Flying United Airlines with an In Cabin Pet!
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
The procedure for flying your pet in-cabin with you is the same for almost all airlines, including United. This is the process:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
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?