How to Fly with a Dog In-Cabin

Pet carry-on bag secured over luggage handle ready to go on airplane.

What you need to know about traveling with your dog in a carry-on

Typically, when we plan a road trip and want to bring our dog, we think in terms of taking them to the vet for vaccinations and packing the shot records. Things tend to get complicated when we intend to travel by air with family members, including those on four legs. One of the questions that comes up often is whether non-working dogs can travel in-cabin on a plane, in a carry-on bag. Rather than booking a flight and hoping for the best, you should take the time to research the options for in-cabin travel with your dog, and health certifications that may be required at your destination. 

Key considerations are which airlines allow in-cabin travel for dogs, how many dogs you can travel with, which dimensions for dog strollers and dog carriers (or dog strollers with removable carrier) are airline-approved, and what their requirements for a modern or stylish dog carrier are. Typically, small dogs can ride in a carrier on your lap or under a seat, while you would need to book an additional seat for a large dog. The airline’s overriding concern is to keep everyone safe. 

As you know, things can get messy during travel. Even when airlines are pup-friendly, being cooped up for hours and not being able to go for walks is never the greatest experience, especially for high-spirited dogs that are used to roaming freely in and around the house. Also, for anxious dogs, being stuck in a confined space while experiencing heat and turbulence will be quite a challenge. For chic dogs who are used to comfort and coddle – like Bruiser Woods in Legally Blonde – being stuck in a box on a plane can be a shock to the system. And keep in mind that dogs don’t chew gum, which makes ear-popping painful and stressful. 

Should you decide to spare your dog the stress of air travel, or if your vet determines that air travel is not safe for the dog, you may consider traveling by car or leaving your pup at home with family, or with a pet sitter. However, if you decide to bring your dog on a plane – and sometimes you don’t have a choice – below are some tips to make air travel low on surprises for you, and at least somewhat comfortable for the animal. 

Preparing to travel by airplane with your small dog in-cabin 

  • Ask people in your canine network whether they have traveled with their pets, and which airline provided the best experience.
  • Stick with one airline, so you know their regulations and avoid ending up with one dog carrier for Airline A, another for Airline B, and yet another for Airline C. When comparing dog carriers, factors to consider include size, hard or soft walls, ventilation, and pee pad inserts. Also, look at the handles and check whether it’s leak-proof.
  • Review the rules and regulations of the airline so you’ll know how to book a spot for your pup (it could be a pet ticket or an add-on, and there may be forms to fill out)
  • Ask your veterinarian for ways to reduce your pup’s anxiety (they may, for instance, suggest a pheromone calming collar).
  • Check whether the airport offers a “pet relief” zone, so you can avoid accidents.
  • If you plan to fly internationally, the destination country will have laws and restrictions that airlines need to comply with. For instance, a health certificate with proof of vaccination, or even pet quarantine.
  • In the hours before heading to the airport, take your dog for an extensive walk or for a run, if you’re a runner and your dog is used to coming with you. Like kids, they may be so tired that they’ll sleep through most of the trip.
  • Make a list of what you can bring for nutrition and diversion, such as treats and toys, food and water (with collapsible bowls), leash, harness, blanket, wipes, etc.
  • Shop for a soft case pet carrier with good ventilation, zippers for complete closure, proper size so that your small dog can stand and turn around, one that comes equip with a pee pad or option to insert a pee pad and lastly a pet carrier on wheels or with backpack straps can be helpful if you wish to keep your hands free.
  • Train your dog to get comfortable with staying inside the carrier for long durations.
  • Call your airline to ensure that the pet carrier you wish to purchase meets their specific requirements for traveling with your dog in-cabin.

US and Canadian airlines that allow flying with a small dog in-cabin

As of the writing of this article, U.S. and Canadian airlines that allow carry-on dogs to travel in-cabin with their owners include the following (in no particular order): 



Dimensions soft carrier

Phone number

American Airlines


18L x 11W x 11H (in.)




18L x 11W x 11H (in.)



$95 - $200

18L x 11W x 11H (in.)




18.5L x 13.5W x 9.5 H (in.)


Alaska Air


17L x 11W x 9.5H (in.)




18L x 14W x 9H (in.) 




17L x 12.5W x 8.5H (in.)


Hawaiian Airlines

$35 - $125

16L x 10W x 9.5H (in.)



$50 - $59

16L x 8.5H x 10W (in.)


Air Canada

$50 - $100

various (hard/soft)



Note 1: all amounts denoted in USD

Note 2: Air Canada is one of the airlines that works with different dimensions for hard-sided versus soft-sided carriers.

Before purchasing a dog carrier and booking a flight, keep in mind that airlines may change the dimension requirements listed above over time. It’s always wise to check with the airline of your preference well in advance for confirmation or clarification – you wouldn’t want to find out last-minute that your carrier no longer meets the airline’s requirements and be stranded at an airport.

US and Canadian Airports with pet relief areas

Before you get totally discouraged by all these restrictions and requirements, there is good news as well. Airports are increasingly accommodating to people travelling with pets. One of the airports making a real effort is Chicago O’Hare, which offers two-by-four-foot pet relief areas with artificial grass, miniature fire hydrants, and sprinkler systems. JetBlue’s rooftop lounge adjacent to Terminal 5 at New York‘s John F. Kennedy International Airport has a 4,046-square-foot rooftop with green spaces and a dog walk area. LAX offers seven pet relief stations that include doghouses, plastic bags, and trash cans, while Toronto Pearson offers pet relief zones in Terminals 1 and 3 and provides braille signage to mark the areas.

If you come prepared, chances are your travel plans will work out well.


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