When you're planning to travel with your pet, let your imagination take flight – literally. These days, certain airlines don't just allow pets on planes, they encourage them.
A couple offer perks like frequent flyer miles, others provide plane travel for pets from Persians to chinchillas and tropical fish.
Whether your toy breed is a frequent flyer or your Doberman needs to make a one-time trip across country, seek out a pet-friendly airline when you're pricing your travel options.
Note, though, that you'll need to stay abreast of each airline's rules and offerings all the way up until the time you leave. Many airlines offer options for pets to fly, but may restrict any number of pets, including short-nosed dog breeds or those traveling with flyers under age 18.
Other airlines restrict times you can travel with a pet. American Airlines, for example, won't allow pets to fly on the airline when the forecasted temperature is above 85F at any location on the itinerary, while Alaska Airlines restricts pet travel on certain holidays.
Start your search for the pet-friendly airline that suits your itinerary with these five options:
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Jet Blue JetPaws Program
The basics: A leader in the pet travel industry, Jet Blue charges a pet fee of $100 each way and allows one pet in a carrier per passenger. The pet is considered carry-on luggage and can not exceed 20 pounds along with the carrier.
Special extras: Jet Blue's JetPaws program includes a special bag tag for you carrier and your pet can earn 300 extra TrueBlue points on each flight segment you take together. Unlike most airlines that allow pets, Jet Blue allows you to book pets online. Or, you can call 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583).
The basics: United allows certain sized domesticated cats, dogs, rabbits and household birds (excluding cockatoos) to travel accompanied in the aircraft cabin on most flights within the U.S. for $125 each way.
Special extras: United allows the pet and a carry-on bag, which is unusual. For pets restricted from cabin travel, United offers PetSafe®, which includes plane compartments pressurized the same way as the cabin, airport-to-airport delivery for animals and features a 24-hour live animal desk and gives owners the ability to track pets. And points! You can earn 500 MileagePlus award miles for each PetSafe shipment within the U.S. and 1,000 miles for all other shipments.
The basics: Certain pets can travel in the cabin, counting towards your carry-on baggage allowance, or as checked baggage.
Special extras: WestJet has one of the least expensive fees for pet plane travel, charging kennel fees from $50-$60 each way if pets are carried on, and $75-$90 if they become part of "checked baggage."
The allowances for pets traveling as checked baggage are also more generous than most other airlines. Pets that can fly as checked baggage include birds, cats, chinchillas, dogs, guinea pigs, hedgehogs and rabbits, and the airline allows 100 pounds for the pet and kennel combined. In addition, one passenger can check up to six pets, so WestJet is ideal for the multi-pet traveler.
The basics: Virgin Atlantic accepts only cats and dogs on flights, and restricts short-nosed breeds like Pekinese. The cost of taking your dog or cat on one of our flights depends on a combination of the size of its travel box, and they request a call to their shipping department to discuss the pets before you book tickets.
Special extra: The Flying Paws "scheme" means pets earn Flying Club miles. Pets flying to Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, Detroit and other North American locations earn 1,000 bonus miles for owners who are Flying Club members.
Alaska Airlines Fur-st Class Care
The basics:For $100 each way, dogs, cats, rabbits and household birds are accepted in the aircraft cabin (counting as the carry-on bag allotment), and in the baggage and cargo compartments. Short-nosed dogs are prohibited and all pets traveling cargo have to have a health certificate dated within 10 days of the outbound departure date.
Special extras: Alaska Airlines is a great choice for unusual animals as it allows cats, dogs, ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, household birds, non-poisonous reptiles, pot-bellied pigs, rabbits and tropical fish to travel in its climate-controlled baggage and cargo compartments. The airline also offers Pet Connect™ animal travel for pets traveling without their owners. Pet Connect customers can get a free pet health examination and discounted health certificate at Banfield® Pet Hospitals located in PetSmart retail stores.