You might have heard this recent story: Several airlines have repeatedly denied a woman's request to bring her pet hedgehog inside the cabin. In fact, this has spurred a Change.org petition urging air carriers to change their stance on pets. According to CNN.com, the passenger was told that Heloise the hedgehog could chew its way out of the container or cause other passengers to have an allergic reaction.
If you're looking to bring your fur baby on a plane, the rules can be complicated. We took a look at carry-on policies by airline and collected them here, in one easy reference. Some rules, however, are universal: Passengers flying with pets must make reservations over the phone and check-in must be done at the airport counter. All pets (one per passenger) must be transported in a carrier that is leak-proof, escape-proof, provides ventilation on at least two sides, and fits under the seat in front of you – the carrier also counts as one of your carry-on items. Don’t forget to ask the airline the maximum size carrier it allows onboard when making flight arrangements.
Fido must stay in his carrier from gate-to-gate, and is required to be able to stand up, turn around, and lie down in a natural position inside it. Airlines are not responsible for the well-being of pets, and if there is an emergency in the cabin, oxygen won’t be administered to your pet. Also, your airline reserves the right to deny boarding to pets if they are ill or aggressive towards your fellow passengers. As a precaution, make sure you have vaccination certificates and identification tags when appropriate.
Here’s a quick look at the individual carry-on pet policies of 11 airlines...
JetBlue: Passengers with cats and small dogs only -- no other kinds of animals are allowed -- have to pay an additional $100 each way on domestic and international flights. The combined weight of your pet and the carrier cannot exceed 20 pounds, and only four pets are allowed -- total -- per flight. Spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis. JetBlue recommends that you choose a window or aisle seat.
Delta: When flying with Delta, you’re permitted to bring an at least 10-week-old dog, cat, or household bird, though Tweety can only travel within the United States. The cost is $75-$200 each way, depending on the destination. Pets are not allowed to fly to or from about a dozen destinations -- including Hawaii -- so check before you book. Delta’s policy is that only one pet per carrier is allowed, though there are two exceptions: one female cat or dog may travel with her un-weaned litter if the litter is 10 weeks to six months old, or two pets of the same species and size between the age of 10 weeks and six months may be allowed to travel in one carrier -- they just have to be small enough to fit comfortably together. Only two pets, total, are allowed each in first class and domestic business class; four can travel in the main cabin.
American: Cats and dogs of at least eight weeks of age are allowed to fly with American when traveling within the U.S. mainland, Alaska, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Croix (for $125 each way, with no more than seven pets per flight -- two in first class and five in coach or business). Leave your four-legged friends home if you’re going to or from Hawaii, or you're heading to transatlantic/transpacific destinations, or to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The airline also allows you to put two cats or two dogs in the same carrier, provided they are small enough to fit.
Southwest: Only small vaccinated domestic cats and dogs at least eight weeks old (up to six per flight, for $95 each way) can be taken on this airline when traveling on domestic flights; they’re not allowed on international routes. Here, too, you can you bring two appropriately sized cats or dogs in the same carrier. Passengers cannot sit in an exit row or in a seat with no forward under-seat stowage if they're traveling with pets.
Spirit: The cost is $110 each way to bring a domesticated dog or cat inside the cabin on domestic flights and ones to Puerto Rico and St. Thomas. Small household birds can also come aboard, but they’ll have to sit out the flights to and from Puerto Rico and St. Thomas. A total of four pets, at least eight weeks old and fully weaned, are allowed on the plane, where you can sit anywhere except for the first and emergency rows. The combined weight of the pet and its carrier cannot exceed 40 pounds. If you have more than one friend of the same species, you can place them in the same container as long as they have ample room.
Frontier: Tack $75 each way onto your airfare to travel with domesticated dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, or small household birds on flights within the U.S., with 10 allowed per flight. You’re allowed to bring up to two small animals (puppies or kittens ages eight to 10 weeks old, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, and small household birds) in one travel container, and you cannot sit in an exit row.
United: Up to four total domesticated cats, dogs, rabbits, and birds are allowed aboard each United flight for a $125 service charge each way, plus the same amount charged if your itinerary includes a stopover of more than four hours within the U.S. or more than 24 hours outside of the United States. Two birds are permitted in the same carrier, while their owner cannot sit in the bulkhead or an emergency exit row. You cannot bring along your pet if it is younger than eight weeks and if you’re flying to, from, or through Australia, Hawaii, or Micronesia.
Virgin America: Bring along your pooch or kitty if you’re flying with this company, but they must be older than eight weeks, weaned, and the total weight of the animals and carrier cannot exceed 20 pounds. The cost is $100 each way.
Alaska Air: Pets allowed in the cabin are dogs, cats, rabbits, and household birds, however, only canines and felines are permitted when flying to Hawaii. First class can accommodate one pet carrier per flight, and the main cabin can accommodate up to five pet carriers per flight. Owners cannot sit in the emergency rows, and dogs and cats must be weaned and older than eight weeks. The aforementioned rule of two pets per carrier applies here as well. Budget $100 each way for your companion.
Hawaiian Airlines: With this airline, you can only bring your cat or dog to a neighboring Hawaiian island or to North America for $35-$175. If your flight is international or originating from North America, you cannot fly with a pet. There are other conditions under which your pet can fly: the weight of your four-legged friend and the carrier cannot top 25 pounds, they must be at least eight weeks old, and up to two puppies or two kittens between eight weeks and six months old may be carried in one container as long as it weighs a maximum of 25 pounds.
US Airways: The cost is $125 each way for domesticated dogs and cats on flights within the U.S., except Hawaii, and select international destinations. Carry-on pets aren't allowed for trips to and from Europe, South America, the Middle East, Barbados, and Jamaica. Up to seven animals are allowed on each flight, and the specific rule regarding two pets per carrier is in effect here, too.