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Flying With a Service Dog – The Ultimate Guide

14 November, 2018
large service dog on airplane

Flying with your dog can be complicated. There are the extra fees, the policies of the airline, and, of course, the health and well being of your pet. These concerns are made even more worrisome when dealing with a large breed, as airlines will not allow a big dog into the cabin of the aircraft unless it is a Service Dog.

To further add to your dilemma, many airlines classify large pets as those weighing more than 22 pounds, some even go as low as 15 pounds, and that includes the travel carrier. However, those airlines that do allow larger dogs to fly will find your pet as “seated” in the cargo hold. Service dogs are exempt from these size restrictions, as long as they fit in the cabin at your feet.

In this post, we will cover the ins-and-outs of how to fly with a service dog. This is a comprehensive guide so you may skip to the section relevant to your specific needs depending on whether or not your dog is a certified Service Dog.

  • Section #1 – Airline Policies for flying with a Service Dog
  • Section #2 – Tips for flying with a large Service Dog or Pet
  • Section #3 – Questions to ask when flying with a Service Dog
  • Section #3 – Questions to ask when flying with a Dog (not certified)

Ready to fly with your service dog? You may order your service dog identification kit and register below to make traveling easier.

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Airline Policies for Flying with a Service Dog

Each airline has their own set of rules and policies for flying with a service dog. Most airlines require that your service animal sit on your lap or on the floor and not block the aisleway. Service animals cannot sit in emergency exit rows and must remain under the control of their handler at all times. When flying with a service animal, you are not required to pay additional pet travel fees.

Click on your airline’s logo to access your airline’s service animal policy page directly.

 

Alaska Airlines - service dog policy

Alaska Airlines Service Dog Policy

Flying with a trained service dog on Alaska Airlines does not require any additional documentation. Alaska Airlines employees can ask you if your dog is a service dog and ask the type of service your service dog provides. They advise that you check in with the customer support team at the airport to let them know that you are traveling with a service animal.

Alaska Airlines recognizes the following animals as service animals: cats, dogs, miniature horses. Service dogs in training are not covered by the ACAA and are accepted at the discretion of the airline.

Click here for Hawaii and International Travel requirements.

 

 

American Airlines - service dog policy

American Airlines Service Dog Policy

Flying with your service dog on American Airlines requires paperwork if the flight is 8 hours or longer or if your service dog is a psychiatric service animal.

American Airlines Forms for Psychiatric Service Animals – 2 forms are required – completed by a licensed mental health professional and a behavior guideline form that the passenger completes. If your flight is longer than 8 hours, you must complete the Animal Sanitation form stating that you will be responsible for the animal relieving itself during flight.

American Airlines Forms for 8+ Hour Flight – For service dogs on an 8+ hour flight.

 

 

Delta - service dog policy

Delta Airlines Service Dog Policy

Flying with your service dog on Delta Airlines requires additional paperwork if your service dog is a psychiatric service animal. If you are flying with a trained service animal, you must have your animal’s Veterinary Health Form or Immunization record on hand.

Delta Airlines Psychiatric Service Animal Forms – 3 forms are required – completed by your veterinarian, mental health professional, and the passenger. You must submit these forms 48 hours in advance of your flight to the Delta My Flights page.

 

 

frontier airlines - service dog policy

Frontier Airlines Service Dog Policy

Frontier Airlines has a new policy for flying with a service animal on or after November 1, 2018. The only types of animals that Frontier recognizes as a service animal are: cats, dogs, and miniature horses.

Frontier employees may ask about the service your service animal provides if it is not visibly apparent. They strongly suggest that customers contact customer support to notify them of your service animal. All service animals must be well behaved at all times.

If you would like to talk to a Frontier Representative about your service animal, you can call 801-401-9004 or contact them online here.

 

 

jetblue - service dog policy

JetBlue Service Dog Policy

JetBlue’s service animal policy is similar to their emotional support animal policy. You must add your service animal to your reservation when booking online or by calling JetBlue at 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583).

JetBlue Psychiatric Service Animal and ESA forms – 3 forms required – completed by a licensed mental health professional, veterinarian, and the passenger.  You must submit these forms 48 hours in advance by uploading the forms here.

 

 

Southwest Airlines - service dog policy

Southwest Airlines Service Dog Policy

Flying with a trained service dog on Southwest Airlines is simple and relatively painless. Southwest recommends notifying the customer support team that you are flying with a service animal. You are not required to provide any additional documents at this time.

Southwest Airlines recognizes the following animals as service animals: cats, dogs, miniature horses. You are encouraged to arrive at the airport early with your service dog or cat. As always, your service animal must be under your control at all times and must not block the aisleway.

 

 

Spirit Airlines - service dog policy

Spirit Airlines Service Dog Policy

Flying with a trained service dog on Spirit Airlines does not require additional documentation, but the dog must not show signs of aggression or any bad behaviors listed below.

Growling, Lunging, Barking, Biting, Jumping on other Guests, Relieving itself onboard the aircraft or in the airport in any area other than a designated animal relief area, Emitting a strong odor.

Spirit Airlines Psychiatric Service Dog and ESA Forms – 3 forms – completed by LMHP, Veterinarian, and the passenger. Must be submitted at least 48 hours in advance here.

 

 

United Airlines - service dog policy

United Airlines Service Dog Policy

Flying with a service dog on United Airlines requires additional documentation if your dog is a psychiatric service or emotional support animal.

United Airlines Psychiatric Service Animal and ESA Forms – 3 forms – completed by mental health professional, veterninarian, and the passenger. Must be submitted at least 48 hours in advance here.

Trained service animals do not have to provide additional documentation, unless you are flying to an international destination. To talk to a representative at the United Accessibility Desk call here: 1-800-228-2744.

 

Tips for Flying With a Large Service Dog or Large Pet 

It can be stressful as a pet parent when we have to fly with a large dog in the cargo hold. However, to ensure your dog’s safety, we’ve compiled some tips and precautions you can use to make your pet’s flight as comfortable as possible.

Tip #1 – Visit your vet before your travel date to make sure your dog is healthy and up-to-date on his vaccinations – some airlines will ask for a wellness certificate and vaccination records from your vet.

Tip #2 – If your dog is not a service dog, be sure you have an appropriately-sized carrier, in which your dog can stand, turn around and lie down comfortably. Make sure the door to the kennel is secured but not locked for the duration of the flight.

Tip #3 – Do not feed your canine right before the flight (if possible) as he could suffer from air sickness which could lead to vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Tip #4 – Do not use tranquilizers as they have been associated with respiratory and cardiovascular issues with increased altitude pressure.

Tip #5 – Do pack your dog’s favorite toys and blankets to help him feel as comfortable as possible during the flight.

Tip #6 – Let your airline know about your service dog as soon as possible. Airlines restrict space for carrying pets, so you don’t want to lose your spot because you didn’t give the airline adequate notice.

Tip #7 – Arrive at the airport a few hours early to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

Tip #8 – If your dog is not a service dog and is in a kennel, be sure to label the outside of your dog’s carrying kennel with your name, contact information and a picture of your dog. This is vital in case your dog goes missing or is placed on the wrong flight.

Tip #9 – Pack all your pet’s grooming products, necessary medication, food, treats, water and food dishes. It’s also wise to secure a small amount of your dog’s kibble in a zipper bag to the kennel in case the staff needs to feed him.

Important Questions to Ask Before Flying With a Large Service Dog

Flying with your large service dog can be tricky if you are not familiar with flying with a large animal. To ensure a safe and stress-free flight, ask these questions before boarding the airplane with your large service animal.

  1. Do you have any breed restrictions? The ADA allows for service dogs to be any breed and does not allow for breed discrimination, but some airlines are restricting service dog owners with breed restrictions. Check your airline’s website (links can be found above) for more information.
  2. Will my large service dog fit in the cabin?  If your large service dog does not fit in the regular seats, you can request sitting in the bulkhead. Your service dog must not spill over into the aisle and must remain in your control at all times.
  3. What paperwork do you require for my service dog to fly? Some airlines are now requiring forms for your veterinarian to fill out for your service dog. Find out if your airline requires the additional paperwork.
  4. Can my service dog fly internationally? If you are flying from the United States to another country, your service dog will be allowed on the flight. You must have the proper health certificates and vaccination records for when you arrive in the foreign country. We suggest looking up the specific rules for the country you are flying into.

Important Questions to Ask Before Flying With a Large Non-Service Dog

You are the only voice your dog has when flying with an airline, so ask these important questions to ensure your pet’s health and well being, (and to also give yourself peace-of-mind).

  1. Do you have any breed restrictions? Many airlines are now refusing short-nosed breeds like the Pug or Boston Terrier due to their restrictive nasal passages. Some airlines may not also allow the Bully breeds on board. Look to their website or call the airline if you have any questions.
  2. Is the cargo hold climate controlled? This includes not only the cargo hold where your pet will be traveling but also the vehicle being used to load your dog – long waits on the tarmac in extreme heat or cold is not healthy for your pet.
  3. What is the outside temperature range in which the craft flies? Most airlines enforce temperature restrictions with animals, and will not transport a dog in cargo in temperatures exceeding 85 degrees or below 45.
  4. What are your check-in procedures? 
  5. Do you follow a pet “last on, first off” policy? This means your dog will not be left sitting on the tarmac longer than necessary.
  6. Is your staff trained in handling pets? Your airline should have people specially trained in dealing with and transporting animals.
  7. Who handles the animal (if anyone) during layovers? Some airlines have trained staff members that will walk, water, and feed your dog during a layover.
  8. Can I see my dog during a layover? You may be able to visit with and attend to your pet’s needs if there’s a long layover.
  9. Where do I pick my dog up after landing? Getting this information will help you locate your dog quickly after arrival.
  10. What paperwork do you require for my dog to fly? Be sure to get the added information you will need if you are flying internationally, as well.
  11. What are the kennel requirements? All airlines have specific guidelines for the travel kennel. Follow these to the letter or your pet could be refused boarding.

Flying with a service dog or any pet can be stressful, but following these tips and asking the right questions can take a lot of the worry and hassle out of your travel plans.

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