Flying can be a stressful experience for both humans, and particularly dogs. The process of checking in at busy airport, and boarding a busy plane can be quite overwhelming. Because of this, many pet owners prefer flying with their beloved furry friends in the plane cabin, as opposed to in the pet cargo area of the plane. This way, owners can keep their dog company and provide them with reassurance and comfort.
Many airlines allow small dogs to fly in the cabin with their owners, on certain routes and planes. However, many of them require that they stay in their pet carriers, stowed under the seat in front of their owners. This is the case with Air Canada, American Airlines, Southwest, United and West Jet. These airlines specifically state that dogs must remain in their carriers stowed under the seat for the entire flight.
Nevertheless, there are many airlines that only state dogs must remain stowed away under the seat in front of their owners during taxi, takeoff and landing. Many do not specifically state that you aren’t allowed to place your dog’s carrier on your lap after take-off and before landing.
Additionally, if your dog is an emotional support animal, it is more likely that he or she will be able to sit in your lap during a flight.
In this article, we will discuss in detail, which airlines may allow you to place your dog on your lap during the flight in 2021. Furthermore, we will share tips for flying with a dog and discuss exactly what you will need for your flight.
General Airline Policies for Flying with Dogs in Cabin.
1. Your dog must be healthy.
Dog’s generally must have a pet passport – a term used to represent the documents showing that your dog is healthy and ready for travel.
A rabies vaccination and health certificate are usually required to take your dog on a plane. Please note that health certificates must issued from an authorised veterinarian.
2. Dogs must be small and light.
Most airlines require that dogs and their carriers weigh less than 8kg combined. This is because they usually require dogs to fit in a pet carrier that must fit underneath the passenger seats.
The rules and regulations have been set out by International Air Transport Association (IATA) ensure that dogs are comfortable when travelling. Thus, inside their travel carriers, dogs must be able to stand up, turn around and lie down in a natural position in their kennel (without touching any side or the top of the container).
Please note the weight and size does vary between airlines:
Therefore, if you are the owner of a large dog, it is likely that you will need to ship him in cargo hold.
3. Certain breeds may not be able to fly.
Some airlines have restrictions on which breeds they allow to fly.
United doesn’t permit any pit bull type dogs in their cabins.
It is rather common that airlines do not allow brachycephalic or snub-nosed dogs of any “mix” to fly, however this is often only mentioned as checked pets. This is in the interest of your dog’s own health and safety. Certain breeds often are more prone to certain illnesses which put them at risk when flying. Due to some cases over the years of dogs not making it to the end of their flight, airlines have gotten stricter on which pets they allow on the plane.
American Airlines do not allow the following dog breeds, or their mixes, to fly as checked pets:
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Boston Terrier
- Boxer (all breeds)
- Brussels Griffon
- Bulldog (all breeds)
- Cane Corso
- Chow Chow
- Dogue De Bordeaux
- English Toy Spaniel
- Japanese Chin
- Lhasa Apso
- Mastiff (all breeds)
- Pit Bull
- Presa Canario
- Pug (all breeds)
- Shar Pei
- Shih Tzu
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- Tibetan Spaniel
Different airlines have different pet policies, double check your airline to see if your dog breed can fly with you.
4. Your dog must be well behaved.
To ensure that the flight is undisturbed, your dog must be obedient to your commands. Furthermore your dog must behave appropriately in public, thus, he mustn’t bark or growl at other passengers or staff.
If your dog does not behave in an appropriate manner, some airlines may transfer him to the cargo hold at an additional cost, or refuse to transport him all together.
Some airlines require a consent form to ensure your pet is flight-ready.
Documents required to Fly with Dogs In-Cabin
The documents required to fly with a dog in cabin will vary depending on which airline you are flying with, and where you are flying from and to. Generally you will require the following:
- Microchip certificate
- Rabies vaccination certificate
- Animal health certificate
- Additional vaccination certificates
- Rabies titer test results
- Parasite treatment certificate
This is just a guide on what is required, please check the requirements for your specific airline and destination country.
Your dog can get microchipped at your local vet or a charity, such as RSPCA.
Not only is it a requirement when traveling with dogs, it is in your best interest. If your dog was to go missing whilst abroad, then you are far more likely to be reunited.
b) Rabies vaccinations.
If you want your take dogs on flights, it is likely that he/she requires a valid rabies vaccination. Particularly if you are taking your dog on an international flight as this is a requirement for entering most countries.
Most countries require dogs to have their rabies vaccination between 30 days and 12 months prior to importing.
You can get your pet’s rabies vaccination at your local vet, alternatively some charities offer this service for free or for a discounted price.
c) Animal health certificate.
Most airlines will require an official animal health certificate issued by an accredited veterinarian in order to export and import dogs.
In most cases, your health certificate will also need to be endorsed by the country’s authority responsible for the import and export of animals. For example, if you are traveling from the US, you will need your documents endorsed by the USDA. If you are traveling from Canada, you will need to have your documents endorsed by CFIA.
d) Additional vaccinations.
Depending on where you are flying to, your dog may also require additional vaccinations or treatments.
For example, Turkey requires that all dogs are vaccinated against parainfluenza, leptospirosis, parvovirus, bordetella, hepatitis and distemper before being allowed into the country.
e) Rabies titer test.
Some countries require pets to have a rabies titer test before entering. This is usually the case when you are traveling from a country that is considered high risk for rabies.
If your dog requires a titer test the process is as follows:
- Your pet will have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination.
- Your vet will then send the blood sample to an approved blood testing laboratory.
- Your pet’s blood test results must show a rabies antibody level of at least 0.5 IU/ml.
- You must wait 3 months from the date the blood sample was taken before you travel.
- The vet will give you a copy of the test results.
f) Parasite treatment.
To enter many countries, dogs are required to be treated against internal and/or external parasites before entering. This includes treatment for tapeworm, fleas, ticks, nematodes and cestodes.
Airlines that do not allow a dog to sit on their owners laps when flying
The following airlines do not allow dogs to sit on their owners laps when flying, in 2021. These airlines specifically state that dogs must remain in their carriers, stowed away for the whole duration of the flight.
Your pet must remain at all times in a closed pet carrier stowed under your seat.
On flights with American you can bring 1 kennel as your carry-on bag if your pet stays in the kennel and under the seat in front of you the entire flight
Pets must be secured in the pet carrier at all times while in the gate area, during boarding/deplaning, and they must remain in the carrier for the entire duration of the flight. Failure to follow this requirement may result in denial of transportation of the pet onboard Southwest Airlines.
Cats and dogs must remain in the carrier (including head and tail) and the carrier must be stowed under the seat in front of the Customer (owner) for the entire duration of the flight.
Your pet must stay in their kennel with the door closed at all times while in the airport, at the boarding area and while on board the plane.
Your pet’s kennel must stay at your feet, underneath the seat in front of you.
Pets travelling in the cabin must remain in the kennel and be stored under the seat in front of you at all times. If you remove your pet from its kennel while on board, you may be banned from travelling with your pet in the cabin on future WestJet flights.
Airlines that allow your dog to sit on your lap (or don’t disallow it)
The following airlines do not specifically state that dogs must remain stowed under the seat in front of you for the entire duration of the flight.
Many of them state that dogs must remain in their carriers, stowed away during taxi, take-off and landing. However, they do not state that you cannot place the carrier on your lap after take-off and before landing.
It’s important to note that flight attendants have the final say — if they tell you to stow your dog, then you will need to stow your dog.
The pet must stay in its container (including head and tail) with the door/flap secured at all times in the boarding area (during boarding and deplaning), Alaska Lounge, and while onboard the aircraft.
They must be stowed under the seat during taxi, takeoff, and landing.
While at the airport terminal and onboard the aircraft, pets must remain completely in the carrier and only be handled by the traveler. If a passenger does not comply, the pet may be denied boarding for future flights.
All carriers must be stowed on the floor during take-off and landing.
Your pet must remain inside the kennel (with door secured) while in a Delta boarding area (during boarding and deplaning), a Delta airport lounge and while onboard the aircraft.
For safety reasons, your pet must remain in the travel container at all times. If your pet is disruptive, it’s up to you to soothe him/her without taking him/her from the pet container.
The animal must be confined to the pet carrier, and is subject to inspection and approval by airline personnel prior to acceptance.
The animal is required to stay in its carrier while in the terminal and onboard the aircraft.
All pets must remain inside the pet carrier while at the airport and on the plane.
During taxi, takeoff, and landing, your pet must remain inside the carrier under the seat in front of you. During the rest of the flight, you may hold the carrier on your lap (or, if you purchased an additional seat for your pet, you may place the carrier on that seat or on your lap).
The pet will be kept in a soft-sided carrier during the entire flight. The soft-sided carrier which is provided by me is leakproof and sealed to ensure that the animal cannot escape.
The soft-sided carrier with the pet will either be stowed under the front seat or secured to your seatbelt by a leash. The animal may not sit on a passenger seat.
Animals must remain in the carrier for the duration of the flight.
You must store the pet carrier with your pet inside on the floor, between your legs or under the seat in front. You must not take your pet out of the pet carrier until you have disembarked.
The dog must fit between your legs or under the seat and must be secured with a safety harness before and during take-off and landing.
Is your dog an ESA?
If your dog is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) then it is more likely that airlines will allow your dog to sit on your lap.
ESAs are animals that are required for a person’s ongoing mental health treatment by a licensed mental health professional. These professionals include licensed therapists, psychologists and doctors (GPs). An ESD brings comfort and minimises the negative symptoms their human companion’s emotional or psychological ‘disability’.
Some airlines will allow ESA dogs to sit on their owners laps, outside of the carrier.
For example, West Jet state that you can fly with an ESA dog on your lap as long as they are no bigger than a 2 year old child. Air France state emotional support dogs weighing less than 3 kilos / 6.6 pounds, may sit on your lap, as long as he is attached to the seat structure or seat belt (except while meals are being served). Latam Airlines state your ESA dog can travel at your feet, under the seat in front of you, or on your lap if it’s smaller than a 2-year-old child.
For more information on flying with Emotional Support Animals, check Taking Emotional Support Animals on Planes [COMPLETE GUIDE].
Can you buy a seat for your dog next to you?
As far as we are aware, the only airlines that will allow passengers to buy plane tickets for their dogs to have a seat are United and Jet Blue.
Jet Blue state that passengers are only permitted to fly with one dog in-cabin. You are able to purchase an additional seat next to you, to place your dog carrier. Alternatively, your dog will have to fly stowed under the seat in front of you.
United permit passengers flying with 2 dogs in cabin, as long as they are in their own carriers and you purchase an additional ticket for the seat next to you. However, United do not allow dogs to sit on the seats. Your second dog will still need to stay stowed under the seat in front of the additional space.
It’s important to note that both Jet Blue and United require advance reservations for in-cabin pet travel. You must also check that there is a spare seat available next to you.
For more information, check Can I Buy a Seat for my Dog on a Plane?.
Guidelines for Pet Carriers
If you are flying to with a dog, it is important that you use a pet carrier that is approved by your airline. Different airlines have different pet carrier policies, which often vary between aircrafts and routes. Check that your pet carrier is approved for your chosen airline, aircraft and route.
The rules and regulations have been set out by International Air Transport Association (IATA) ensure that dogs are comfortable when travelling. Thus, inside their travel carriers, pets must be able to stand up, turn around and lie down in a natural position in their kennel (without touching any side or the top of the container).
Furthermore, the rules for pet carriers also vary depending on whether your pet will be flying in the cabin or cargo area of the plane.
If you are travelling in the cabin with your dog or cat, then you will need to ensure that the carrier fits under the seat in front of you. This is why, generally, only small dogs and cats weighing under 7-8kg are permitted in the cabin.
Additionally, if traveling with a dog, airlines often require that he or she is be obedient to your commands and can behave appropriately in public. Thus, he mustn’t bark or growl at other passengers or staff. If your dog does not behave in an appropriate manner, some airlines may transfer him to the cargo hold at an additional cost, or refuse to transport him all together. Some airlines require a consent form to ensure your pet is flight-ready.
MOST AIRLINES ONLY ACCEPT CAGES THAT COMPLY WITH THE FOLLOWING IATA REGULATIONS:
- The cage must not have wheels
- It must have a solid roof
- The screws and nuts that hold the lower and upper parts of the cage must be properly installed and tightened – because yes, the cage must consist of two sections, made of solid and rigid plastic
- The cage must also include bowls firmly attached to its lower wall containing food and water
- It must be clean, but also and above all waterproof and covered with materials capable of absorbing liquid materials
- It must be well ventilated, with openings in all 4 sides of the cage
- The cage must also be properly closed, using a lock that cannot be opened from the inside
- Finally, it must bear a label distinguishing the top from the bottom and another indicating that the cage contains a live animal
For a list of airlines that allow dogs to fly in the cabin with their owners, check 12 Airlines That Allow Flying With Dogs In-Cabin [2021 Prices & Policies].
Tips for flying with dog in cabin
1. Train your dog to stay calm.
Your dog will need to stay calm on the flight otherwise they risk being sent into the cargo area of the plane. Being obedient to orders is a requirement when taking emotional support animals on international flights.
2. Exhaust your dog before the flight.
Try to exhaust your dog a little by increasing the level of activity before your trip. A sleepy animal will be less prone to getting stressed out on the flight, and will likely be better behaved on the flight.
3. Limit access to food and water before the flight.
Limit your dog’s access to food. Therefore, it’ll be less likely that they will need to ‘defecate or urinate’ on the flight.
Additionally, some animals may experience motion sickness if they eat just before a flight. If you are flying in the morning, then feed them the night before.
Air Canada suggest feeding your dog four to six hours prior to departure, as a full stomach may cause discomfort during travel.
4. Get your dog used to it’s travel carrier.
5. Familiarise yourself with the airport that you are departing from and arriving to.
Most airports will have a dedicated area for pets and service animals to rest. It is actually a legal requirement that all U.S. airports have pet-relief areas available for working animals and pets to rest. Take some photos of the airport maps, so you don’t have to wander around on the day trying to find a resting place.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I fly with my large dog in the cabin?
Unfortunately, most airlines will only allow small and light dogs in the cabin. This is because they usually must comfortably fit underneath the seat in front of you. If you are traveling with a large dog, it is likely that you will need to ship him or her in the cargo hold of the plane.
Can I fly with my puppy on a plane?
Yes, if your puppy is over 4 months (16 weeks) old. Most airlines will not allow dogs under this age to fly on their planes. Some allow younger puppies to travel, for example, Alaska Air require puppies to be at least 8 weeks old and fully weaned.
Can I take my dog out of the carrier on the plane?
Usually no. Your dogs are expected to remain in their carriers while in the airport and on board the aircraft. This is the case for all airlines, so that you do not disturb other passengers.
Can I take 2 dogs on a plane with me?
Possibly, this completely depends on the airline you fly with. Different airlines have different regulations when it comes to traveling with pets. Some will allow 2 dogs, such as Jet Blue and United Airlines, where others do not.