Pet Airways - Flying with Fido and Fifi

By Ed Perkins on Travel

Pet Airways
Pet Airways

All the recent publicity about the start of Pet Airways raises the question of exactly how to transport pets when you're flying.

My basic advice -- as a dog owner for nearly 40 years -- is, "Unless you can't avoid it, don't."

But you sometimes can't avoid it, so here are your options.



As far as I can tell, if your pet won't fit into an underseat carrier, Pet Airways is the best way to have it fly.

Pets fly in the "main" cabin of a small twin-turboprop, in "carriers" designed for the purpose. The airline provides water and food and it stops for breaks. All in all, it appears to be the least traumatic way for a pet to fly.

So far, Pet Airways accepts only dogs and cats, although it appears to be preparing for birds, reptiles, pigs, and "others" at some future time. The line schedules one transcontinental round-trip per week. Westbound flights leave New York (Republic, Long Island) on Tuesdays, stopping at Baltimore/Marshall and Chicago/Midway. Flights remain in Chicago overnight where pets leave the plane to sleep in the line's "pet lounge," then leave Wednesday morning for Denver (Rocky Mountain, Broomfield, Colo.) and on to Los Angeles (Hawthorne Municipal). Eastbound flights leave Hawthorne on Thursday morning and arrive in Baltimore and New York on Friday. The airline will board a pet for up to two days before departure or after arrival at no extra cost.

Prices depend on the pet's size and weight. Minimum rates range from $149 to $299 each way, depending on distance. The rate for my 50-pound poodle from Los Angeles to New York would be $349. A dog 32 inches high, weighing 120 pounds, would cost $399; the line currently isn't accepting dogs over those limits. As an aside, the Website's pricing system asks for a pet "height" without specifying how to measure; I assumed at the shoulder.

Obviously, Pet Airways' limited routes serve only a small fraction of the flying public. Presumably, the line will expand to other large cities if business seems to warrant it. However, unless you travel between the five cities the line currently serves, it's of no use to you.

Will Pet Airways succeed? The line claims that business is already good, with a waiting list for some flights. Maybe so. However, an earlier attempt at a line that flew pets and owners in the same plane -- Companion Air -- seems to have disappeared without a trace. For more information on Pet Airways, log onto or call 888-738-2479.


Some major airlines allow you to take small pets into the cabin in pet carriers as carry-on baggage. That would seem to be the best solution for very small -- and very well behaved -- pets, but, of course, it wouldn't work at all for larger ones. Fees vary; current charges (each way) are $69 on AirTran, $100 in Alaska, $100 on American, $125 on Continental, $150 on Delta/Northwest, $100 on JetBlue, $100 on Spirit, $75 on Southwest (new charge), $175 on United, and $100 on US Airways; Frontier does not allow cabin pets. Cabin pet carriers must be small enough to fit under the seat, most lines also have weight or size limits, pets must be small enough to stand up and turnaround in the carrier, and you are not allowed to take the pet out of the carrier. Most lines limit the number of cabin pets on each flight; advance reservations are essential. These rules apply to mainline aircraft on most domestic routes; requirements for international flights and code-shared flights on affiliated regional lines may differ. Check with your airline for details.


Most airlines accept pets in carriers as cargo in the cargo hold. Although cargo holds are heated and pressurized, every animal I've ever seen shipped that way arrived thoroughly traumatized. Some airlines do not accept pets as cargo during high-temperature seasons, and they impose many other limitations. Costs range from $100 to $250 per trip. Again, you must make arrangements in advance. In my book, it's better to leave the pet home with a sitter.



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