Flying Delta with an In-Cabin Pet

Snooze Time!

Delta Air Lines is now the world’s largest airline. It is also one of the four founding members of the SkyTeam airline alliance. Delta operates more than 8,000 flights every day and has over 80,000 employees delivering its services on all but one continent – Antarctica.

Like many things American, Delta follows the “Bigger is Better” formula. That normally makes us nervous since we tend to prefer the more personal touches that typically come with smaller companies. But the monster-sized Delta Air Lines has not abandoned hospitality in their pursuit of larger and greater.

To date, every flight we have had with Delta has gone off – and landed! – without a hitch. The staff has always been kind, tactful and professional. The food is typically fair as is the norm these days, the seats are not particularly large, and you’ll not get any bells or whistles. Delta is not trying to be your friend; they are running a business. But on the whole, we can’t say we’ve ever had reason to complain, and we hope this trend continues.

When it comes to pet travel, Delta has one of the best websites out there. Seriously. Check it out. I adore their Pet Travel Options page. Delta breaks everything down for you into four easy to follow categories:

  1. Carry On Your Pet
  2. Check Your Pet
  3. Ship your Pet in Cargo
  4. Connection Carriers and Pet Travel

It’s great that you can go to their site and come away with a complete picture. I tried to think of a reasonable question that was not covered somewhere on their site and came up empty handed … ummm… pawed. Delta really breaks it all down for you, including providing details about which destinations will not allow the pet in cabin option, the option we favour.

In a nutshell, you must call Delta at 1-800-221-1212 in advance of your flight to arrange to bring your pet on board. Pets are accepted on a first-come, first-reserved basis. A chart shows you the maximum number of pets allowed on each flight:

Ticket Class Number of Pets Allowed
First Class 2
Domestic Business or Domestic BusinessElite 2
International Business or International BusinessElite 0
Main Cabin 4

But … those in-cabin spots do not come cheaply.

Priced at $200 Canadian/US/Euro per pet per flight, your pet’s airfare can, in some cases, cost as much as, if not more than, your own ticket. (You can read what I think of airline pet fees here.) [NEED LINK]  I was, however, surprised to learn that two pets of the same species and size may be allowed to travel in one carrier, provided both pets are small enough to fit into one carrier and are, of course, compatible.  In this case, the two pets will be charged as one. Not so “money grabbing” sounding.

Delta allows Service Animals on board for no fee.  Delta does, however, have a strict guideline for Emotional Service Animals (ESA), meaning it is difficult to cheat the system. I can’t say I disagree with this approach. I hate seeing people take advantage of the ESA law in order to fly their pets for free.

Those flying with an ESA will be required to provide documentation (no more than one year old) on letterhead from a licensed mental health professional. The letter must be faxed to Delta 48 hours prior to check-in OR presented to an agent upon check-in. The letter must state:

  • Title, address, and phone number of the mental health professional.
  • That the passenger has a mental health-related disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th Edition.
  • That the passenger needs the emotional support or psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger’s destination.
  • That the person listed in the letter is under the care of the assessing physician or mental health professional.

A plus for those flying Delta with ESAs is that the animal does not need to be in a carrier so long as the animal is fully trained and meets the same requirements as a service animal. This is an unusual and compassionate gesture on Delta’s part. Many airlines, including WestJet, do not make this concession. We recommend that you still bring a carrier for your pet’s safety during take off and landing.

You Wanted Something?

Another Delta bonus is that once you have flown with your ESA, your information stays in the system for a year from the date of the documentation. This means that if you are a frequent flyer, you only have to jump through the regulatory hoops once a year. That, in my opinion, is a nice service touch.

All that said, Delta’s no fee policy for service animals does raise the question of why pets even incur a $200 fee. It seems to me that many people might be inclined to cheat Delta out of its pet travel fee because the fee is so high. Then again, I’ve seen some humans balk at even a $5 fee so perhaps it’s just human nature to try and get something for free. Still, most airlines charge about $75 for pets so there is a serious gap between that average and Delta’s price of $200.

Finally, to go on a tangent, I do want to mention that flying with Delta means you are supporting a company that is primarily non-unionized. Depending upon how you feel about unionized workforces, a non-unionized business may be something you support or object to, or may be a non-issue.  I just thought I would toss that out there as an extra bone to chew on.

Have you flown with Delta? What was your experience like?

12 Comments on “Flying Delta with an In-Cabin Pet

    • It really will depend on the crew. Some are ok with it others… will give you a hard time. So far I would say it has been a 1 against to 4 okay ratio.

  1. Wow! $200.00, Seems pretty high!

    Monte is so lucky to be able to travel all over with his family!! We are so happy he was with them when they visited us back in October. Can’t wait for the next visit!! We will try to see lots more!!

  2. So, Monte, do they let your bipeds have your closed carrier on their lap once you’re airborne at your cruising altitude? (I know they would never unzip the carrier to take a peek at how you’re doing 😉

    P.S. My bipeds gave me a bath today. I admit I was starting to look like a gray dog instead of a white dog, but still, I wasn’t THAT dirty, IMHO. They used a new technique. Why, pray tell, did it take them 7.5 years to come up with this? They didn’t wash my head until they were finished washing my body! Didn’t they know that what I dislike most about a bath is getting my head wet? Sheesh.

  3. Very useful information as always Monte! thanks for sharing I will share it myself.(Y)Love to read your blog!

  4. Hi Monte! Luna and I have flown Delta and American Airlines before (both were US-domestic flights). Sadly, when we flew, it was $175 for AA and $225 for Delta – that was in December 2011.

    The first airline that we used was AA and that flight went okay – she only made a couple “woofing” noises and then went to sleep (it may have helped that the flight was during the day, which is when she is usually sleeping?).

    We next flew Delta and to be honest, that flight was a nightmare. It was a night flight and she was NOT happy. She was making so much noise that I had to sneakily take her out and “stuff” her in my jacket. I say “sneakily” because I wasn’t sitting near my family at that point and I was in the middle seat with two strangers next to me. They had both fallen asleep, but I didn’t want to wake them up, which might be why the flight attendants overlooked her being out of her carrier.

    I will say that I enjoyed the Delta flight more than the AA flight. It may not have been, but it just felt roomier and I did like Delta’s flight attendants better than AA’s.

    • You’re lucky you didn’t get caught! I always get a crazy long walk or hike before a trip (more than an hour). That way I am happy to go to sleep and rest up. I am glad it worked out in the end for you. AS for the peicing I always tell folks to check with the airline. they change too often not to make that statement.

      • If this had happened on the day flight, it would not’ve happened – I really think it was because we were on a night flight and the flight attendants were just hoping she’d settle down…

        I really hope that one day, furbabies will be able to sit/be held openly on planes. I swear, if an airline did that, Luna and I would travel by airplane more often than not. But, I’m not holding my breath; just making a wish! :)

        • We feel the same way … *sigh* … especially for those long 9+ hour flights. (ex: Montreal to Athens)

  5. Pingback: Flying Into Athens Airport With a Dog

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