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Flying with small dog in US?

I will be flying a lot within the United States and I need to find the best US airline to travel with my dog in cabin. 

What are your good (or bad) stories from carrying on your small dog and what US airline(s) should I choose? I’m going to book ahead as much as I can, but there will be some last minute trips. Safety, price, comfort, and ease are all important for the two of us! 

Thanks :)

14 Answers

top answer by
Jillian from Los Angeles

Last year I moved away from my hometown Chicago to LA and now fly with my maltipoo Addie often, so I seriously understand the importance of your question! I’ve done my research, we’ve racked up the miles, and here's what I've found.

My Top 3 US airlines to fly with your dog in cabin:

  1. Virgin America. The best choice for last minute booking and overall comfort. Virgin is the only airline that doesn’t limit the total amount of carry on dogs in cabin. You can show up at the airport, and as long as you have a seat booked for yourself (one dog per passenger), you can check your pup in! They also have online booking for dogs. Can you believe that most most airlines STILL make you call to book your dog over the phone? The fee is $100 one way to fly ($25 cheaper than the majority of US airlines). On my last trip, the flight attendants brought water for Addie before takeoff without me even asking. :)
  2. JetBlue. Second best option also at $100 each way. Get this, they actually give you 300 TrueBlue reward points for bringing your dog. No other airline rewards you like this, and the points add up if you travel often. They call it the JetPaws program, where Addie was given her own bag tag, and I received a “Travel Petiquette” guide with helpful tips. You can also book online (saves you time!) and definitely do because they will actually charge you $25 if you call to book. They only allow four dogs that can fly in cabin per flight, but I’ve never had an issue getting her on a few weeks in advance. Also, you’re guaranteed an aisle or window seat as they don’t allow you to sit in a middle when you carry on your dog. Bonus.
  3. Southwest Airlines. For a cheaper fee at $95 one way, go Southwest. I’ve found it’s one of the only airlines that allows you to bring two dogs in one carrier for the same price. In my experience, the flight attendants are the friendliest towards Addie, always complimenting her (what girl doesn’t want some compliments!). The only downside here is they don’t have online booking, so you need to call to book your dogs seat. Do this in advance as they limit the amount to six in cabin. If you do need a carrier for your dog, they have them available to buy at check in!


The above three airlines are really the standouts when flying with my dog. American, United, and Delta are reliable, but they all blend into the standard rules for in cabin dogs. Carry on dogs are more expensive at $125, they don't offer online booking or check-in, and overall have less dog perks. All and all, I've felt more discouraged to fly with Addie on these airlines. Trust me, you can't go wrong with Virgin, JetBlue, or Southwest. Here is a picture of Addie under my seat on our last trip. Addie looks up to Boo for her travel inspiration too! :)    


35 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Jessica from Los Angeles

My top three pet travel airlines are Virgin America, JetBlue, and Delta. I would avoid flying United or American Airlines; they can be a pain about animals. Whatever you do, be sure to give the airline a LOT of advanced notice. If you're booking online, call them immediately after to confirm that you're traveling with a pet. Most airlines only allow a certain number of animals (service animals excluded) on each flight, so you want to make sure that yours is accounted for!

12 thankscomments (1)

answered by

We recently flew with our puppy on Virgin America and had a great experience. Our dog was able to fly with us for about $90 extra. We had a carrier for him, which most of the time he was actually able to just sit in our lap (when safe). I highly recommend flying with them! 

Good luck,


11 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Daniel from Connecticut

We took our two cotons on Swissair twice with excellent experience for price and convenience. Take mid week flight which is less busy. Use aisle seat for easy entry/exit. Bring them to bathroom in carrying case and place wee wee pads on floor for them to go if nec.

9 thanks

answered by
Jennifer from Austin (Texas)

Virgin America hands down. Avoid the others at all costs.

9 thanks

answered by
Richard from Costa Rica

Heres a recommendation to permanently solve your issues that may work, one I have personal experience with. If you plan on spending your lives together you may consider going to a veterinarian and having your dog certified and registered as a service dog, ie. stress or cardiac calming, etc. This will give you legal rights beyond your needs but will assure you and your service animal always ride together.

7 thankscomments (7)

answered by
Bob from Naples (Florida)

I fly quite often on Southwest with our cockatoo and we have never had a problem. They raised their fees this year to $95. Just be sure you make a reservation for you dog when you make your flight reservations. You need to call for pet reservations & pay at the ticket counter on the day of the flight. Very easy process.

7 thankscomments (3)

answered by
Jeff from Portland

I believe Frontier charges $75, but the difficulty there is finding a good enough route. 

Southwest is also a good one.

If you have a service dog, they fly for free. 

6 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Teresa from California

My sister flys New York City to Los Angeles with her small dog on Jet Blue.  She is able to put him in his carrier under the seat and he does fine.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. New York City (city)
  2. Los Angeles (city)
6 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Jacey & Scott from Fort Collins

I have taken my shih tzu on many flights in the US on United.  I have always carried her on board, and never had any issues.  Make sure you book a seat that you can slide the carrier under (download the seatguro app if you can't tell from the websites booking page).  I will say-it is expensive though!

6 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Jennifer from New York City

We've found great success flying on United. They allow an in-cabin pet under 25 pounds (including the carrier). It is usually around $100 per flight for the dog (we fly for free so our dog flies for free). Flight Attendants are usually super excited when you bring a dog on board.

3 thanks

answered by
Patricia from Northern California

My husband and I have both flown on United Airlines in the past 2 years with small Maltese dogs.  There is always the requirement for a current Vet certificate and I wouldn't go without one but it never seems to be an issue.  Cost $125 per dog.  You book the dog whenever you want.  There is a limit to the number of animals they will accept on any airplane at one time.  Not all airplanes allow a dog to travel based on the under the seat space.  We never take the dogs out - not allowed.  Only good experiences so far with United.

We always sedate them and they sleep for the 4-5 hour trip.  I put a warm blanket under their small carry-on crates because the floor of an airplane can get really cold. We also limit their water and food before traveling.  Hope you have a fantastic trip.

2 thanks

answered by
Tracy from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

The great news is you on longer need to quarantine in the UK. 


The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) allows pet dogs, cats and ferrets to enter the UK without quarantine as long as they comply with the regulations.  


You just need carry out a rabies blood test followed by a three-month wait before entry into the UK, which has made it so much easier to fly with my little princess.

2 thanks

answered first by
Peggy from Detroit

are you taking the dog back to the UK.  UK is a rabie free country.  if you are returning to the UK with the dog it will be quaretinec.  What part of the USA are you traveling to?

1 thanks

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