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Everything You Need To Know About How To Fly A Big Dog On A Plane

Did you know that around 2 million pets travel by air each year in the United States? We love our pups, and part of ownership is taking them away with you. But do you know how to fly a big dog on a plane?


Whether you’re moving home or just don’t want Fido to miss out on your family holiday. We travel with our dogs, a lot, and it can be a challenge - especially for those bigger pups.


Some breeds, especially more traditional 'working' breeds, tend to be on the bulkier side of the spectrum. In this blog, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about getting your bigger furry friend in the air.


Dog dressed as a pilot.

How To Fly A Big Dog On A Plane: The Basics


There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to flying with your four-legged friend.


However, the best way to find out if your dog is allowed on the plane is to contact the airline directly and inquire about their specific policies.


It’s important to call ahead because specific airlines only allow a few dogs on the flight, so you must reserve a spot. But if you can’t get your pooch in the cabin with you, where do they go?


Where Do Big Dogs Go On An Airplane?

This can vary from airline to airline. However, unfortunately, many carriers insist on larger dogs being placed in the cargo hold.


If your dog can’t fly in the cabin, there are two other options: checking them as baggage or sending them as cargo. When checking your dog as baggage, they travel in the hold but you will be able to see them, and they receive regular food and water breaks.


Whereas, if you send your dog as cargo, they’re placed in the specific cargo area and not able to interact with you or any other passengers. This can be dangerous and stressful, as they are not guaranteed the same level of safety and care as checked baggage dogs.


Sticker on a travel case showing animals are being transported.

Can You Buy A Seat For Your Big Dog On A Plane?

Generally speaking, you can’t buy a “seat” for your dog on a US airline. Because dogs are seen as “carry-on” items, they are required to fit under the seat. Although, exceptions are made for service animals.


This is one of the reasons why it’s so difficult to get your big dog on a plane.


Having said that, JSX will allow you to book a seat for your pup. Plus, there are some airlines out there with slightly more lenient conditions to canine travel.


Dog relaxing on a boat with sunglasses. Photo by Josh Rakower on Unsplash

Which Airlines Allow Larger Dogs In The Cabin?

These airlines all allow larger dogs in the cabin. However, each has its own set of rules and criteria your pup must fit.

  • Spirit Airlines

  • JSX Airlines

  • Breeze Airways

  • Delta Airlines

Spirit Airlines

Spirit allows large dogs of at least 8 weeks of age and completely toilet-trained to travel in the cabin. However, the combined weight of your pooch and its carrier must not exceed 40 lbs.


JSX

If you want to get your big dog on a JSX flight, you’ll need to fill out a form. If your pup is too big to fit in an under-seat carrier, you will need to buy an extra seat for them. Your dog can then chill out on the floor in front of their seat.


Breeze Airways

On Breeze, your pet carrier must not exceed 18 x 13 x 9 inches as it should be able to fit underneath the seat in front of you. Although, Breeze’s criteria on weight is more strict than Spirit as you’re limited to 25 lbs for pet and carrier. You’ll also be charged a $75 Pet in Cabin Fee.

Delta

With Delta, dogs should be at least ten weeks old for domestic flights and 16 weeks for international flights. Although, larger pets are required to travel in the cargo hold.


How Much Does It Cost To Fly A Large Dog On A Plane?

The cost of flying a large dog can vary depending on several factors, including the airline you fly with, the destination, and whether or not you choose to check your dog as baggage or cargo.


Checking a dog as baggage will, usually, be cheaper than sending them as cargo. But you need to contact the airline directly to get an accurate estimate. Prices typically range from $50 - $200 one way.


As we’ve seen earlier, the rules around traveling with your dog vary from airline to airline. So it’s best to do your research ahead of time to ensure you fit all the criteria. Your destination can also play a big part in the price of your pet-friendly trip.


Dog standing on a cliff in front of a seascape with snow around. Photo by Klaudia Pyc on Unsplash

Your Destination Plays A Role

Domestic trips within the United States typically cost less than international flights. So keep this in mind when planning your trip.


In addition, certain airports are more pet-friendly than others and may have lower fees for checking or sending your dog as cargo. For example, some airlines restrict travel to Hawaii and certain parts of the Caribbean.


What Are The Best Options For Flying Your Large Dog?

When flying with a large dog breed, you have 3 options for getting them on the plane:

  1. Cabin

  2. Checking

  3. Cargo

Let’s jump into each option in more detail.


Cabin

Some airlines will allow large dogs in the cabin as long as they can fit into a carrier that meets certain size restrictions.


This is the most expensive, but hassle-free option. It means your dog will be able to travel with you in the passenger area of the plane, and you won’t worry about them being in the cargo hold.


Interior view of a cabin on a plane journey.

Checking

When checking your dog as baggage, they will travel in the cargo hold of the airplane but will be treated as carry-on luggage. This means you’ll be able to see them and they get regular food and water breaks.


This is the second cheapest option but may mean more hassle at the airport as you will have to pick up your dog after the flight.


Cargo

If you choose to send your dog as cargo, they will be placed in a special cargo area of the plane and will not be able to interact with you or anyone else. It’s essential to remember that sending your dog as cargo can be dangerous and stressful, as they are not guaranteed the same level of safety and care as checked baggage dogs.


This is typically the cheapest option. But many risks are involved - most notably, there are no comfort breaks for your pooch and they could be exposed to the elements for a while before and after take-off.


Cargo being loaded onto the hold of a plane. Photo by Patrick Campanale on Unsplash

Does It Matter What Size My Dog Is For Air Travel?

The size of your dog plays a role in how much it costs to fly with them. Larger dogs typically cost more to check as baggage or send as cargo than smaller dogs. Prices can range from $75 - $200 per dog.


Choosing the Best Crate For Dog Air Travel

Prior to your flight, you’ll need an airline-approved dog carrier. They are made of hard plastic or metal with openings at both ends for your dog to enter and exit.


Typically there are 2 types of crates: Wire Kennels and Plastic Kennels. For flying purposes, they come in a variety of sizes. This ensures your pet has ample space inside the crate and each airline is able to store it safely.


Often, the crate will need to be equal to your pet’s length and then half their leg again for use on most international and domestic flights.


Airline-approved kennels are molded or stamped with an identifying label on the top or side of the carrier. Here are 3 of the best airline-approved dog crates you can buy today for your upcoming trip.



Keeping Calm While Flying Your Dog In A Crate

It's essential to remain calm when flying with your large dog in a crate.


Firstly, keeping your cool will help your pet stay calm and relaxed. Secondly, it also helps prevent you from getting too stressed, which could increase the risk of an in-flight emergency.


Some things you can do to help keep both you and your dog calm during the flight include:

  • Giving your dog a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter or other treats that will keep them busy and distracted.

  • Putting on some calming music or white noise that will soothe both of you.

  • Bringing along their favorite blanket or bed to make them feel more comfortable.

  • Offering plenty of water and stopping for potty breaks when necessary.

  • Talk to your veterinarian before traveling for more tips and tricks to calm them down.


Golden retriever wandering along the walkway on a plane.

Conclusion

When you’re wondering how to fly a big dog on a plane it can feel like a daunting task. But by following these tips, you should make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible.


Keep in mind that every airline has different policies for flying with pets, so contact them directly to get all the information you need. And most importantly, have fun on your trip!


For now, though, why don’t we learn more about our top 5 airlines that allow dogs in the cabin.


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