Unfortunately, large dogs cannot fly in the cabin on commercial flights unless they are service dogs that meet specific conditions. Under these tightly controlled conditions large dogs can sometimes be checked in a kennel on a flight.
Even though commercial flights don’t allow most large dogs to ride in the cabin, there are charter jets that you can rent where your large dog or dogs can fly in the cabin with you.
In this article, we’ll go over the general rules for how airline travel works with large dogs, but you should always check with the specific airline you are using to see their individual rules.
We’ll also go over some alternatives for traveling with large dogs such as charter flights, dog-friendly hotels, RVs, and even shipping your pet.
How Big Can Dogs Be to Ride in the Cabin of Commercial Flights?
Airline rules can vary so you should always check with your specific airline, but most of the time a pet carry-on cannot be any bigger than a traditional carry-on. That typically ranges from 16 x 12 x 8 inches to 19 x 13 x 9 inches.
Pets must be able to stand up and turn around in their carriers, so this obviously eliminates big dogs unless they are qualified service dogs. Most of the time dogs need to be under 20 pounds to travel on a commercial flight in the cabin.
If you are traveling with a pet, you also must give up one carry-on as your pet will take the place of that carry-on.
When Can Large Dogs Ride in the Cabin of a Commercial Flight?
Large dogs can ride in the cabin of a commercial flight when they are service dogs. Most airlines have strict rules about what type of dog qualifies to be able to ride in the cabin as a service dog.
The dog must be individually trained and must assist an individual with one of the following conditions:
- Visual impairments
- Mobility impairments
While emotional support dogs have become popular in recent years they do not qualify to ride in the cabin as service dogs.
If you would like to have your service dog ride with you, you can expect specific questions from the airline staff to determine whether your dog qualifies.
When Can Large Breed Dogs Be Checked in a Kennel on a Commercial Flight?
Another way that a large breed dog can go on a commercial flight is to be checked in a kennel. Some carriers, like American Airlines, only allow active-duty U.S. military or U.S. State Department Foreign Service members who are traveling in an official capacity to check a large dog in a kennel.
There are always very specific guidelines for what the kennel is made of and how big it is, and pets must be able to stand up and turn around in their enclosures.
How do Private Charter Flights Work with Big Dogs?
Since commercial airlines are very restrictive with flying large dogs there are private charter jets and airplanes that will fly you and your dog.
This is obviously a much more expensive option than flying commercial, but if you need to relocate with your large dog, it can be worth it.
You can charter a plane from a service like Vista Jet or you can get fractional ownership in a jet service with a company such as jetmembership.com.
If you have the resources to charter flights, this can be a good way to go.
Some Types of Dogs Should Never Fly on Airplanes
Bear in mind that some types of dogs should not fly on airplanes due to health issues. This primarily applies to short-nosed dogs such as Boxers, some Mastiffs, and bulldogs.
The reason is that these breeds are more likely to have respiratory problems in general and thse can be made worse when travelling by air. Statistics have shown that these breeds are more likely to die on airplanes than breeds with normal sized noses. For more detailed information, see the American Veterinary Medical Association website.
Other Options for Traveling with a Large Dog
If you find yourself in a situation where you must travel with your big dog, there are options other than airline travel.
If you can get to your destination by car, then using pet-friendly hotels can be a good option.
There are an amazing number of pet-friendly hotels out there. While not every hotel will accept pets, you can use the filters on a site like hotels.com to find hotels that will welcome pets of all sizes.
Don’t think that you’ll have to stay in some run-down and out-of-the-way place either. Many large hotel chains like Hampton Inn and Best Western Plus have pet-friendly options.
Renting an RV
Another way to travel with your pet is to rent an RV. Cruise America is a popular RV rental company that is pet friendly where you can rent RVs either one way or round trip.
If you are traveling with your big dog, you will find that campgrounds are welcoming to dogs and that RV travel can be fun. This can be a far less stressful way to travel for your dog because their surroundings and people will stay consistent.
Shipping Your Dog
If you are relocating internationally or to a location where driving to your destination isn’t feasible, you can ship a large dog. This isn’t done by the postal service, but rather specialty companies that ship dogs on the cargo holds of planes.
This area of the plane is heated, cooled, and pressurized.
You can also hire companies that will fly your pet in a private aircraft, much like the charter flights mentioned above but with just your dog flying private. The company Blue Collar Pet Transport offers this service.