Flying with your furry companion can be stressful. Between navigating airline policies, securing proper documentation, and considering your pet’s comfort, you want to make sure you understand all the costs involved before booking a flight.
This guide breaks down the most important pet air travel fees to expect and provides tips to keep your budget in check.
Whether flying in-cabin or as cargo, pets come with additional charges. However, preparation and strategic booking can minimize expenses. We’ll explore the various fees, international travel considerations, cost-saving techniques, and more.
How Much Does Pet Air Travel Cost?
Airline pet policies involve various fees that impact your total ticket cost. Depending on the airline, you may encounter:
- Booking fee – A flat charge added at booking, usually $100-200 each way. This applies for in-cabin and cargo pets.
- In-cabin fee – For small pets in the cabin, airlines charge a pet fee per flight leg, typically $100-$250.
- Cargo hold fees – For checked pets, most airlines charge by weight bracket and destination. Fees often start around $175-$300 but can be $1,000+ for large dogs on international flights.
- Holiday surcharges – Premiums like $50-$100 may apply on peak holiday travel dates.
- Pet carrier fee – If you need to purchase a carrier at the airport, costs can be $75+. Some airlines allow free soft-sided carriers.
Additional services like unaccompanied minor escort or private ground transport add to your total airfare. Factoring in pet essentials like food, bowls, and accident absorbent pads, you could spend over $500 on a single flight.
According to Progressive, the cost of flying pets on Delta is $95 for flights to and from the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands.
PetRelocation provides an example estimate for flying a small dog domestically via cargo with a pet-friendly airline, ranging from $275 to $300. For larger dogs, the airfreight cost can go up to around $1,000 for a domestic move. International flights can be two to three times this amount, depending on the locations involved.
PetTravels states that the cost of flying with a pet can run from $50.00 to $500.00 and that pets up to approximately 75 pounds can travel as checked baggage when accompanied by a passenger. The average cost of flying one pet per passenger is $125.00 each way on domestic flights.
Happy Tails Travel provides a breakdown of air travel consultation and pet airfare costs, which can range from $350 to $1,400 for continental U.S. flights, $400 to $1,400 for Alaska/Puerto Rico flights, and $500 to $1,900+ for Hawaii flights. The site also offers additional information on ground travel costs and other related fees.
Considerations When Flying with Pets
Before booking, understand how airline policies impact pet fees:
- In-cabin vs. cargo – In-cabin pets cost less but are size restricted. Checked pets have higher fees but allow larger breeds.
- Direct flights – Connecting flights have higher pet charges due to the extra flight segments. Direct routes save money.
- Pet size/weight – Heavier pets mean higher cargo hold fees. Large breeds can add hundreds in airline fees.
- Peak dates – Holidays, summer, and weekends have peak surcharges. Avoid flying at peak times.
- Destination – International routes have increased documentation fees and outright embargoes. Domestic is simpler with lower costs.
Pro Tip: Enrolling in an airline’s pet loyalty program can provide discounted airfare and waived fees.
In-Cabin vs Cargo: What’s Best for Your Pet?
Should you fly with your pet in the cabin or cargo hold? Here are some key considerations regarding cost and convenience:
- Only small dogs and cats under 15-20 pounds in an approved carrier qualify.
- Fees are typically $100-250 each way. Significantly lower than cargo.
- Count as your carry-on item. Can fit under the seat or replace a personal item.
- Allows supervision and interaction during the flight. Reduces pet anxiety.
- Only permitted on shorter, direct itineraries due to bathroom/exercise needs.
- Limited space, so book early. Only a set number of in-cabin pets are allowed per flight.
- Allows larger dogs, up to ~150 pounds depending on the airline.
- Much higher fees, sometimes $500-1000+ each way for big dogs.
- Checked as baggage in an airline-approved kennel. Kennel purchase may add over $200.
- Pet travels in climate-controlled cargo hold without owner supervision.
- More flexible for connections and longer flights. Pets have bathroom accessibility.
- Limited capacity, but cargo pets have more available spots than in-cabin.
Consider your pet’s needs and temperament. In-cabin is ideal for small, anxious dogs while cargo works better for relaxed, large-breed dogs.
International Pet Travel Regulations
Flying abroad with your pet involves additional preparations that drive up costs:
- Country-specific import permits – Require research and pre-approval. Fees depend on the destination.
- Vaccinations – Pet needs vaccines like rabies and health examinations to enter certain regions. Vet bills apply.
- Pet passport – Formal government document proving vaccinations. Application fees average $200-300.
- Flight sumbargoes – Peak seasons, temperatures, and diseases prompt flight bans. Limit options.
- Quarantine – Countries like Australia require quarantine upon arrival. Kenneling fees add up.
- Private ground transport – Pet transport service from the airport to quarantine centers. Can be $500+.
The USA requires a USDA endorsed veterinary health certificate ($100-150) to re-enter from any international destination.
Tips for Saving Money on Pet Airfare
Here are some key ways to reduce costs on your pet’s next flight:
- Book direct flights when possible to avoid multiple pet fees.
- Aim for off-peak days and avoid major holidays that prompt surcharges.
- Scope out airline loyalty programs and pet discounts. Sign up for air miles credit cards.
- Feed your pet lightly to reduce accidents and cleanup fees – carry on snacks.
- Use a well-fitting rolling carrier with bowls to avoid airport prices.
- For international travel, start pet passport and permit process early, at least 6 months out.
- Compare total costs across airlines. Don’t assume full-service carriers are priciest.
- Buy pet insurance for accident/injury coverage – can refund canceled trips and fees.
- Consider ground transport for long domestic trips to bypass multiple fees.
While fees vary between airlines, expect to spend at least $500-1000 to fly with your dog or cat in most cases – especially for big pets traveling internationally. Proper planning, strategic booking, and pet insurance can help control costs. The comfort and safety of your companion is worth the expense.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the cheapest way to transport a dog across the country?
For domestic U.S. trips, the most budget-friendly option is to have your dog travel in the cargo hold on a direct, non-peak flight. While cargo pet fees are higher than in-cabin, they allow larger dogs and eliminate multiple leg charges. You can also consider pet-friendly ground transport by car or RV to bypass air travel fees altogether.
Which airline is allowing pets in cargo?
Most major U.S. airlines permit dogs and cats to fly as checked baggage in the cargo hold, though policies and restrictions vary. American, Delta, United, Alaska, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Allegiant, and Spirit all transport pets in cargo.
Southwest is the only large airline to not allow cargo pets. Always review size limits, breed restrictions, extreme weather embargoes, and documentation rules when booking.
Can I buy my dog a seat on a plane?
While some carriers offer an extra airplane seat purchase for larger dogs that exceed in-cabin size limits, it is very rare and expensive. If your dog is too big for the cabin but small enough to fit under a seat, you generally cannot buy them their own seat.
However, a few international airlines like Air Canada allow large dog ticket purchases with proper carrier dimensions. Expect to spend $500-1000+ for a pet seat.