Can Dogs Fly On United Airlines?

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic
Monika Wisniewska/Shutterstock

While traveling with your pet is exciting and can be a lot of fun, there are various factors you need to consider to make sure the trip is stress-free. This is particularly true when you’re flying with your dog, as every airline company has its own rules concerning pets onboard, whether they are flying in-cabin or in the cargo compartment of the aircraft. In case your flight is with United Airlines, these are the requirements and regulations you should have in mind before boarding with your four-legged friend in tow – read on to ensure a safe and stress-free trip for you and your dog. 

What are the Rules for Dogs Flying on United Airlines?

United Airlines allows dogs to fly on their flights, both in the cabin and as checked baggage – depending on the size and the circumstances. However, there are certain guidelines and restrictions that need to be followed.

United Airlines allows small dogs, cats, rabbits, and household birds to travel in the cabin of the aircraft on most flights within the United States. The pet and carrier combined must not exceed specific size and weight restrictions, and there is a limit to the number of pets allowed in the cabin per flight. It's important to note that there may be additional fees associated with bringing a pet with you in the plane cabin. There is a $125 fee each way for traveling with your pet. There is also a $125 fee for each layover of more than four hours for flights within the U.S. and more than 24 hours internationally. You cannot use travel credits to pay this fee. 

What is more, pets must travel in either a hard-sided or soft-sided carrier. This carrier must fit under the seat in front of you or you cannot fly with your pet. There can only be one pet per carrier, and they must be able to stand up and turn around while inside. Of course, the carrier – both hard and soft one – needs to be perfectly secured and ventilated as well. 

The only exceptions to the above rules are service animals, belonging to the U.S. military, the police, or handicapped individuals. 

My choice for flying with a small dog or a cat would be a soft-sided carrier such as  this one by Smiling Paws as it’s super simple and comfy. It’s great because it complies with most airlines’ rules in terms of dimensions for in-cabin travel, but once you’re checked in, you can expand it on any of the sides (or all sides, if space allows it) so your pet gets some extra comfort without breaking the rules. And a pro tip – always have some treats on hand if your pet gets nervous. A snack will keep them occupied, but I’d recommend dog treats with calming properties, such as these  smoked bacon-flavored chews. Thanks to Ashwagandha, L-Theanine, L-Tryptophan, and other potent but natural calming ingredients, it will make sure your pooch stays cool as a cucumber during the flight. 

Can Large Dog Breeds Fly on United Airlines?

Sadly, United Airlines currently does not allow dogs to travel in the cargo space. And since most medium and large dog breeds cannot fit in the classic “under the seat” carriers, this means that they won’t be able to fly. For a time, United Airlines operated a special PetSafe program, allowing large dog breeds to be transported in the cargo area of their planes. But, sadly, after several tragic pet deaths on both domestic and international flights, this company decided it is best for the program to stop entirely. It is currently not known whether such a program will ever resume. 

Still, if you are a proud owner of a tiny pooch, you can rest assured that your pet will be transported safely. After all, they will be right there beneath your own seat, comfy in their transporting crate, and provided with your company and care. 

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

More by Angela Vuckovic