The Best Airlines for Pups, Paws Down

The Best Airlines for Pups, Paws Down


When Irina Jilishitz and her 14-pound pug-mix, Wrigley, first flew together on Southwest, both were nervous travelers. Jilishitz had recently adopted Wrigley from a Chicago shelter while visiting, and was bringing him home to New York. She wasn’t too familiar with him yet, and was nervous that he wouldn’t do well on the flight. And Wrigley was in a new—airborne!—space with a new human. He was terrified. But the airline made them both feel comfortable.

“Wrigley made a dog friend when she was in line to check in, so that made things easier already,” Jilishitz says. “And while I was technically supposed to keep her in a carrier all the time, no one cared that she walked all the way up to the plane’s entrance.” There was plenty of room under the seat for Wrigley to rest comfortably in her carrier, and the flight attendants came around frequently with cups of water for the pup.

But not all airlines are as accommodating to dogs—here are a few that pass the pup-approved test:

The airline: American Airlines

Why it’s pup-friendly If you’re traveling first class, you can pop your pup into what’s called “Cuddle Class”—a spacious compartment right next to you. It’s basically a first class cabin for your pup. Right now, they’re only available for limited flights (between LA or San Francisco and New York), but we’re hoping that this takes off (pun intended) in all their planes soon.
Their dog policy If you don’t spring for Cuddle Class and want to bring your pup on board, the carrier plus dog can’t exceed 20 pounds total, and they’re supposed to stay in the carrier for the whole flight. Pets can’t go in the cabin to or from a few designated places, so check to see if your destination is on the list. You can also travel with up to two checked dogs.
The price $125 per carrier each way in the cabin, $175 per carrier each way in cargo.

The airline: Jet Blue

Why it’s pup-friendly The airline rolled out a special dog program called JetPaws, which is essentially a free travel award program for pups. In addition to getting a special carrier bag-tag and “Petiquette” guide, you earn 300 points per flight.
Their dog policy The combined weight of your pup and the carrier can’t exceed 20 pounds, and they must stay under the seat the entire time. A few destinations are restricted, so check before booking the flight. Four pets are allowed per flight, so book your pet’s ticket early. Pets aren’t allowed in the cargo area.
The price $100 per pet each way in the cabin.

The airline: Southwest

Why it’s pup-friendly If the “Operation Pets Alive” flight didn’t prove that this airline is dog-friendly, we don’t know what will! They flew a cabin-full of rescued animals out of Houston after Hurricane Harvey. Rescue missions aside, it’s the only airline we’ve seen that will let you put two (small) pups in the same carrier and only charge for one. They also sell their own carrier that you can buy at the ticket counter.
Their dog policy Only one carrier per person, but you may put up to two pups in there, and it must be able to fit under the seat in front of you. They don’t allow pets in the cargo area, and they can’t travel on international flights.
The price $95 per carrier each way in the cabin.

The airline: Virgin America

Why it’s pup-friendly This airline has really raised the bar for pup flyers: through its “Main Canine Select” program, located in the first class cabin, dogs can chase rendered cats through an interactive light installation, enjoy air vents that simulate the feeling of sticking their head out of a car window, and watch a special selection of dog-friendly programming. They also offer “Top Dog” status to frequent pup flyers, which includes a hoodie and curbside hydrants.
Their dog policy: Virgin America recently limited the number of carriers abord the flight to five, so make a reservation in advance. You’re limited to one carrier per seat—it cannot exceed 20 pounds. The airline does not allow you to check your pet.
The price $100 each way.

Danielle Braff

Danielle Braff

Danielle is a freelance writer who loves taking walks with her 4-year-old cocker spaniel, whom she drags around Chicago multiple times a day. She and her husband also have two cats and two daughters.

 

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