Flying a dog on a plane can seem like a big hurdle when you’re planning a family vacation. I know it was for me at least… The idea of flying with my dog on a plane created vivid pictures of me having a whining Chihuahua sitting in my lap for a 2-hour flight.
To be honest, taking the dog on a plane seemed like something that was more hassle than it was worth.
But my kids love their dog and I love my kids, so as any great mom would- I started searching the web for information on how to bring your dog on a plane!
Let’s Start From The Beginning
We were planning o fly to San Diego to meet up with family at the beginning of the summer. Already stressed and full of anxiety, the thought of adding an extra traveler wasn’t really sitting well with me, but I didn’t have a better alternative.
Our dog, Mini is a 10-year-old Chihuahua who has some issues apparently in her old age. She loves humans, but I’ve learned the hard way that no animal is safe around Mini (insert eye roll here). Just the sight of another dog while we’re out and about walking and she’s done for… hair raised on her back, feet dug into the ground and she’s lunging for the other dog barking and making a ton of noise in a BIG dramatic scene.
The idea of boarding Mini makes me cringe. Not only would it likely be miserable for the other dogs who are probably well-behaved and not socially awkward like our pup, but the staff would hate us.
So when we travel, we have to take her with us.
Luckily traveling with your pet is increasingly more acceptable and a relatively easy process to navigate if you know your stuff ahead of time!
In this blog, I’ll walk you through my first experience flying a dog on a plane with me, my husband, and our 4 kids!
Planning To Take A Dog On A Plan
Once we realized boarding wasn’t going to be an option, we immediately started researching! Usually, this is always the first step I take, when I decide I need or want to do something and the Internet is full of helpful information if you take the time to sift through it.
There were a few key pieces of information I needed up front including specific airline restrictions for putting a dog on a plane, policies for flying with a dog on a plane rather than in the cargo area as well as just any first-hand experiences I could find.
Airline Policies For Taking A Dog On A Plane
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows each airline to decide if you are allowed to bring your pet along with you inside the cabin for your flight. Since airlines are separate entities you can make a sure bet that there is no one-size-fits-all policy for taking your dog on a plane.
And in all honesty, there are some airlines that do not allow any pets to travel in the cabin. To find out the specifics of your flight restrictions, you’ll need to call the airline directly to find out their pet policy or view their website for more details.
In Cabin Pet Options & Fees
Here is a quick look at some airlines that offer pet-in-cabin options and their fees:
- Delta: $95 each way for domestic flights. $200 each way for international. Must fit in a carrier under the seat.
- Alaska: $100 each way. 2 pet limit if you can buy the seats next to you to hold the kennel or carriers.
- United: $125 each way (plus $125 if the flight has a layover over 4 hours long) on most domestic flights less than 12 hours long. Must fit in a carrier under the seat.
- American: $125 each way (plus $125 if the flight has a layover) on most domestic flights less than 12 hours long. Must fit in a carrier under the seat.
- Hawaiian: $35 inside of Hawaii, $125 outside the island. Must fit in a carrier under the seat. Travel Certificate is required within 14 days of travel.
- Southwest: $95 each way. 6 pets per flight. Must fit in a carrier under the seat.
- Frontier: $99 each way. Must fit in a carrier under the seat.
Flying With A Dog On A Plan On Delta.
Delta allows for small dogs, cats, and weirdly enough household birds to travel with their owners in the cabin. There is a mandatory one-way fee which for our flight was $95 which had to be paid at the airport during check-in.
Book Your Pet Ticket
We also had to call ahead and make sure she had a spot or a ‘pet ticket’ for each leg of the trip, which we did immediately after booking our flights.
Thinking back, we probably should have done this before booking the flights, but I saw a really great deal and snatched up the cheap tickets faster than I’d like to admit.
Airline Pet Carrier Required
Your dog had to be able to fit in a ventilated pet carrier that was small enough to fit under the seat in front of you. When we called to book Mini’s tickets, they asked for the size of the carrier and we ended up having to get a new one because the measurements for the flight back were smaller than the flight going. We just picked one up on Amazon for like $20 and called it good!
Since bringing a dog on a plane with Delta counts as your carry-on, Mini was attached to my husband’s ticket. His shoes are way too big and his clothes too bulky to fit everything in a carry-on so we were already planning for him to have a checked bag.
Another thing we wanted to confirm was the vaccinations Mini needed to fly.
Through research, I learned some airlines required proof of vaccinations and others did not. We asked about this when booking Mini’s pet ticket and even though the Delta agent we spoke to said we didn’t need documentation, it seemed weird to just say it was required but then not have any documentation required to prove it.
So with the intention of making our trip to the airport easy as possible, we decided to grab a copy of her vaccine records from the Vet just to be sure. There wasn’t a charge, and it took 10 minutes to swing by and pick them up.
Comforting Your Dog On A Plane
While we were at the Vet picking up Mini’s records, we stuck up a conversation about the flight and how we haven’t even flown with Mini before. To be honest we were nervous and looking for options to keep her comfortable and quiet during the flight.
The worst part of flying is being uncomfortable. Either because of your own situation or even worse than that, by something you can’t control. So before we were pegged for having the annoying dog- we wanted to know the options we had.
Good thing we asked because the Vet helped us out tremendously! We already knew Mini would be whining when inside the carrier- because we tested it out a few times. But he said all we needed to do was give her 1/2 a Benydril Kids tablet and that would help her stay calm and mostly sleep during the flight.
I was a little skeptical, so we also verified with another Vet who said the same thing. So we purchased a packet of Kids Benydril for the trip!
At the Airport For Our Flight
The big day finally arrived and as usual, the Collier’s were running late! We had ordered a car service to take us to the Airport because I just wasn’t sure Uber would have a car big enough for all 6 of us plus all the luggage and now the Drier was waiting for us downstairs.
I rushed everyone out the door and once the car was packed we were off to the airport. Mini was in her carrier and she was whining a little, but we had to save the Benydril for the actual plane, so we just dealt with it.
Arrive Early To The Airport
We arrived at the airport early even though we were running late. #winning
Since we had checked bags as well as Mini to still pay for, we had to get in the check-in line, which was long but not horrible. As we approached the front, we paid the fee and showed the vaccination records (even though they didn’t ask for them) and then we proceeded to security.
Also as usual the security lines were crazy long!
Airport Security With CLEAR
I noticed a stand that said CLEAR.
I asked someone what it was (to verify some previous information provided by my sister), and after explaining the details he pointed us toward our gate and said someone down there would help us get set up. Now, I’m not really one for fingerprints and such, but anything to get us through the line fast without the Mini whining or the kids getting restless- I was all for it.
So surprisingly enough, we signed up for CLEAR which was basically a retina scan to verify your identity and skip the main security line with like 1K+ people in it. In exchange, you did the retina scan and the fingerprint scan and then we were in a different section altogether with just 3 people in front of us for the security check… well worth it!
Instead of the 1.5-hour wait, we were in and through security with Mini and all our electronics in 5 flippin’ minutes! Can you believe that? 5 minutes for a family of 6 + 1 dog, with 5 carry-ons, 6 personal items, 2 laptops, 4 tablets, 3 phones, 2 watches, and a Mifi device to get through airport security!
We were thrilled and happily on our way to breakfast at Starbucks!
Breakfast At The Airport
Turns out our flight was delayed by about an hour… So in addition to being early to the airport and skipping the 1.5-hour security check, we now had even more time to wait with Mini in the pet carrier, because the flight was going to be late.
But we were still thrilled at our security experience so we grabbed some seats at the terminal and then I took all the kids to Starbucks while Antwon stayed with our bags and Mini.
We loaded up on Fraps, Lattes, breakfast sandwiches, and sweet pastries inside the Starbucks app, since the line at the actual Starbucks was way longer than expected! And our goodies were prepped and prepared before the kids even finished browsing the gift shop next door!
Airport Pet Area
By the time we made it back over to our seats, Mini was in full baby mode. She needed to get out and stretch and we were starting to get the side eye from a few folks. So I put on her leash and took a walk over to the airport pet area.
I had researched this prior to the day of our trip, so I knew there was one close by, but I guess I was only really surprised by how basic it was. I was thinking of a special door we’d go thru and then there would be grass for her to sniff around at, but instead, it was a small patch of fake grass in a deserted corner with a fake fire hydrant and a water fountain.
Mini was less impressed than I was, but thankfully she could walk around a little without any other dogs being over there. She sniffed a little and then we headed back. It did its job, and by the time we walked back (and stopped in another gift shop or two) it was time for Priority boarding!
So we gave her the Benadryl tablet and got in line for the flight.
During the Flight
Antwon and I were so prepared to show our little vaccination records and announce that we had a dog on the plane, but once we go to the front of the line it wasn’t even a thought. For us or the staff to be honest.
So either they saw the tag on the bag and knew without saying that she was doggie on board, or it didn’t matter at that point. I guess they figure if you’ve made it this far back, you’ve paid your dues and whatever baggage you’re carrying has been checked and cleared for takeoff.
Well Behaved Dog On A Plane
During the flight Mini was a complete angel!
We packed our many carry-ons into the overhead compartments and settled into our seats. We love to get all the seats straight across so we can all chat as well as pass snacks and devices back and forth!
Mini fit perfectly under the seat. We made sure to give her some water and a little snack to make sure she wasn’t going to be thirsty or starving hungry when we landed.
And once her little sleepy medicine kicked in, she just curled up and took a nap. No one even knew she was there. She was happy and peaceful as were the kids.
The 1/2 a Benydrily worked so well, and the timing was pretty perfect. Mini started moving around and waking up just as we were landing and then by the time we collected our bags and made it to the rental car pick-up, she was good to go and ready for a walk!
Taking Your Dog On A Plane
This was our first time taking our dog on a plane and it went so amazingly well! It was like green light the whole way and while I know we had our fair hair of moments that could have made things tense and stressful we stayed the course, stayed positive, and made sure it was a positive experience for Mini as well as ourselves.
If you’re thinking about flying with a dog on a plane and are nervous about how it might go or what the requirements might be, the best thing I can share with you is to do your research ahead of time and be prepared.
Contact the airline, get your records, buy a carrier and collapsable dog bowl, and talk to your Vet about medicating or ways to keep your dog comfortable and stress-free while flying!