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American Airlines Pet Policy: Flying With Dogs, Cats, and More [2024]

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James Larounis
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James Larounis

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James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in...
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When flying with a furry friend, you’ll encounter various rules and restrictions, so it’s important to understand the requirements that apply to you. American Airlines’ animal transportation program has numerous fees and rules to keep in mind, with many intricacies that can impact whether or how you’re allowed to travel with your pet. We’ve broken down these policies into a simple, user-friendly guide.

Carry-On Pets on American Airlines

You can travel with your pet in the cabin when traveling to these destinations:

  • Alaska
  • Between the U.S. and Canada
  • Mexico
  • Puerto Rico
  • St. Croix
  • St. Thomas
  • Within the 48 contiguous United States

There is a $150 charge per kennel, which is waived for service animals.

If you’re traveling with a pet in the cabin, you’re required to pay a pet transport fee and also have a kennel for the animal, which must be able to slide under the seat in front of you. This kennel will not count as your carry-on item, so you can bring additional baggage on board, such as your suitcase.

Any pet that’s too large to fly in the cabin won’t be able to fly. You can only check oversized pets if you’re part of the military or foreign service on orders.

If you’re traveling with a hard-sided kennel, it must meet these dimensions (length + width + height):

  • Mainline Flights on American: 19 x 13 x 9 inches (48 x 33 x 22 centimeters)
  • Regional Flights on American Eagle: 16 x 12 x 8 inches (40 x 30 x 20 centimeters)

If you’re traveling with a soft-sided kennel, it must be smaller than 18 x 11 x 11 inches (46 x 28 x 28 centimeters).

American recommends traveling with a soft-sided kennel rather than a hard one. You’ll need to shimmy it under the seat in front of you, which can be more difficult with a rigid object. Seat dimensions vary by aircraft, so American’s reservations line can help answer any questions and ensure the carrier fits.

Sherpa, a brand of pet carriers, also sells an airline-approved American Airlines Pet Carrier:

Pets must fit comfortably inside the kennel, which must be secure, padded, and made of water-repellant material with ventilation on at least 3 sides. The pet carrier — and your pet — must stay under the seat in front of you for the entire flight.

If you’re flying on American’s Airbus A321T plane, the premium A321 flying cross-country (mainly from JFK and BOS to LAX, SFO, and SNA), there is a specific compartment in the forward cabin for pets during take-off, landing, and turbulence. You must store your pet in the compartment during those designated times, but you can take the carrier back to your seat during other phases of the flight.

If you’re flying in business or first class, you won’t be able to take your pet as a carry-on on the Boeing 777-200, 777-300, 787-8, or 787-9. If you must fly on one of these aircraft, plan on sitting in the Main Cabin, where you can slide your pet under the seat in front of you.

No matter the type of pet or aircraft, American won’t accept any sedated pet. While sedation may calm your animal and make the travel experience easier, there are potential health complications that American doesn’t want to be responsible for.

Hot Tip:

If transporting your pet is important to you, always have a backup plan in case of foul weather, cancellations, or other disruptions en route.

Service Animals on American Airlines

Service animals are allowed on American Airlines, but only for these circumstances:

  • Deafness
  • Mobility impairments
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Seizures
  • Visual impairments

You’ll need to complete a Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation form, which signals to American Airlines that your animal is trained to perform the functions it needs to.

American Airlines does not allow any animals in training, emotional support animals, or comfort animals. These may travel as pets, not service animals.

Your animal must be clean, well-behaved, and ready to travel at your feet or in your lap. The airport ticketing staff will make the final decision about whether your animal is accepted. No animal can be placed in the exit row, protrude into the aisle, occupy a seat, or eat from any tray table.

Checked Pets on American Airlines

American Airlines doesn’t accept checked animals for most passengers. To check a pet, you must be a member of the U.S. military or the U.S. State Department Foreign Service, both on active orders. There is a $200 kennel fee (or $150 if flying to or from Brazil).

If you meet these qualifications, American has several requirements:

  • You must contact American Airlines’ reservations department at least 48 hours before travel to let them know you intend to bring the animal onboard.
  • When arriving at the airport, you must physically check in at a ticket counter and present your U.S. military or foreign service orders.
  • American won’t accept animals more than 4 hours before the flight, but you’ll still want to leave plenty of time to check your animal and get through security. You’ll need to have your pet checked in a minimum of 2 hours prior to departure.
  • The ticketing agent will have you complete a checklist with them, and you’ll need to provide a certificate of health.

This certificate of health must be issued by a veterinarian and needs to be:

  • Within 10 days of your travel
  • Within 60 days of your return (when traveling on the same ticket)
  • Within 10 days of your return (when traveling on a separate ticket)

It’s worth noting that American has several temperature-related restrictions:

  • From May 1 through September 30, you cannot check a pet through Las Vegas (LAS), Palm Springs (PSP), Phoenix (PHX), or Tucson (TUS).
  • For cold weather, no destination along the route can be below 45 degrees.
Hot Tip:

PetEmbark Through American Airlines Cargo

AA Cargo dogs
Image Credit: American Airlines Cargo

Pets that don’t qualify as carry-on or checked pets can travel in the cargo hold with PetEmbark through American Airlines Cargo.

First, you must determine if you have an eligible breed or type of pet, ensure the pet is healthy enough to fly, and meet certain requirements. Then, ensure you have the right kennel for your animal as American Airlines doesn’t provide kennels.

You must file a request to transport your animal at most 10 days before departure (and at least 24 hours before departure).

Your animal must be dropped off at specific American Airlines Cargo drop-off locations within 4 hours of departure. These are usually located away from the terminal buildings. You’ll need to attach a bag of food to the kennel and ensure the animal has been fed and provided water within 4 hours prior to the flight. This will also be an opportunity to recheck temperatures along the flight route. Once this is done, you’ll leave your animal with the staff, and you’ll be able to track its progress along the way.

You can pick up the animal at the destination American Airlines Cargo facility as long as you have 2 forms of ID and the waybill. American Airlines Cargo facilities are only open during certain hours, so be sure to call before you go.

Bottom Line:

Rates are significantly higher for cargo and start at $415 for domestic flights. To calculate the specific rate for your flight, visit the Rates & Fees page, and select your routing under Pets & Animals Rates.

Final Thoughts

American Airlines has several rules and regulations to keep your pet happy and safe as you travel. When traveling with a pet, it’s always a good idea to purchase your tickets well in advance of your anticipated travel date, have all appropriate documentation ready, and be ready to follow agent instructions once you get to the airport.

Frequently Asked Questions

How strict is American Airlines with carry-on pets?

For safety reasons, all airlines are very strict about carry-on pets. Certain aircraft cannot accommodate pets, and on other aircraft, only a certain number of pets will be allowed onboard.

Do you have to pay for pets on American Airlines?

Yes, there is a $150 fee to carry on a pet.

How much does it cost to board a dog on American Airlines?

American Airlines doesn’t board dogs overnight, but there is a fee of $150 (carry-on) to $200 (checked) for the pet to be transported on the plane. A pet in the airplane’s hold incurs a higher cost through American Airlines Cargo; the rate varies and is determined by the routing.

How can I get my pet to fly for free?

American Airlines permits credentialed service animals to fly for free.

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About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.

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