Planning a trip with your pets might seem stressful, especially when it comes to deciding on where to stay and what airline to fly. But with a little research, you can confidently select the right accommodations for you and your furry friend. I’ve already covered the best pet-friendly hotels, so here are my tips, tricks, and suggestions for finding the best pet-friendly airlines.
When it comes to airlines, there really is no one-size-fits-all answer to which is best for traveling with pets. It really depends on your specific travel needs. Some airlines have higher pet fees, but better rates on flights or a higher level of customer service. Some don’t allow you to check your pet below-cabin, and some have weight or breed restrictions on pets.
To help sort through the options, I’m offering my take on choosing the best possible airline for your trip.
In-Cabin and Checked-Pet Options
Several airlines, including American and Delta, do offer a pet-check option, in which your pet can travel below-cabin on the same flight as you. In this case, the below-cabin area where your pet will travel is a temperature-controlled and pressurized environment.
Most major airlines do allow smaller pets to travel in the cabin with you. Your pet must be well-behaved, and able to fit comfortably in an approved pet travel-carrier that can fit under the seat in front of you.
All airlines have pet fees, which can range from $95 to $125 for in-cabin flights, and$175 to $200 for flights where pets are checked.
A note of concern: Checking your pet to travel below-cabin is a personal preference and only you can decide what’s best. Most pets don’t experience serious harm during air travel. However, traveling below-cabin it is likely to be a stressful experience for your pet and I don’t advocate it unless it is absolutely necessary.
Best Choice for Service
My vote for best airline as far as service goes is Delta, as it ranks high in on-time arrivals, fewest cancelled flights, and overall customer satisfaction. These are key factors that not only make your flight experience more positive, but your pet’s too.
However, as far as pet fees are concerned, Delta comes in on the high end with a $125 fee each way for in-cabin pets and $200 for checked pets.
Best Choice for Pet Fees
At $95 each way, Southwest Airlines has the lowest pet fee. However, airline fares vary so widely that you may find a fare low enough to offset a higher pet fee. In addition, Southwest only allows small pets, and does not offer the option to check pets to fly below-cabin.
What about Safety?
Safety is so important when it comes to our pets. Unfortunately, determining the safety of a specific airline when it comes to travel is a very difficult thing to do.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has required all U.S. airlines that operate scheduled passenger flights to file monthly reports on all pets that died or were lost or injured during transport. These safety reports are available to customers; however, the data can be hard to interpret, for several reasons.
First, the number of animals transported by each airline varies widely, so percentages have to be considered as opposed to just the number of incidents reported. An airline that has a very high level of loss or injuries may look to be unsafe on the surface, but you can’t really know unless you are able to factor in the number of pets they transport.
Second, the DOT relies on airline reporting to calculate its figures, and does not fact check or investigate potential inaccuracies.
Finally, some airlines only recently began transporting pets, and have no reports on record.
For these reasons, there’s no reliable way to determine whether one airline is safer than another. However, if you fly with your pet in-cabin, you may feel reassured as they are in your sight and under your control.
Overall Best Pet-Friendly Airlines
My pick for the overall best airline for traveling with pets is JetBlue. JetBlue stands out for several reasons: they rank highest in overall customer satisfaction; their in-cabin pet fee is only $100 each way; and they’re the only domestic airline that offers a frequent flier program for pets, called JetPaws.
JetPaws offers those who are already members of JetBlue’s TrueBlue frequent flyer program an additional 300 TrueBlue points for each pet fee paid. It also features an online store where pet parents can purchase an assortment of travel-related products for themselves and their pets.
I traveled on JetBlue with my dog and the service was great. The staff was gracious and accommodating, and the trip went very smoothly.
The fact that JetBlue went through the trouble of developing a special pet program tells me that they truly get that pets are a part of the family and need to be taken into account by the travel industry.
In the end, you should go with the airline you feel most comfortable with. If you’re budget-minded then you may just want to go by flight rates and pet fees. If you’re not, you may be willing to spend more to use your favorite airline.
Whatever airline you choose, it’s important to feel confident with your choice. Airline travel can be a bit crazy and hectic, so it’s best to be as relaxed and at ease as possible. Our energy translates directly to our pets, so if we’re calm, they’re more likely to be calm, and that makes for a good flight all around.
When it comes down to it, finding the right pet-friendly hotel and dog-friendly airlines for your trip are about the well being of your pet. With a little research and a little planning, you can ensure that you both have the best possible travel experience, no matter where you’re headed.