Flying Delta with an In-Cabin Pet
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:
- Carry On Your Pet
- Check Your Pet
- Ship your Pet in Cargo
- 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|
|Domestic Business or Domestic BusinessElite||2|
|International Business or International BusinessElite||0|
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.
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?