Cabin or Cargo? Tips on how to fly with your dog in Cargo.
Pet Travel

Can I take my dog in the airplane cabin with me?

The answer to this question is not completely defined as each airline has rules and regulations around when and what can fly inside the cabin. Majority of Airlines will allow passengers to bring dogs on to the cabin if they fit comfortably under the seat in front of you in a crate. However, these regulations are different for service dogs and animals.

Service dogs are not required to fit in a crate, but you must have all paperwork that is required by the airline to ensure your service dog is not forced to leave you during your travels. For anyone else flying with your dog will require a crate.

Click here for cabin approved TSA Carriers.

The catch to flying with your dog is that most airlines only allow one or two dogs on a flight at any given time. To reserve your dogs spot it’s best to call months ahead and inform them as well as within a few days of your actual flight. Most airlines have an additional fee associated to this additional “passenger” so if you are trying to budget travel, this is something to consider as well.

You might be wondering what to do if your dog is too big & isn’t a service dog? Obviously, you can’t stuff them in a crate that fits a Bichon, so you might think your options are limited to driving or leaving you dog at home.

However, if you are going overseas the option of leaving your pup may not be one you want to cross.

Cabin or Cargo? Tips on how to fly with your dog in Cargo.

Is my dog too big for the cabin?

Each airline has specific size requirements for carriers under the seat. This is based on what room is available according to how the planes are built. Carry on carriers must fit within those dimensions to ensure the safety of you and the pet. It’s best to check to see what each carrier regulation has in place before booking to ensure that you can take your dog with you.

Carriers for under the seat can be either soft or hard cased, compared to the carriers that are required for cargo transports. Most airlines have weight restrictions along with height restrictions when it comes to flying with your dog in the cabin.

For height requirements dogs must be able to stand inside their crates at a natural stance and be able to turn around in all directions. United Airlines gives a great visual image for you to use when sizing a crate for your dog.

Source: Picture from United Airlines

Or you can use Pet-Expresses crate size calculator to determine what size might work best for your dog.

Some airlines have even put weight restrictions on dogs that fly in the cabin, while this is regulated from airline to airline, it is worth looking into before flying.

What if my dog is too big to fly in the cabin?

With the restrictions on crate size, it can be difficult for large dog owners to transport their dogs in a way that is comfortable with them for long haul and cross Atlantic flights. With stories in the news of dogs being hurt, neglected or even killed in cargo the worry does not go unfounded.

Emotional Support and Service

One way many individuals tried to get around putting their larger dogs in the cabin with them instead of cargo was by registering them as emotional support dogs. This can be done online for a fee with no actual need or necessity for the dog to be with the owner based on disability needs. However,this has become an abused power that makes it more difficult for those with disabilities and medical needs requiring service animals to travel with them.

Thankfully, many airlines have caught on and now require additional paperwork, include a doctors note, instructing the use of the service dog for the passenger. This is an inconvenience, but necessity to ensure that travelers requiring the use of a service dog have the ability to fly with them.

While it sounds nice to have your dog with you and we wish we could bring Maggie everywhere with us, there are individuals who do not like or are allergic to dogs. For this reason alone, we do not recommend using fake services to register your dog as an emotional support or service dog.

But if you do need or want to do so, there are restrictions on how your dog can fly on different carriers for this as well. Some dogs who are registered as an emotional support dog are still held to the same standards as regular dogs in size restrictions. This means that you might have to put your dog in cargo if they do not fit under the seat. While other carriers will let you bring your dog on board in these cases you might have to pay an additional fee. It is best to contact your airline before leaving to determine what is necessary in these cases to ensure that checking in and boarding go easy for both you and your dog.

Cargo

Cabin or Cargo? Tips on how to fly with your dog in Cargo.

Not all airlines have pet cargo options. Check with your airline before booking a flight if you are needing to take your dog on the flight with you. You don’t want to be turned away at check-in because they do not have the option to carry your dog.

Airlines who do carry dogs in cargo usually require additional fees and drop off before departure. Since dogs cannot go through the baggage claim they will need to be registered at specific locations in the terminal before you head through security.

This is one of the harder parts about traveling with your dog because for hours you have no way of checking in on their well being during what can sometimes be a traumatic experience.

The requirements for your dog traveling in cargo are similar to if they are traveling in the cabin with you. They must be able to stand, lay down and turn around in the crate comfortably. Also, crates for cargo must be hard with a leakproof bottom. Not all airlines accept certain materials for crates so check with your specific airline about this. Food and water bowls must be attached to the door and have easy access from the outside for staff to refill during a layover (yes this means that your dog likely will not be coming out of the crate to stretch their legs).

If you need more information based on your dogs size or specific airlines check out PetTravel.com.

Leaving Your Dog Behind

This might seem like the obvious answer when traveling with a dog too big to take on a flight. However, not all of us can leave our dogs behind which is why this is towards the bottom.

If you can’t take your pup with you on your flight and will be returning back to where your departure location this is likely your best bet on ensuring your dog is safe while traveling.

Check with your veterinarian to see where they might recommend for boarding a dog in your local area, sometimes you might luck out and they might offer the service themselves. Another option is to have a pet sitter. Melissa has pet sat for years with friends and family, so ask around. You might be able to find a friend or even someone who does it professionally to watch your dog and give you updates about their progress throughout your trip.

For us we have parents who love our fur and scale kids who either take them while we travel or stop by once or twice a day to ensure they are ok. (Maggie goes to her grandma and grandpa’s house to play with her doncles (dog uncles) ).

Conclusion

Whether you need too or want too take your dog on your trip with you is a personal decision. We recommend doing as much research as possible when making this decision to ensure that you find the best solution for you and your dog.


The Portly Passengers are two individuals who live the plus size life and love to travel. They give tips and advice on traveling as a plus size person, city itineraries, food and attractions reviews and much more.

The Portly Passengers provides plus size inclusive travel tips and advice for anyone who is looking to explore the world. From seat sizes on airplanes to exploring museums, restaurants, and nature Melissa & Peter have the experience and stories to help guide you through it.

Melissa & Peter are a couple of goofballs who are in love with traveling & each other.

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