For many people, traveling is already a stressful experience. But when you add in traveling with a pet that you love and care for, that stress can multiply pretty quickly. One way that you can reduce that stress is to be knowledgeable and prepared when dealing with an airlines pet policy.
In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about the American Airlines pet policy including things like fees and the restrictions and limitations. I will also cover special restrictions for things like international routes and flight connections.
What is the American Airlines pet policy?
You can travel with your pet as a carry-on, checked pet, or via American Airlines cargo as long as you provide adequate carriers for your pets, supply any needed documentation, and pay the fees I’ll outline below.
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What are the fees for traveling with your pet?
The fees that you pay will depend on the type of pet that you have (e.g., service animal) and the method of transportation (checked, carry-on, etc.).
Checked pet fees
If your pet is traveling as checked (meaning it’s not coming with you as a carry-on) then Active-duty U.S. Military and State Department personnel will be charged a $200 fee per kennel for routes within and between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean.
If you do not belong to one of those groups are bringing your pet as a “cargo pet” the price will vary.
Not all airlines allow checked pet animals so that’s something to consider.
Carry-on pet fees
If your pet is traveling as a carry-on in the cabin then you will be charged a $125 fee per kennel for routes within and between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Compare that to the $95 pet fee for Southwest.
And finally, if you are traveling with a service animal you will not be charged an additional fee.
These fees are for each way of travel. If your itinerary includes a voluntary stop over or connection that is more than four hours then your charges will apply for each connection segment.
All of the pet fees are nonrefundable. So if your pet ends up not taking the flight you will be unable to recover the fee.
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How to avoid AA pet fees
One of the easiest ways to avoid pet fees is to use the right credit card. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a good card for general travel expenses and its points can be used to offset airline pet fees since they will often code as travel.
You can also use an incidental credit attached to a travel credit card. For example, the Platinum Card has a $200 incidental credit.
Other cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve have a $300 travel credit that could be used on virtually any type of travel purchase including pet fees.
American Airlines pet international restrictions
If you are flying with a pet on an international route you need to be mindful of potential special restrictions and fees that can be very high.
In some cases, you may not even be allowed to fly with your pet but in others you may have to supply some sort of verification for things like shots.
Below are some of the restrictions you might encounter.
London, England (LHR)
Dogs and cats traveling to LHR need approval from the Heathrow Animal Reception Center (HARC). The HARC charges a fee (£366) for animals that do not meet the criteria for assistance animals and you should contact them at least 7 days before your flight.
If you would like to fly with your pet as a carry-on on a transatlantic flight meaning a flight between say the US in Europe, You will not be allowed to do so.
Your pet can fly as checked luggage to certain locations. The UK does not allow pets with the exception being London (LHR) and Manchester (MAN) allowing pets to fly as American Airlines cargo.
If you are planning on crossing the Pacific ocean, you should know that carry-on pets are not allowed. Japan does allow for checked pets from Japan to Los Angeles (LAX) but you must book a flight less than 11 hours and 30 minutes.
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American Airlines carry-on pet rules
If your furry friend is going to accompany you as a carry-on, here are some things to keep in mind. As mentioned, you will need to pay the $125 carry-on fee and your pet must remain inside the kennel at all times.
Your pet carrier will act as your carry-on so you will NOT be allowed to bring in a personal item, a carry-on item, and your pet carrier. Find out more about American Airlines baggage fees here.
- Pets must be able to stand and sit erect, turn around normally and lie down in a natural position in their kennel (without touching any side or the top of the container)
- If your kennel is not collapsible it cannot exceed the undersea dimensions of the aircraft. You can contact reservations to verify maximum dimensions for your journey.
- Soft-sided collapsible kennels can be slightly larger but still need to fit under the seat without having to excessively collapse the kennel, have to be secure, padded, made of water-repellant material and have nylon mesh ventilation on 2 or more sides.
There are limitations on the total number of kennels allowed on certain flights:
- 7 kennels on American flights, excluding service animals
- 5 kennels on American Eagle flights; 1 in First
For this reason, you may want to call ahead and make your reservations to guarantee a spot. You can find the appropriate American Airlines customer service phone number to call here.
If you are flying business class or first class on certain flights, there may not be enough room for your carry-on pet. The type of aircraft that don’t have enough room include:
American Airlines checked pet rules
American Airlines allows you to travel with up to two checked pets. Pets are accepted on a first come basis so again you will want to contact reservations as soon as you know you will be traveling with your pet. You also need to contact reservations at least 48 hours prior to your trip.
American Airlines recommends that you allow extra time at check-in. So you will want to arrive early but just remember that you can’t check pets more than four hours before your flight.
You will then need to complete a checklist with an airport agent and then provide a health certificate. This health certificate must be issued by a vet within:
- 10 days of your travel
- 60 days of your return (travel on the same ticket)
- 10 days of your return (travel on a separate ticket)
You need to pay special attention to all of the guidelines for kennels when transporting your pet.
The kennel needs to be spacious enough so that your pet can stand, turn, sit and lie down in a natural position. If your pet is forced to touch any side of the container while in this natural position, the kennel may not be big enough.
There also may be specific maximum size requirements based on the aircraft that you are flying on.
The kennel must be made up of wood, metal, plastic or some other type of similar material. Basically, it needs to be sturdy.
The kennel must have a door and it needs to be made of a welded or cast metal. The kennel must also be secured at the top and bottom with bolts and or screws. It will need to be secured by yourself with release cable ties on all four corners and American Airlines will provide complementary ties.
It also needs to be rigid and secure enough so that no animal can escape through the gaps or potentially poke body parts through the gaps. It needs to be leak and escape proof with a secure fastened door and have ventilation on three sides for US domestic flights and four sides for international flights.
Food and water
You need to have separate food and water dishes attached securely to the inside of the kennel. You also need to have a small bag of food attached to the top that could cover the animal for 24 hours.
Finally, the kennel must be clean and have absorbent material or litter but not anything like straw or wood shavings.
If you are traveling with your pet on connecting flights then checked pets will only be allowed on fights connecting in the following airports:
- Charlotte, NC (CLT)
- Chicago O’Hare, IL (ORD)
- Dallas / Fort Worth, TX (DFW)
- Los Angeles, CA (LAX)
- New York Kennedy, NY (JFK)
- New York LaGuardia, NY (LGA)
- Miami, FL (MIA)
- Philadelphia, PA (PHL)
- Phoenix, AZ (PHX)
- Washington Reagan, DC (DCA)
Checked pets cannot travel on the following aircraft:
Sedation is not recommended because it could potentially cause breathing issues for your pet (things get complicated with the pressurized cabins). If your pet is sedated, you’ll need to give AA agents the name of the medication, the amount and date and time the animal took it.
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American Airlines will not let you travel with a pet if a current or forecasted temperature is above 85°F (29.4 degrees C) in any location of your itinerary.
American Airlines will not let you travel with a pet if the ground temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 degrees C) at any location on your itinerary.
Note that you can get the cold temperature restrictions waived if you have a letter from a licensed vet. This letter will need to include the following information:
- Your name and address
- Your pet’s name
- Your vet’s name and signature
- Your vet’s accreditation date and number
- The temperature your pet is acclimated to
The letter must be dated:
- Within 10 days of the first flight your pet will be on
- Within 30 days of any other trips in the same itinerary
Note: If the temperature is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.6 degrees C), your pet cannot be checked even with a letter from your vet.
Is traveling as a checked pet safe?
The safest way to travel with your pet is as a carry-on. You are right there with them and can monitor them the entire time in case they need a little bit of comfort or care. But when they fly as a checked pet you are completely removed from them during the duration of the flight and for some time before and after the flight.
According to the DOT, over half a million pets flew in cargo in 2016 and of those animals, 26 died and 22 were injured. So the accident rate was 1 per 10,000 pets.
So if those stats are accurate, you have a one in 10,000 chance of something happening to your pet. Now those stats don’t account for the potentially stressful experience that your pet will have. For some people, a one in 10,000 chance is still too much risk with a pet while others will feel comfortable with those odds.
Personally, I would try to avoid shipping my pet in cargo if possible.
Service and support animals (and notice)
Service animals and emotional support animals have specific requirements but there is no additional charge for them if they meet all of the requirements.
Some people get confused about the difference between these two types of animals and hopefully this will clarify. Emotional support animals assist individuals with emotional, psychiatric or cognitive disabilities. For these type of animals, advance notice and approval is required to bring them on board in the cabin.
Trained service animals have been specifically trained to perform life functions for individuals with disabilities like visual impairments, deafness, etc. American Airlines encourages advance notice for trained service animals but it is not required.
Limit on emotional support animals
- 1 emotional support / psychiatric service animal per person
Types of animals accepted
- Cats and dogs (trained miniature horse may be permitted as a service animal) are generally acceptable as service and support animals
- Any other animals must comply with the US Department of Transportation requirements for health and safety including documentation of the animal’s up to date vaccination records and may not cause significant cabin disruption
- Animals must be 4 months or older
- Animals must be clean and well-behaved
- Animals must be able to fit at your feet, under your seat or in your lap (lap animals must be smaller than a 2-year old child)
- Final approval for travel will not happen until you arrive at the airport and it is determined that the animal will safely fit at your feet.
Keep in mind that your animals on board cannot:
- Be seated in an exit row
- Protrude into or block aisles
- Occupy a seat
- Eat from tray tables
So, if it is determined that your animal is too large or heavy you might need to:
- Rebook on a flight with more open seats
- Buy a ticket for the animal
- Transport the animal as a checked pet
Find out more about AA service animals and emotional support animals.
American Airlines Pet Policy FAQ
For a checked pet, the fee is $200 per kennel for Active-duty U.S. Military and State Department personnel only and varies for others. For carry-ons the fee is $125 per kennel. These prices are for each way of travel.
You can use airline credits to avoid the fee with some credit cards such as the Amex Platinum Card.
All of the pet fees are nonrefundable.
You can bring pets on some international flights but in many cases you will need to bring verification for shots. Also, your pet may not be able to fly as a carry-on on overseas flights.
Your pet carrier will count as your carry-on so you will only be able to bring in a personal item in addition to your pet carrier.
American Airlines allows you to travel with up to two checked pets.
Checked pets are only allowed on connecting flights in the following airports:
Charlotte, NC (CLT)
Chicago O’Hare, IL (ORD)
Dallas / Fort Worth, TX (DFW)
Los Angeles, CA (LAX)
New York Kennedy, NY (JFK)
New York LaGuardia, NY (LGA)
Miami, FL (MIA)
Philadelphia, PA (PHL)
Phoenix, AZ (PHX)
Washington Reagan, DC (DCA)
It is generally not recommended to give your dog a sedative because it could cause breathing issues. Check with your vet for guidance.
The American Airlines pet policy is pretty straightforward. You are looking at paying anywhere from $125-$200 depending on the type of transportation method for your pet. You just need to be mindful about restrictions on certain routes and destinations and you should be all set!
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.