[Guide] How to Fly With Your Dog in-Cabin in 2022

flying with a dog a cat or a pet

Your dog is a large part of who you are.  So, in many ways, flying with a dog is no different than traveling with a member of your own family.

And when you do that, you want to make sure that everything that needs to be done has been done so you can look forward to a hassle-free flight.

As a flight attendant, people often ask me how to travel on a plane with their dogs.

So today let’s see what you need to know to achieve this.

Before Flying With Your Dog in The Cabin

There will be quite a few things ti check and think about.

Go to your airline’s website and look up their pet carrying policy

This is the first and simplest step in getting ready to fly with your dog.

Now, it’s important to understand that an airline’s first priority is the safety of all of its passengers, so these policies have been drafted with that in mind.

Yes, they’ll do everything they can to accommodate your needs, but their rules will be firm and they will have to be followed.

No exceptions.

TIP: your dog doesn’t get to fly for free so check out the cost of this while you’re looking up their carrying policies. It can go from $50 to $125 depending on the distance and the airline.

Here are the pet policies to the 4 major US Airlines:

For checked pet rates contact the airline.

What rules can I expect to find?

Bearing in mind that airlines will have their own individual policies, here are some of the things that you should be aware of.


There will be a weight restriction on your dog; find out what that is before you go any further.

When we get to the section about cage sizes, you will see that, basically, only small dogs, cats and the likes of rabbits and hamsters are allowed in-cabin.

Unfortunately, the larger members of our pet families must travel in the cargo hold.

checking pet weight at airport
Being checked!

Type of animal

When it comes to flying, not all animals are born equal or are equally welcome.

Your airline may refuse to transport pit bull terriers or bulldogs as cargo for example. And others won’t allow hamsters as in-cabin passengers (I can’t think why). Birds are normally always accepted but not all birds qualify as pets (some birds are regulated as poultry: doves, chickens, pigeons…)

Make sure that your airline is happy to fly the type of animal or breed of pet that you want to travel with.

Once your pet is in the cage, they must stay there

At the risk of stating the obvious, your dog will have to remain caged at all times. Both in the airport and on the plane.

As I said, passengers’ safety is the airlines paramount consideration and a terrified cat hurtling around inside their plane is not considered ideal.

crate under seat

Believe it or not, this has happened before and it caused a long delay.

Ripples, a tabby cat, was traveling with his owner Debbie Harris on Air Atlanta from Halifax to Toronto. When he escaped his carrier and ran through the aisles towards the cockpit, nobody could catch him and he hid under the pilot’s pedals in a small wiring compartment. Crazy!

Luckily, they were still on-ground waiting for takeoff, so passengers were asked to all leave the plane and they had to call maintenance to remove the panels and disassemble pieces to remove the cat.

Ms. Harris was crying and calling him but he wouldn’t come out.

After a few hours, she finally got him pulled out, but before boarding the passengers again all the crew and technicians had to do a strict security check to verify that there were no damages.

So this little incident is just another reason why a flight can get delayed. For more than 4 hours in this case!

I feel sorry for the cat because he was probably scared to death but imagine if this would have happened during the flight…

No responsible adult with your pet means no pet flight

Unaccompanied minors are generally not allowed to have pets under their charge. Which is a sensible and pretty straightforward rule.

There are other rules that can vary from airline to airline:

  • No puppies or kittens under 4 months old
  • No pets in an emergency
  • Oxygen is not available for pets
  • One pet per person
  • 2 to 6 pets maximum in a flight (depending on the airline it could be a maximum number of 2 pets per flight, so call in advance to make sure your pet is being accepted)

These rules are all designed for everyone’s comfort and safety, so it’s best not to try and find ways around them.

If all that seems a bit daunting, just print out a copy of the airline’s policies and you’ve got a checklist to keep with you as you are preparing for your flight.

Put it in the documents folder that we’re going to talk about now.

What Documents Will You Need?

You wouldn’t dream of taking a flight without the correct personal documentation, and so it is with your dog.

I recommend making up a handy folder to keep the relevant documents in.

Nothing fancy or dramatic, just a one place stop for the forms and certificates that you’ll want to keep together for a peace of mind flight.

Two documents that you will need will most likely need are:

  1. International Health certificate from a vet to determine that your dog is healthy and free of any infectious disease
    International Health Certificat
  2. Proof of rabies vaccination 
    Rabies vaccination certificate

These are pretty standard, but you may need others, depending on the country you are flying to.

Just pop them into your pet’s travel folder and keep them handy.

Trust me, such a simple thing can prevent from you getting into a world of pain.

Preflight Tips

Okay, you know the airline’s rules and you understand their requirements, but before we talk about what sort of container or cage is best for your dog, let’s talk about their pre-flight needs.

It’s something that can easily be overlooked.

In the main, let’s talk about dogs.

Crate train your dog for travel

Do it gradually, it can take days.

But once your dog is comfortable with the crate it will help the dog feel safer and happier while traveling.

dog's crate at home
Crate training at home

Contact the airline as soon as possible to make reservations for your dog to fly

They are accepted on a first-come basis and the capacity is limited.

Allow extra check-in time

To provide all the documents and pay at the counter if you didn’t yet.

checkin at the airport with dogs

Airports and pet-friendly areas

There is a lovely and growing trend for airports to be more pet friendly.

This can mean having a pet relief area in the airport terminal itself, as at Denver International Airport, or having a fully fenced dog park like the one at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson

TIP: Visit the American Kennel Club website to find the 10 best airports with dog facilities in the US.

washington airport pet friendly restrooms
Washington Dulles Airport pet relief area
jfk airport pet friendly toilet
New York JFK airport pet relief area


But if you don’t have access to facilities like these, try at least to give your dog a good walk before the flight.

The car park is as good a place as any for a good stretch out.

As a dog owner, you’ll understand the excitement levels your companion can reach, so take a moment to think about that.

An energy-burning play fight may be a good idea, but do it before a good walk, not after. You need your friend to calm down before the journey.

dog walking at the airport

Going through security

Never put your dog through the X-ray machine.

You can walk or carry your dog through the metal detector with you.

But you’ll have to put the pet carrier with the rest of your belongings through security screening.

Is a soft-sided pet cage or a hard one better?

Use a soft cage, every time.

Remember those rules we spoke about earlier? Well, most airlines recommend that animals are placed in soft cages.

Some won’t accept any other kind.

This is because the cage needs to be placed at your feet and under the seat in front of you. Soft cages are by far easier to do this.

This is only advised if your dog is traveling with you in the cabin, if not you’ll need a hard cage for flying cargo.

dog traveling in a soft bag
Dog travel soft bag

What size?

Airlines have their own set dimensions for pet cages. Here are two examples from two different carriers:

  • 17.5 inches long x 12 inches wide x 7.5 inches high (44 cm x 30 cm x 19 cm).
  • 24″ x 15. 5″ x 9.5″ (61 cm x 40 cm x 24 cm)

TIP: There may even be different cage size requirements on different model planes within the same company. As usual, the mantra is to check first.

During the Flight

Don’t forget the emotional side of your dog’s travel

All pets, dogs, cats, rabbits, whatever type of family member they are, have become used to you and particularly to your scent.

In the plane they are going to be bombarded with unfamiliar smells and sounds and even vibrations.

So let’s not forget the emotional part of their journey.

Yes, you’ll be near them at all times, but if they can’t go with you in the cabin, try to give them the next best thing to being touched and comforted by you: put something familiar in their cage.

It can be an old jumper of yours, a piece of the rug that they sleep on, anything that is familiar and feels and smells of home.

dog in his crate

Don’t forget the boredom factor

Your dog is going to have to remain in their cage for the duration of the flight so boredom is going to be a factor.

Hamsters and rabbits and the like seem to be quite content to keep still and think hamster and rabbit thoughts, but cats and dogs can sometimes have a problem with a confined space and a lack of anything to see or do.

A ball that they enjoy playing with, a soft toy that they love chewing and mauling, these can be distractions that will keep your dog occupied for at least a part of the time.

Factor that into your flight preparation and you’ll be surprised what may occur to you as being something worthwhile to bring along. Even a favorite stick may do the trick.

TIP: In terms of preserving the sanity of your fellow passengers, a squeaky toy is probably not a good idea

To poop or not to poop

I know you can’t get your four-legged loved friend to poop on command, but the need for them to do so before a flight shouldn’t be forgotten.

There are some things that you can try to induce them to empty their bowels – e.g. rubbing around their anus with baby wipes or something similar may help – but that seems a bit excessive.

It’s probably easier just to reduce their food intake before a flight. That also applies to cats and other animals. A little hunger may be preferable to the alternative.

And if there is an accident in the poop department?

Sorry, but there really isn’t a lot you can do about that.

Taking your dog or cat out of its cage for the purposes of cleaning simply won’t be allowed.

It’s just a matter of accepting that accidents happen and not all problems can be fixed on the spot.

What about wees?

Line the bottom of your soft cage with some sort of absorbent material so that if your pet wees, then you don’t have a leakage problem at your feet.

Plastic sheeting layered under a layer of some sort of toweling is a good idea.


The secret is in being prepared.

And that’s easy when you follow the airline’ guidelines and treat your pet as a member of your family. Which I’m sure you do.

Oh, one last tip: airline rules can change with very little notice, so all that checking on the website that you did in the beginning? Do it just one more time before your flight. Please.

Travel safe, both you and your animal family member.

pet after plane trip at airport

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