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Guide to flying with pets (and getting rewarded for it)

Know the airline's pet policies before making your reservations

Allie Johnson
Personal Finance Writer
Award-winning writer covering consumer and small-business credit cards.

A complete guide to flying with pets (and getting rewarded for it)

Humonia /iStock / Getty Images

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers.

Need to fly with Fido? You should know that many airlines are tightening the leash on emotional support animals in the main cabin. But on the flip side, some airlines offer perks for flying pets.

Every day, thousands of travelers take to the skies with their pets for a variety of reasons.

In the United States, over 2 million animals fly on planes each year. Flying your dog, cat or other critter can be complicated, expensive and stressful. But many people need to travel with their pets because they are:

  • Making a big U.S. or international move.
  • Going on an extended trip.
  • Relocating for military service.
  • Traveling with an emotional support or service animal.

The Air Carrier Access Act requires airlines to make room for service animals that perform specific tasks for, or give emotional support to, people with disabilities. But some airlines are getting stricter about emotional support animals in the wake of incidents ranging from a little girl who was nipped by an emotional support dog to a woman who tried in vain to fly with her emotional support peacock. Delta states customers have even tried to fly with “comfort” snakes and even spiders.

“The airlines are tired of people who don’t really meet the requirements for an emotional support animal because they’re the ones who cause problems,” says Sally Smith, a licensed vet tech and owner of Airborne Animals, a New Jersey company that moves pets around the world.

As of March 2018, Delta and United now require extra documents from passengers flying with emotional support animals. Almost all airlines ask for a letter or signed form from a certified mental health professional.

Delta and United, however, now also require: a signed veterinary health form, current vaccination records and confirmation that the animal has been trained to behave in public. Passengers who provide proper paperwork can fly with their animal in the cabin without paying a penny for their pet’s passage.

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