Flying with Your Dog on a Plane

plane dog

Kobi (8wks) in his travel bag on his first flight.

I have a real plane dog. The day I adopted Kobi, I took him on his first flight (see right). Since then, I’ve taken Kobi on several flights both domestically and internationally. As such, I can definitely help you with tips for flying with a dog.

Kobi is under the typical 20lbs limit for in-cabin flight travel, so he’s always been in the airplane with me. (I can’t comment on plane travel for dogs that are larger and need to be in the hull, i.e. as cargo.)

Before Your Flight with Your Dog

You will need to check with the airline you plan to fly with and see what their pet regulations are. There is no standard set of rules and they can change. Sometimes rules are different depending on where you are flying to (e.g. Hawaii).

First of all, make sure the airline will take your breed. Some airlines will not accept brachycephalic or snub-nosed dogs, e.g. Pugs. Shih Tzus.

You need to purchase a ticket for your dog, as well as, yourself. I find this highly annoying because your dog will end up sitting in your seat area. You have to put him in front of your feet, on the floor, under the seat in front of you. Don’t forget that despite the fact that you purchased a ticket for your dog, this does not give you an extra bag. If you’re flying coach, you are still only limited to one bag and one personal item. The dog bag will count as the “one bag”, so I just bring a purse as my personal item.

It’s important to make sure your dog has a ticket because there generally is a limit on the number of pets in the cabin. Note service animals are typically not counted in the maximum number allowed in the cabin.

Getting the Right Dog Travel Bag

Your dog will need an airline approved dog bag. I’ve never experienced an airline exactly measure the bag my dog was in, however, your dog needs to be able move around in it – typically stand up enough so he can switch his body position front to back and visa versa. I have heard stories of airlines doing this test. The dog bag also needs to be able to fit under the seat in front of you.

I recommend getting a dog bag which allows your dog to see out as much as possible (this also helps with ventilation). It should also have flaps to close the “windows” of the bag, because sometimes your dog will just want to sleep and not be distracted.

Make sure to get your dog used to his travel bag. He should not be testing it out on his first flight. We made sure to feed Kobi in his travel bag before he used it on a plane. As such, he has positive experiences associated with his travel bag.

Last but not least, often you will need a health certificate from your vet, which might need to be dated within 10 days of the first flight your dog will be on.

Next step: What to Bring for the Day of Travel

Dog Friendly Airport – Phoenix Sky Harbor

dog friendly airport

Kobi at the Pet Patch

If you’re flying cross country with your best friend and need a layover or just want to travel somewhere warm, we can definitely recommend the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport in Arizona. During the holidays, we had a layover in Phoenix on our way from NYC to California and were delighted to experience such a dog friendly airport.

pet friendly airport

Enjoying the sun

The Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport has a pet park at each of their three terminals. What’s really nice is the pet parks are actually close to the terminal so you do have time to visit them if you have a layover. It gives your dog a chance to stretch their legs, drink water and take potty breaks (mitts for cleaning up provided).

pet friendly airport

The Bone Yard

We had a chance to visit two of them. First we went to the Pet Patch, a little relief area with a fake fire hydrant just next to Terminal 2. It was so nice to be out of the cold weather, we took a nice walk around the terminal and Kobi was able bask in the sun a bit. Since we had a long layover, we decided to go check out the Bone Yard.

The Bone Yard is the largest pet park and located on the west side of Terminal 4 just outside of baggage claim. We were surprised how large it was and it also had quite a few dogs visiting. Phoenix Sky Harbor’s motto is “America’s Friendliest Airport” and we can agree that it was a great experience!

Top 5 FAA Approved Dog Carriers

Going on a weekend getaway or taking a trip with your dog? There’s no reason to travel with an ugly, utilitarian dog bag. We’ve searched high and low to find high quality, modern and chic FAA approved dog carriers so you can fly with your dog in style. Here are some of our favorites:

SturdiBag Green 1. SturdiBag Flex-Height Carrier
It’s by far the lightest bag we’ve seen on the market! The large SturdiBag has been tested to safely carry a pet up to 40 pounds and only weighs 2.6 pounds!!! The design is made to flex down when your dog is under airline seats and pops back into shape after the flight. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns.
Dogs of Glamour 2. Dogs of Glamour Glam Tote Dog Carrier
Perfect for your jet setting dog! The Glam Tote from Dogs of Glamour fuses fashionable form and function into your look. Crafted from faux leather and featuring top and side ventilation, this dog carrier adds chic yet practical style to both you and your dog.
Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier 3. Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier
The Sleepypod Air is a very stylish in-cabin dog carrier. If you’re worried about your dog being too cramped in the plane, worry no more. It has a folding system that allows your dog to travel in the largest space possible, while still being under an airline seat. Comes in various colors.
Petego Jet Set Pet Carrier, Airline Approved 4. Petego Jet Set Dog Carrier
For years we’ve used this bag to take our dog, Kobi (a 18lbs Havanese), on airplanes across the U.S. and to Europe. It’s our go-to bag for any trips, i.e. train, plane, automobile. Not only is this dog carrier airline approved, but you can also change the straps to safely strap in your dog bag to the seat of your car.
Teafco Argo Designer Pet Carrier Airline Approved Pet Avion Travel Carrier 5. Teafco Argo Designer Pet Carrier
This bag was designed for canine-loving fashionistas who travel with their furry friends everywhere. It has 5 external zipper pockets for easy organization and storage. It’s recommended for dogs up to 15lbs and the bag is very light weight at only 2.2 lbs. Comes in different colors.


Looking for a different design? Check out our selection of other cool dog bags/carriers in our Dog Bags and Carriers section in our shop.

Before you take off with your dog on an airplane, please read our tips on Flying with Your Dog on a Plane and Traveling with Your Dog on an Airplane.  You’ll learn about what to do a before you fly, as well as, tips for your day of travel.

Traveling with Your Dog on an Airplane

In our prior post, we highlighted the steps on what you need to do several days before your flight with your dog on a plane.

What to Bring for Your Dog for the Day of Travel

  • Your dog, plus their airline approved dog bagdog on plane
  • Typical things for a “walk”: collar, leash, poop bags
  • Health certificate from vet
  • Microchip number (if applicable)
  • Travel bowl for food/water
  • Dog food &/or treats (have a little on you just in case he gets hungry or needs an incentive)
  • No-odor bully stick – I think this is helpful so your dog doesn’t get too bored or anxious
  • Favorite small toy(s) for entertainment and comfort
  • Some paper towels, just in case your dog gets sick or spills something
  • If it’s a long flight/journey, consider bringing pee pads. No matter how old your dog is, it’s better be safe than sorry.
  • Pet-Eze – Just for emergencies, I’ve only used it once towards the end of a 10hour flight when my dog was getting really anxious and starting to eat his dog bag. It’s better if your dog goes without. However, if your dog is not comfortable traveling this might be a good option.
  • Don’t bring water – it’s not allowed to bring on the airplane and you can get some from the stewardess

Day of Travel with Your Dog

airline approved dog bagIf you have a ticket for a dog, you cannot check-in in advance! In my experience, airlines forget to tell you this. So even if it’s not on their website, I highly recommend you anticipate this and go extra early to the airport. Also, you cannot self-check-in or do curbside check-in.

I actually missed a cross country flight because of this issue. The airline didn’t mention I had to check in at the counter. I tried to check-in at home, but was unable to. When I got to the airport (early), I couldn’t self-check in. Then I waited in a long line to be checked in at the counter. I missed Delta’s cut-off by 4 minutes, which means I was at the counter 56 minutes before my flight. Rules were rules and I got bumped off my direct flight and had to be re-routed across the country with several connecting flights. As you can imagine – I was livid!

Post Check in on Day of Travel

airportpetparkOk – you’re checked in with your dog – it’s time to celebrate and breathe! At this point, you’re in the airport terminal. Some terminals have some outdoor space for dogs &/or smokers. If so, definitely give your dog the opportunity to go to the bathroom again before your flight. Alternatively, you can also try to do this in a human bathroom stall with a pee pad.

Now on to the security check. This will be annoying as normal, except now you have a dog and will actually need to get him out of his dog bag and physically carry him through the human metal detectors.

First, load up all your stuff on to the security belt to be x-rayed, including your shoes, belt, etc. The last thing you need to do is take your dog out of his bag. While many dogs likely jump out of their bag, this is when my dog, Kobi, refuses to get out his bag, so I generally have to wrestle with him for a minute and then he pops into my arms. (At this point you’ll probably hear other people coo-ing about how cute your dog is). Tip: have a couple treats in your pocket to make this process go really smoothly. Also, make sure to take off your dog’s collar as it probably has loads of metal things on it that will set off the machine.

Go through the human metal detector with your dog in your arms and then go get your stuff post-xray. First thing – put your dog in his bag and put on his dog collar. (Give your dog a treat if you have one.) Then get your stuff.

dog on planeThe good thing now is that while you’re not even on the plane yet, you’ve basically completed 90% of the hassle due to traveling with a dog. From now on, all you need to do is get to your seat and put your dog at your feet under the seat in front of you. Make sure your dog has appropriate ventilation, e.g. one of the dog bag “windows” should not be blocked (see example to the right). I also typically close the shades on the other windows so my dog can relax and have a nap.

My dog usually just rests during the flight. If he’s a bit restless, I’ll give him a bully stick or a small toy. I’ve also made sure to give him a treat or two during take off so he doesn’t worry about the sounds. Just make sure to check on him occasionally during the flight to make sure he’s fine. Bon voyage!