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Airlines' rules for flying with pets vary

Several airlines take pets as checked luggage. Some also allow pets in the cabin, but they must be small.

Associated Press (2005)

Several airlines take pets as checked luggage. Some also allow pets in the cabin, but they must be small.

Bringing animals on flights has become more commonplace in recent years, but some airlines now have strict regulations — and even stricter prices — to pack a pooch or carry a cat. But with increasing concern for the welfare of canine and feline alike, there are a growing number of options to transport pets by plane. • And some airlines can be more pet-friendly than others.

Rules for the cabin

AirTran, Spirit, JetBlue and, now, Southwest allow pets to fly in the cabin. That's great for animal lovers who argue that precious pets shouldn't be relegated to the cargo hold, but not so great for owners with medium or large dogs. Pups in the cabin must be able to fit (read: stand up and turn around) in a carrier small enough to slide under the seat in front of you during flight. Generally, this maxes out at about 20 pounds.

US Airways only allows pets in the cabin, except for nonstop US Airways Shuttle flights between Boston, New York and Washington, where they will permit them as checked baggage.

Though pets are allowed in the cabin on these airlines, they set limits on the number of pets on a flight, ranging from three to seven, depending on the airline and size of the jet. So it's best to book early and call the airline to tell them you're traveling with a pet as soon as possible.

JetBlue is the only U.S. airline that allows animals in the cabin on international flights. As a bonus, you'll also earn extra frequent-flier points for traveling with your pet.

For pets traveling in the cabin, AirTran charges the least among big carriers at $69. Most U.S. airlines charge between $100 and $125, but bringing a pet in the cabin on Delta and Northwest flights costs $150.

Traveling as cargo

For those traveling as checked baggage, Delta and Northwest are again the most expensive at $275. The least expensive in this category are Alaska Airlines and Midwest at $100, and Frontier, which prices its checked pet fees between $100 and $200. Frontier allows pets only as checked baggage.

In all cases, the airlines won't charge you a first or second bag fee for your dog on top of the pet fee. But some airlines will count the kennel as a piece of checked luggage, so if you have more than two bags, you might get slammed with another fee.

Aside from the fees, traveling with a pet can sometimes be a frustrating and even scary experience. Although it's rare, a handful of pets are lost or killed each year when traveling on airlines.

Another option

There are other options popping up for pet lovers looking for a more comforting experience. Pet Airways, which launches in July, will send your pet between major cities, but, unfortunately, not in the Tampa Bay area. Cities include New York, Washington, Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles for $250 one-way (an introductory fare of $150).

Dogs and cats will fly in a main cabin where seats have been replaced by kennels, and pets will be escorted to the four-legs-only flight by attendants who will monitor them during flight.

Next week: How to prepare your pet for a flight.

Next week: How to prepare your pet for a flight.

Airlines' rules for flying with pets vary 06/16/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 6:31am]
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