore, the pros know all about airline policies. They know which carriers are truly pet-friendly, and they know which flights will get your dog or cat to their destination efficiently, to minimize stress. 

Knowing the rules is important, but confidence and peace of mind trump everything when it comes to air travel for your beloved four-legged family.

Starwood Animal Transport has rebranded to Starwood Pet Travel. We are still the same great company with the best team, just now with a slightly different name.