Dogs Can Travel on Planes With You — but Can They Sit in the Next Seat?

Kori Williams - Author

Dec. 11 2023, Published 11:59 a.m. ET

A small white dog looking through a plane window.
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The Gist:

  • Traveling on a plane can be a stressful experience for a dog.
  • There are a number of tools pet parents have at their disposal to make travel easier on their pups.
  • Some believe that animals shouldn't fly unless absolutely necessary.
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The airport is stressful for humans, considering all the other people zipping around and doing their best to make it to their fights on time. Did you pack all the things you need? Do you have time to eat? Is there some kind of fee you have to pay? There's so much to think about. So, it's no surprise that this experience can also be a lot for your dog to deal with.

When pups fly, you have to follow several regulations for everyone to be safe. But can you bypass that and buy a seat for your dog on an airplane? It may seem logical, but it may not be easy.

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A dog sitting in an airport terminal.
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Can I buy my dog a seat on an airplane?

Many airlines don't allow you to buy a plane ticket specifically for your dog. However, they have rules and regulations around traveling with pets and service animals to make the process easier. Jet Blue, for example, won't allow large dogs in the cabin with you unless they are a service dog. But you can have a small pup with you if it can stay under your seat comfortably in its kennel for the duration of the flight.

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If you plan on bringing any animal with you on a flight, whether a pet or service animal, many airlines require that you notify them beforehand. For United Airlines, when booking your travel, you must tick a box that says "Travel with a Pet." You may also have to show some kind of vaccination paperwork or other kinds of documentation that permits your dog to fly.

A small dog in a kennel underneath a airplane seat.
Source: iStock
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Nerd Wallet also points out that some airlines allow you to buy an extra seat for your comfort on a flight. Although your dog won't be able to sit in that seat, it can make it easier for you to make adjustments, or you don't want to worry about other people around your pet or vice versa.

Are flights traumatic for dogs?

Every dog is different, so while some pups might be completely fine on a flight, others may struggle. "Flying is frightening for animals," said Kirsten Theisen, director of pet care issues for the Humane Society of the United States to Smithsonian Magazine. "They can sense the pressure changing and they can tell that something is happening, and that's scary. Flying is frightening if you don't know what's happening."

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Theisen believes that flying with pets isn't worth the stress it puts on them and should be avoided if possible. She cites the number of pet deaths that have taken place on flights over the years. So, if you're going on vacation and simply want to bring your dog along, it may be best to leave them at home with someone you trust to care for them.

Someone carrying luggage and a pet carrier with a small dog inside.
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If your dog must fly with you, there are ways for you to make sure they are as comfortable as possible in the air. For one, VCA Animal Hospitals recommends not feeding your dog breakfast the day of the flight. This makes it less likely that they will get sick or nauseous in the air. If accidents happen or they have to use the restroom, line the dog's carrier with wee pads.

It is recommended that you bring food for your dog on the plane, water, and any medication your pet needs. Additionally, you can buy your dog a swaddle that will act like a comfy hug for them throughout the flight.

If you are concerned about how your dog will react during a flight, contact your veterinarian for any recommendations, medications, or sedatives they think is best.

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