Flying United Airlines with an In Cabin Pet!

Water is Vital and United Will Provide!

When it comes to pet-friendly airlines, we believe United Airlines are top dog.

At the core of their pet-oriented services is what United calls the PetSafe program. This program specifically addresses safety for pets who must travel in cargo as opposed to in-cabin. This is what the PetSafe program offers:

  • Each pet receives a confirmed booking prior to departure.
  • Pets travel within plane compartments designed especially for pets. These plane compartments are climate controlled and pressurized in the same way as passenger cabins.
  • The warehouse facilities are also climate-controlled for the safety of your pet. To ensure your pet is comfortable regardless of any weather condition, pets are the last cargo loaded before takeoff and the first cargo unloaded on arrival.
  • If pets will be exposed to temperatures greater than 85°F (29.5°C) for more than 45 minutes, they will receive personal handling in climate-controlled vehicles to make connections between United’s hubs.
  • You have the ability to track your pet’s travel online from his or her origin to destination.
  • A dedicated 24-hour PetSafe desk is available for assistance at any time: 1-800-575-3335 or 1-832-235-1541.

United also has a great “frequently asked questions” page – better than any we’ve seen so far for other airlines, and, has a fantastic page on their website dealing specifically with in-cabin pet travel.  Odds are good that any of your questions will be answered on one or the other web-page.

You should know that United does not allow in-cabin travel for pets on some of the planes in their fleet because these planes do not have enough under seat space to safely accommodate a travelling pet. Other restrictions regarding in-cabin pet travel are outlined here:

 Restrictions based on aircraft, cabin and seat

  • In-cabin travel for pets is booked on a space-available basis.
  • One pet per flight is allowed in United Global First℠, United First®, United BusinessFirst® and United Business® (select aircraft only).
  • Pets are not permitted in United Global First, United First, United BusinessFirst or United Business on Boeing 747, 757, 767 or 777 aircraft due to inadequate storage space under the seat.
  • Four pets per flight are allowed in United Economy® on all United and United Express flights.
  • A customer traveling with an in-cabin pet on a Boeing 757-200 aircraft must be seated by the window.
  • A customer traveling with an in-cabin pet may not be seated in the bulkhead or an emergency exit row.

Other restrictions

  • Pets are not permitted on flights to, from or through Australia, Guam or Hawaii.
  • Pets are not permitted to travel with unaccompanied minors.
  • Pets must remain in their kennels with the door secured at all times while in the boarding area and on board the aircraft.
  • The customer is responsible for complying with all state entry requirements which may apply.
  • Pets younger than eight weeks old are not permitted.
  • Pets must travel on the same flight(s) as the customers who are responsible for them.
  • In the event of an emergency, oxygen service will not be available for pets.
  • United’s in-cabin pet policy applies to flights operated by United and United Express only. For codeshare flights, please check with the operating carrier for that airline’s in-cabin pet policy.

The procedure for flying your pet in-cabin with you is the same for almost all airlines, including United. This is the process:

  1. Request an in-cabin pet booking through united.com or by calling United Reservations at 1-800-UNITED-1 (1-800-864-8331). Advance reservations are required.
  2. Pay the fee of a $125 service charge each way. For travel exclusively on United Express by Silver Airways, the service charge for an in-cabin pet is $50 each way.
  3. Check your carrier size. The maximum dimensions for hard-sided kennels are 17.5 inches long x 12 inches wide x 7.5 inches high (44 cm x 30 cm x 19 cm). The maximum dimensions for soft-sided kennels are 18 inches long x 11 inches wide x 11 inches high (46 cm x 28 cm x 28 cm).
  4. Print out all paperwork to take with you. (We once arrived to check in and the system was down, so it was a good thing we had our own copies!) Take all of your paperwork with you to check-in at the United counter.
  5. Bring the receipt if you have paid the surcharge in advance. Your payment may not show in the system. You can also pay the surcharge by credit card upon check-in, if you prefer.

I am happier with the carrier on a lap and they often allow that!

Founded in 1926, United Airlines has a long history of customer satisfaction. More importantly, they understand pet travel and have done a lot to make things easier. Is there room for improvement? Certainly. There always is. But our experience has shown that the staff are always cordial; in fact, some are outright animal lovers. The staff know the rules and enforce them, but they aren’t mean about it.

If you follow the procedures and get your ticket, have the right sized airline pet carrier, and keep your canine (or cat) at your feet, you’ll have a pleasant flight. No fuss, no muss, no issues. We certainly have never had anything unpleasant happen other than an occasional employee not being certain what to make of my presence.

Have you flown United? Was it a good experience? Have you had a good experience on another airline?

 

 

23 Comments on “Flying United Airlines with an In Cabin Pet!

  1. As a former airline employee, most of the information you’ve shared is standard across the industry. What isn’t standard is the PetSafe program. That is an exceptional program compared to what the rest of the airline industry offers. While working in baggage claims, I encountered more than my share of nervous pet owners. This program certainly reduces the anxiety for, not only passengers, but for legitimate breeders and soon-to-be owners. Kudos to you, Monte, for making us aware of this program.

    • I did not know this about your past Brad!

      I do find it a real positive shift for pet travel and I hope other airlines will follow in these footsteps. I think more people would have pets if they knew they could travel with them. To me, that is a good thing.

  2. Thank so much for all the info, I’m traveling with my pets for the first time, and find it stressful as I am not sure what to expect! Can’t wait for the first experience!

    • You have the added stress of two pets at once Mario! But you should be just fine. We do it all the time, as you know and it has never been a problem. Try and relax! You will see how simple it really is.

  3. Thanks for sharing all this. Really useful information to have. I had no idea about the PetSafe cargo program!

    • Suzanne, that would be the flight between Montreal and Paris – 8 hours total. :)

      No problem. Air France is very in-cabin-pet flight friendly unlike many airlines they don’t really mind if you leave your pet in its carrier on your lap rather than at your feet. Yes for take-off and landing but after that … you can even open the bag and pet your dog. I found them very very relaxed about the whole idea. More so than any other airline. We fly with them for most cross Atlantic flights – unless we have no option. KLM and Alitalia are also super in-cabin pet friendly in our experience.

  4. I’m glad that you had a good experience. I can’t say the same thing about our travel with United. We’ll never fly with them again. They totally ruined our travel and cost us two days of vacation because of their many mistakes during this last Christmas. On top of everything that happened, they overcharged us for the pet fees. Instead of charging us $500 for the two pet roundtrips, they charged us $625. After several weeks of still not having the refund issued back to me, I had to file a claim with my bank. They are horrible. We are still waiting for some kind of compensation from them for all the expenses they cost us. It’s already February and still no reply besides their original apology. Their customer service sucks!

    I wanted to let you know about exceptions airlines can make for you regarding your in-cabin pet travel. I flew twice with Austrian Airlines from Washington D.C. to Vienna in first class where no pets are alowed. HOWEVER, if you write to customer care unit and ask them to make an exception for you they do it! They did it for me twice already. You just have to sign a waiver that your pet will have to be put in overhead bin for take off and landing. That didn’t happen to me because on the first flight I had great crew of fly attendents, and they let me have the bag under my feet. During the second trip, the flight attendant took my babies and put them in the coat closet for take off and lending. Even though I didn’t like that very much, it’s only for few minutes. Also on the first trip they allowed me to have the bag on my lap pretty whole time, and it was also open for 8 hours. It all depends on how understanding crew you get I think.

    I’m sure if you ask other airlines to make an exception for you in some cases where they have some restrictions on travel in certain planes, they might do it as well. It doesn’t hurt to ask :-)

    Cheers,

    Michaela <3

    • First I am sorry you had such a bad experience with United. We have flown with them frequently and never have we had a single issue. They have all our info on file and it has been really easy. I am not saying your experience didn’t suck, but I am saying that we have had the polar experience with them.

      I find for Europe I always fly Air France. They are AMAZING!! Seriously THE best airline ever for those flying with in-cabin pets. Again I have heard some people say they have had horrible experiences with Air France – but for us…? it’s been pretty good. They did over charge us at one point, and took forever to fix it but it did get fixed in the end. They always let the pet in carrier stay on the lap, open – never a fuss never even so much as an eyelash batting. We always try to fly to them for cross Atlantic flights.

      KLM and Alitalia are also great for in cabin-pet travel.

      I am glad to know some of the “non-pet friendly” airlines in fact might be. Interesting. I wonder if you have to fly first class for that – something we could never ever afford. I shall test the waters! thanks for that heads up. Although placing the pet in the overhead bin seems … a little… weird.

  5. Thank You for the detailed information, I was always scared to fly with my dogs, I actually never did – by car, by train, by cruise ship only, maybe I will have courage after your publication, Monte, :)

  6. Mom worked for an airline for 11 yrs and she is scared of us flying. We had to fly when we moved back from Europe but she would only put us on a non stop and we had to drive hours on each end but we made it. I also flew in the plane when she picked me up in England as a baby. Too bad all sized pets can’t be in the cabin!

  7. Hello! I found your blog via Sleepypod on FB. :) I am taking my 7lb chihuahua from Switzerland to the USA and back. I was interested in the Sleepypod Air, but I am now leaning toward the Sleepypod Mini. Is this what you are using and what does Monte weigh? I know the mini is less room, but my pup loves to pop her head out up top. Thanks!

    • For 7 pounds I would go with the Sleepypod Air and not the mini.

      I would not recomend the Sleepypod mini for long flights for any pet over 5 pounds (I am 3.5 pounds). In fact for LONG flights we have another carrier that is a lot like the Sleepypod air. But with a zip open top. Made by a Canadian Company called, One For Pets.

      We find this carrier to be absolutely amazing and everything we need and more. Hope this helps and have fun on your travels. Remember you are likely more stressed than your pet. Deep breath and all will be well.

  8. I am flying alitalia with my cat from Rome to amsterdam. Their size restrictions for in cabin pet carrier are tiny! 40 x20x 24 can I use the sleepy pod air? Are they very strict about sizes?

    • My guess is they will not care. But I can’t guarantee that you will not have some overzealous newbie on duty trying to prove him or herself. If you CAN… go to the Alitalia counter a few days beforehand with your carrier and show them personally. My guess is they will tell you it is not problem. Ask to get that in writing if they are willing.

  9. Hi,
    First–thank you so much for such an informative site about air travel with dogs. I have an ESA that is a larger dog (65lbs) and is registered with United. I will be relocating to Spain this fall and wondered if you think the best airlines/iteneray would be to use United out of New York and fly to Barcelona? We live in San Francisco but I can fly to NYC 1st–lay over for a bit and then on to Europe. Or it sounds like Paris is an amazing airport to fly into and we could fly Air France from NYC to Paris? I am lucky enough to have a gazillion miles saved up so I was going to go Business class and can fly on any of the airlines.
    After reading your post about Uniteds PetSafe program–I almost wonder if it wouldn’t be better for her to fly in the pet area in a crate down below. She loves her crate and is only 1 year old. I am thinking she might be a bit distracted by all of the people and smell of food on the plane. I don’t have anxiety over flying so I could be okay with her not being with me for 8 hours.
    United has alot of affiliate partners so I am completely open to other airline suggestions. I just want it to be the least stressful travel for both of us—especially her.
    Anyway—thank you AGAIN for a very informative website. It has really helped reading about your experiences. Also–Gigi is the one who gave connected me and I’ve read everything on her site as well.
    Thanks in advance,
    Kathleen

    • If you can have her fly with you in cabin that would always be my first choice but … I don’t know since I am not a big dog expert. Do you have to purchase a seat for her? Maria at The Tropical Dog is amazing. She has a big dog so if you DO decide to go with the cargo option she would be your best go-to.

      As for airlines and airports. Not a fan of NYC – Dullus although a lot less sexy has TWO indoor potty areas on “this” side of security. It’s smaller, less rushed and I find more relaxed. if that is an option. But why add another leg? If you can fly direct, fly direct.

      And although Paris is good it is nowhere as good as Amsterdam. KLM is a GREAT option. But Air France is also good. I avoid US airlines to be honest. Not a fan I find the service subpar.

      DO make sure you book everything. get everything in writing, call the day before to confirm and even again before you leave. Give LOTS of extra time and make copies of everything to hand to them so they don’t keep you waiting. Even print THEIR policies. Airline staff are notoriously bad for NOT knowing their own rules.

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