Reconfirming Flight Reservations for Pets

By Carolyn Miller, Guest Writer

I'm a former travel agent, so I know the value of reconfirming reservations. For 8 years now, I've traveled with my 11 lbs. dog as an in-cabin pet between Central America, where I currently live, and the USA.

One year we decided to fly American Airlines to the USA with a plane change in Miami. I made the reservations by telephone for my husband and myself, as well as an in-cabin pet. The agent assured me our reservations were in order and the pet reservation was cross-referenced with our reservation. Since I'd booked far in advance, we ended up having a few schedule changes. Each time I called American Airlines, I verified the in-cabin pet traveling with us, using the confirmation number I'd been given.

Imagine my shock upon departure. I was flatly told that in-cabin pets were not allowed. Prior to travel, I'd spoken to no less than 6 American Airlines agents and was able to produce a log of whom I'd spoken to, at what date and what time. I'd reconfirmed all flights and the in-cabin pet the previous day. The gate agent was adamant we could not travel with an in-cabin pet. We spoke to a supervisor who said they'd be willing to send our dog in a "free crate" in cargo.

Living in a tropical country means that there is an "embargo" on travel with pets during the hottest months of the year, exactly when we were traveling. No way was I putting our small dog in cargo under these or any circumstances, especially when the Miami destination was equally as hot. I pointed this out to the supervisor ... who said he would make an "exception" in our case! This was not acceptable.

I suggested they just rebook us on the Continental flight connection leaving about the same time. He didn't want to do that. Given that the supervisor had my log of names and calls and confirmation numbers in hand, he could only agree that I'd been given bad information. Ultimately, he got special permission from the pilot of the plane to allow us to fly with our in-cabin pet.

But that is not the end of the story. I spent the month in the USA trying to rebook our return to Central America with American because again, they were adamant that the in-cabin pet could not fly this route. I spoke with supervisors in Dallas, I wrote letters and sent my documentation. In the end, American Airlines booked a Continental flight for the last leg of travel. This meant we flew American Airlines from our departure city to Miami and then changed to Continental Airlines to fly to Central America. This necessitated two in-cabin pet charges, one for each airline, and a re-booking fee. Keep in mind that NONE of this was our fault and we ended up paying more than $200 additional on the return flight.

No less than 6 American Airlines agents had confirmed our in-cabin pet and round trip reservations and yet we were terribly inconvenienced and incurred extra expense on something not at all our fault. Subsequent letters to the American Airlines headquarters in Dallas were answered by form letter.

The moral of the story is to reconfirm all flights, take the names of the agents you speak to, and be sure you have that information with you at the gate. If not, you could be turned away as almost happened to us. Despite the inconvenience and extra expense, at least our small dog was spared going in cargo.


Lori Fries wrote almost 7 years ago:

My husband and I , recieved first class tickets from the Kids to fly from Indianapolis IN to RENO NV , last Christmas , US AIR. The kids also paid for our 2- 7 lb toy poodles to fly first class.Our Cooper had a reaction to the medication the vet gave him and began to perspire and pant heavily. My husband held him in his lap and he calmed and went to sleep- all the while never bothering other passengers that had paid good money for the flight. The stewardess started screaming and loud enough that all the plane heard her- You have to put that animal in the case under the seat or I will report you to the FAA- My husband tried to explain the pet was sick and having a hard time - anyway , never to fly again with our little guys - I wish they would start a pet fight where the stewardess had to be in case under the seat !

Jennifer wrote almost 7 years ago:

Lori, I'm sorry that your pet got sick, but a dog *must remain under the seat* and that is FEDERAL LAW. The airline is not permitted to bend the law as it is not theirs to make.

Tracey wrote over 6 years ago:


I agree put the stewardess in a case under the seat I hate the stupid rules for small dogs. Jennifer you must not have pets or kids.

Yvonne wrote over 6 years ago:

1st, Jennifer did not need to be so mean and unthoughtful with her response. I concure that she must not have kids or pets. On my flight last week (US Air) twice the filght attendent yelled at a mom because her 4 yr old took too long in the bathroom. Like airline service, flight attendents have become rude, unprofessional and mouthy. I agree with putting them under the seat! I get my own damn soda...
I need to fly with my 15 lb. dog and am very fearful of experiences decribed above. I hope I can find a solution. What is the best airline for flying with small doggies?

Nadia wrote over 6 years ago:

Hi all, I must say I am quite shocked by North American airlines and the stewardesses on them. As well as U.S. laws for that matter. I don't think I would recommend any North American airline. Nor any North American airport either for that matter due to all the paranoia and excessive security checks. Face it, most of us just want to travel and are not going to cause problems.

Therefore I avoid flying to or via the States.

Fly a non-US airline if you can! Get better service! I haven't flown with a pet but I have flown with an infant and never had a problem with European or South American airlines.

Cheers :)

Amy wrote over 6 years ago:

Something tells me none of you would have the guts to be so rude to Jennifer in person, only behind a computer screen. Internet or not, mind your manners.

Michael wrote over 6 years ago:

Yvonne... that was uncalled for. Jennifer was very polite and showed compassion for the pet. You on the other hand... well, look up Mrs. Manners when you get a minute.

Yup, the law is the law and the airlines need to do their part or they are liable. The Stewardess should have handled it much better, but didn't. She was right, even if she had a lack of compassion.

I'd expect more of a stew, and forum guests.

Grace and peace.

Genchika wrote over 6 years ago:

Jennifer wasn't being mean, rude and it's plum wrong just to assume that just because she doesn't automatically agree with you as far as having your dog out and not following the rules, doesn't mean that she doesn't have animals or kids. What a stupid assumption. Your animal has to stay in the crate, under the seat, point blank. When you have people doing things like this and breaking the rules then it leads to airlines preventing people from bringing their pets in cabin. And who suffers? All of us that follow the rules. I agree, the stewardess shouldn't have been that damn rude and had no need to be loud either, definitely uncalled for, but rules are in place for a reason and if we don't want to lose our pets' flying privileges then please follow them.

Michelle wrote over 6 years ago:

Hi, I would just like to be able to fly from Maryland to Miami and back with my two small Chinese Crested Dogs. How in the world can one find a crate that will fit under a plane seat and what kind of iddy biddy dog could fit in it? Any real advice about flying with two small dogs with out having to put them in cargo? Kind regards, Michelle

Victoria wrote about 6 years ago:

I fly all the time between florida and new york. There are crates that meet the requirements of many major airlines but once you get on the plane the dimensions are much smaller. The dimensions that they place are probably for the over head compartment and for for underneath the seat. I usually sit in the first row with the extra leg room option and place the crate in front of my feet. Side comment about what started this whole thread. Although there is a so called rule for having all in cabin pets in there crates, these rules can be over looked if you are traveling with a service dog. With this said there was no need for the flight attendant to have reacted in such a way.

Monica wrote about 6 years ago:

So what are the limits for service dogs? Does anyone know or know where I can look to find it?

grety wrote over 5 years ago:

The FAA makes the rules, not the airlines. I would never put my animal in cargo unless absolutely necessary. And if you have to make sure the PILOT knows it's in cargo. My husband is going to pick up our new puppy (the breeder clearly told us he does not ship his puppies)that he will bring with him in the cabin. He has to fly either Delta and United to get the puppy and they seem to have very clear rules about dogs as carry on on their website. And as far as the flight attendant's attitude, my cousin has been a flight attendant for 20 years. You wouldn't believe the stories of how passengers treat THEM. Rude is an understatement. And that's unfortunate for the passengers that are civil.

FAA Commericial Flight Dispatcher wrote over 5 years ago:

I have a 11 lb dog that is a miniature dachshund. Getting her in cabin is an absolute MUST. For that reason, since FAA rules mandate a crate, I recommend all small pets be crated in a soft crate (flexible) and the owners should always choose (and even require) seating in the EXIT ROWS. There is always more room in the floor area of the exit row. Also, as stated above, if you pet must be crated and placed in the cargo area, DO NOT FORGET TO PERSONALLY TELL THE PIC (Pilot in Command) upon boarding the plane. And if all else fails, buy an extra seat for your pet. The stewardess should NOT have been rude and should have been reported for her inappropriate behavior. I do not know the exact situation but gentle instructions should have been given to the passenger regarding the law and FAA rules.

Kathryn wrote over 5 years ago:

I flew Southwest a few days ago with my 10lb dog from FL to NY. It was my first time flying with my dog who is three years old. I spent alot of time going to different pet stores looking for a carrier. Many say they are airline approved but none of the dimensions matched up to the airlines requirements. In the end, I purchased the official Southwest carrier which is soft and roomy. I also bought tranquilizers from the vet because I was afraid my dog would not be happy sitting in a carrier under the seat for hours. Despite the tranquilizers, my dog was a very unhappy flier to put it mildly. He tried to tear up the carrier from the inside out, he cried, and panted so hard I thought he was going to have a heart attack. It was very stressful. I had to secretly take him out to calm him down because I was really worried. The passengers were all very nice and provided their own pet stories. Looks like more research is required.

nancy wrote over 5 years ago:

I also have traveled multiple times with my toy poodle. It can be stressful. Last time I flew AirTran and Jetblue she cried so much I had to secretly take her out of the carrier and hid her under a blanket. Once there she slept the whole time. If the attendant saw her she never said a word. going on another trip in a few months and looking into tranquilizers or something to relax her and make her sleep on the flights

ann wrote over 5 years ago:

I am flying my standard poodle (55 lbs) on Alaska Airlines, a nonstop flight, from Boston to Oregon. I'm so nervous!
He is 10 years old. He's healthy but may whine or pant due to anxiety. I will tell the pilot my dog is onboard.

Comment from FAA Commercial Flight Dispatcher said buy an extra seat--I'm confused about that. So the dog in his carrier can be on the seat with a seat belt? Could a bigger dog fly that way if his carrier fits on the floor in the seat next to me? I don't think it would fit though for my dog.

How do I know if my dog will be ok during the flight? He won't chew or escape, and the air temp will be fine (it's April). I've asked the vet since my dog has some health issues (sensitive stomach, separation issues, fear of loud noises, years ago was hit by car and had bruised lungs). But vets say he's fine. I worry!!! Any advice?

yolanda wrote over 5 years ago:

Can anyone tell me how can I ship my dog from El Paso to Greenville, SC? Do I have to travel with herz? Can she be shipped alone? Please help me,

Toni wrote over 5 years ago:

As a flight attendant, I must respond to a previous poster who suggested that those traveling with pets in the cabin book an exit row seat. Federal law not only forbids removing a pet from a carrier at ANY time during flight, it also forbids those traveling with a pet to occupy an exit row seat. Another poster mentioned that they book a bulkhead seat when traveling with a pet in the cabin. That won't work either, because there is no seat in front of you under which to place the carrier, and the carriers can't go in overhead bins, and that space must be absolutely clear for takeoff and landing. When a pet seems sick is the WORST time to remove it from its carrier. Take it from me....I've seen more than one pet display diarrhea and airsickness on a plane when taken from its carrier. I've almost run over a teacup dog with a beverage cart, after asking the owner to keep it in the carrier multiple times. It's one thing for the animal to be sick in the carrier; it's another in the aisle, in a seat, etc.
Once you take the pet out, it's learned that by barking, whining, whatever, it will be removed. No wonder it barks or whines in its carrier from then on! The rules apply, even and especially when your pet is sick or making noise. There are very good reasons for it to be restricted to its carrier.

Jen wrote over 5 years ago:

Jen - No dogs that cannot fit under the leg room in front of a passenger, save Service Animals, can go in the cabin of a plane.

You cannot buy an extra seat for your large dog, and dogs, even service animals are not allowed onto the actual seat of the plane.

Your dog will have to travel as checked.

Also, in regards to the dogs misbehaving in the carrier.. had they been acclimated to staying in the carrier, or was the day of the flight one of their first experiences being put into that carrier?

I've traveled around the world with my 4 dogs, two of them small enough for in-cabin travel. Even during 15 hour flights we have never had problems with crying or misbehaving.

Cari wrote over 5 years ago:

I dont have a dog but I have a cat that I am flying from Michigan to California.Im going to get a purse carrier type thing to put it under my seat. Should I know anything else?

Megan wrote over 5 years ago:

Jen, I am interested that you have flown internationally with dogs in the cabin - particularly long haul flights. Do you have recommendations on international carriers? Any other tips on keeping your dogs safe and comfortable in a carrier in the cabin on such long haul flights?

We have traveled domestically with our dogs in the cabin on American and not had any problems.

Roberta wrote over 5 years ago:

I have two 12-year-old cats whom I need to take from Central Mexico to Dallas as I am moving and my daughter will look after them.
Any suggestions as to how to keep them in-cabin? Will I need to purchase an additional seat to get them there? This is the biggest issue I have right now as I cannot leave them here.


marcia petitt wrote over 5 years ago:

I have flown Swissair many times with animalsin the cabin, some even out of the case (dogs lying under seats out of cases),and
the staff could not have been kinder.
We were even asked if we wanted some milk for the cats.

This was some years ago and they may have changed their policies, but I would check if your destination makes it possible to use them.

Kate wrote over 5 years ago:

Roberta, I don't know if you've already made the move or gotten an answer elsewhere, but I haven't found an airline that will allow a single person to bring two adult cats in the cabin with them. Every airline I've looked at seems to only allow a single bag and personal item with you in the cabin, and your cat would count as one of these. Even if you somehow didn't take a purse or bag with you, I've never seen anyone allowed to book an extra seat just to keep their second pet under. If you are traveling with another person then each of you would be able to claim one of the two cats and avoid having to put one in cargo that way, but the only exception to this rule I've run into are kittens/puppies under six months who are able to comfortably fit into the carrier together and still have room to stand up and turn around.

(As a side note, I too agree that Jennifer's post at the beginning of the comments wasn't rude. I ache for people who have a bad experience flying with a pet, and for pets who get sick or don't take to flying well. I don't look forward to flying with my cat for fear that might happen. But federal law is beyond any airline or passenger's control. I don't want to see an animal get hurt because it got away from its owner, and God forbid got thrown around by turbulence or got into a fight with another pet (like people, even the sweetest of animals can get into disagreements). I also don't want airlines to do away with in-cabin pet travel, because I certainly have no desire to ship my pet in the cargo hold. So please, report the super-rude stewardess, but please also follow the rules so we can keep flying with our pets under our seat and not in cargo. Bear in mind too that such a ban-if it took place-might not be caused by the airlines themselves, but the FAA thinking that if people can't follow a rule so simple as to keep their pet in the crate, that the only solution is to forbid the pet from traveling where the owner has any access to them to let them out.)

Lili wrote about 5 years ago:

Hello, i am flying with my 6 pound yorkie in the cabin with me in a month on a very long flight from US to Brazil and i am TERRIFIED, he can be very unfriendly and bark a lot, but the thought of shipping him cargo is even worse, it will be his first time on an airplane and he is 1 year old... He might be just fine, but for some reason i doubt it, i would really hate to disturb other passengers, on the other hand i need to take him with me.
Please!!! Any advice or suggestions???

Scott wrote about 5 years ago:

I will be traveling to Kazakhstan with my 2 cats at the end of the month. I understand that only one cat per person is allowed in the cabin. Has anyone found a way around this? I suppose that I could take one cat with me, and my wife could take the other when she comes to Astana, but this is a bit of a pain. I don't plan to sedate my cat(s), and I'm sure they will be terrified, since they were feral cats turned housecats, but I've been told that sedation is a bad idea. Any advice?

Kayci Pye wrote about 5 years ago:

So how much is it to have a in-cabin pet with you onboard?

sebastian wrote over 4 years ago:

During a recent Alaska Air flight a mean stewardess began screaming at me about my dog's carrier not being 100% under the seat. It does stick out but it means the airline's requirements for the carrier per their website. it also only sticks partially out and was not any farther out than the woman's giant purse was in the seat next to mine! i tried to explain this (and the fact his was his 15th flight on alaska in five years and this was the first time the carrier was a problem) but she cut me off and then proceed to try and shove the carrier further under while pushing down on the top. i lost it and started crying and asking her to stop as she was crushing him. passengers all around us and other flight attendants were now staring but no one said anything. this stewardess continued to yell at me and then finally stomped away. i tried to see if my dog was alright and was incredibly upset for the remainder of the flight. once we finally landed i pulled out the carrier enough to open the top. he looked up at me and was shaking in fear. he has never been shaking on a flight before. it was horrible. as i was sitting in a window seat i was only blocking myself if that was the problem. and i understand the federal law requires my dog stay in his carrier but it's unfair. i should be allowed to buy a seat and put my dog carrier there strapped in with the seat belt if they were really concerned about safety.

Toni wrote over 4 years ago:

Despite what several commenters have written here, FAA and airlines rules forbid those traveling with any kind of animal (pet, emotional support, service, etc.) to sit in exit rows or bulkhead rows. Your pet must remain in its carrier THROUGHOUT the flight and the carrier must remain under the seat in front of you. This is for the animals' safety and for the comfort and safety or the people on board as well. I am a flight attendant with a major airline.

Julie wrote over 3 years ago:

Is too bad that people are so dogfobic!!!!!!!!! Safety, safety, safety. I call it fear, fear and grid! That a little dog travels on the owners lap, who cares. If the dog was a monster, she/he would not be traveling. I have several dogs and all well mannered. Most people that travel especially with small dogs, have dogs that behave well and are less stressed in their laps than in a darn bag!

Mark A. wrote over 3 years ago:

Does anyone know the dimensions of the biggest carrier that can fit under a seat? We will be retiring and spending part of the year in Europe. We would like to bring our dog with us in the cabin because we've read about pets dying in cargo. Thank you very much for helping!

Bernie wrote over 3 years ago:

I'm traveling in the next 3 weeks to Asia and I have the large sturdibag and just recently bought sleepypod air. I brought the sturdibag to the airport counter just to check if they will allow the it inside cabin and the person said that's ok. I did that because I got a call from Japan, from an airlines agent because the dimension of sturdibag was big for their underseat dimension. I am now confused because I have traveled with my dog via Allegiant Air and sturdibag fit underseat without any problem. I don't want to be turned away and not travel with my dog just because of the size of the bag. Sleepypod air looks smaller than sturdibag but when you put them side by side, they look exactly the same size. I feel like my dog will be able to move around easily with sturdibag but we'll see which one will be accepted by the counter agent. I'm traveling via DL.

Bernie wrote over 3 years ago:

I'm traveling in the next 3 weeks to Asia and I have the large sturdibag and just recently bought sleepypod air. I brought the sturdibag to the airport counter just to check if they will allow the it inside cabin and the person said that's ok. I did that because I got a call from Japan, from an airlines agent because the dimension of sturdibag was big for their underseat dimension. I am now confused because I have traveled with my dog via Allegiant Air and sturdibag fit underseat without any problem. I don't want to be turned away and not travel with my dog just because of the size of the bag. Sleepypod air looks smaller than sturdibag but when you put them side by side, they look exactly the same size. I feel like my dog will be able to move around easily with sturdibag but we'll see which one will be accepted by the counter agent. I'm traveling via DL.

Amber wrote over 2 years ago:

I'm about to fly with my dog and was worried sick because she is too big to fit under the seats. Luckily, she just got registered as my service dog and American Airlines lets service dogs lay on your lap or on the floor during the flight and waves the ridiculous $125 fee. If anyone has a disability of any kind (even mental as that is what I have) look into getting your animal registered as a service animal. I am soooo relieved she gets to sit with me since I was reading horror stories about dogs in cargo and it also might be too cold for that anyway.

Much luck with your travels1

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