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Flying with large dogs can be nerve wrecking – been there, done that – but it’s doable if you start your research and plan well ahead of time!
Generally speaking, all dogs that weigh over 20 lbs are considered large dogs in terms of flying with them.
Unless they’re Service Dogs, large dogs are typically not allowed to fly in-cabin on commercial flights.
Depending on the respective air carrier’s pet policy, large Emotional Support Dogs are likely also allowed to fly with you in-cabin.
Obviously, you’ll have to provide paperwork that states that you actually DO need a Service Dog or an Emotional Support dog, and your pup needs to behave accordingly.
Besides that, your only other option to fly in-cabin with your large dog is to book a flight on a semi-private plane or to charter one altogether.
For starters, we’ll mention the more exclusive US air carriers we’re aware of below, followed by commercial airlines that fly large dogs cargo.
Best Airline to Fly In-Cabin With A Large Dog
The good news is that there are several independent semi-private and private air carriers in the US that allow large pet dogs to fly in-cabin!
Since they’re not regular commercial airlines, they usually depart from and arrive at private terminals.
While they’re more expensive than regular commercial flights, you also don’t have to arrive as much in advance as you do for commercial flights, which helps reduce the stress of flying for your pup.
Besides the additional cost of getting your large pup to sit next to you, these air carriers don’t depart from and land at as many airports as commercial airlines do.
So that’s something to keep in mind when you’re planning on flying with large dogs!
JSX flies smaller dogs up to 20 lbs free of charge and allows dogs weighing up to 79 lbs to fly in-cabin! However, there’s a limit of 5 pets per flight.
You do have to purchase a seat right next to yours for your dog, and understand that they’re only allowed to lie in front of that seat, not sit on it.
All that said, JSX is the most affordable airline to fly your large pet dog in-cabin as the four airlines listed below are more exclusive hence expensive.
You can check out JSX’s pet policy here.
Aero only has room for up to 16 passengers and 2 pets.
Unlike JSX, Aero also charges $300 for flying smaller dogs up to 20 lbs (in a carrier), but they also allow large dogs in-cabin!
Just like JSX, you’ll have to purchase an additional seat for flying with large dogs.
You can check out Aero’s pet policy here.
Surf Air operates throughout the entire US and makes flying with large dogs possible as long as they don’t weigh more than 100 lbs.
Expect to pay a fee of around $100 payable 2 days prior to flying for smaller dogs weighing up to 20 lbs.
For larger dogs, you’ll have to pay a single-use flight pass two days prior to flying. Larger dogs are allowed to sit on seats as long as they’re harnessed.
This particular airline requires a membership which starts at $199/month.
You can check out Surf Air’s pet policy here.
Tradewind operates mostly in the Northeastern United States and the Caribbean and is planning to add a Florida base as of September 2023.
They fly all size pets including large breed dogs.
Similar to the previous two private carriers we mentioned, you’ll have to purchase a seat for flying with large dogs, but only if they’re over 100 lbs.
You can read more about pets flying with Tradewind here.
Similar to the previously mentioned private carriers, Blade allows dogs under 25 lbs for a fee of $50.
You’ll have to buy an additional seat for dogs who weigh more than 25 lbs.
On chartered flights, dogs (and other pets) can fly at no additional charge.
You can check out Blade’s pet policy here.
So, can large dogs fly on private planes? Why yes, and quite comfortably too, but it obviously comes at a price.
How to Fly With A Large Dog
OK, now it’s time to get back to reality if your budget isn’t quite as large as your dog!
While none of the big commercial airlines allow large pet dogs to fly with you in-cabin, most have pet policies that allow large dogs in their cargo area.
Commercial Airlines That Allow Large Dogs In Cargo
Airline Requirements For Large Dogs In Cargo
All airlines require dogs to be weaned and at least 8-12 weeks old at the time of their flight, regardless of size.
Additionally, they need to be in good physical health, have a current rabies vaccination and a health certificate from their vet.
They’ll also need to fit comfortably into their airline approved travel carrier.
Here’s the maximum size that generally works for all airlines:
39.5” Length x 25” Width x 30” Height
Some airlines also accept giant pet carriers that measure closer to 48” x 32” x 35”, but please double check with your respective airline before flying with large dogs.
For more information on airline approved pet carriers for dogs, check out our blog post below:
Regardless of the size you’ll need for your large pup, you’ll want to practice using it well ahead of time. Especially if your pup isn’t crate trained!
This approach removes some of the stress on your travel day because it provides a safe place your pup is familiar with.
There are specific requirements as far as paperwork when you’re flying your dog internationally, and we’ll cover those in the international section.
Is It Safe For A Dog To Fly In Cargo?
Flying with large dogs in cargo is generally considered safe although there have been a few instances where dogs have died in cargo.
This was mostly due to extreme temperatures and poor handling of the travel crate.
As a result, many airlines stopped transporting snub-nosed dogs with short nasal passages in their cargo hold. For example, Bulldogs, Boxers, Chow Chows and Pugs.
Since they have a harder time breathing and cooling down than dogs with regular size noses, they also have a harder time adjusting to temperature and pressure changes in the cargo area.
That said, the cargo area where large dogs travel is temperature controlled and pressurized.
Additionally, the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) has these guidelines for the care and handling of pets during air travel for their personnel.
Heat Embargo Airline Restrictions For Dogs
Most airlines also make flying with large dogs impossible during the warmer months, which is typically the case between May and September.
This heat embargo is in place to prevent dogs from overheating during tarmac wait times before the plane departs and while waiting to deplane at its final destination.
This additional challenge underlines the importance of planning any plane trips with large dogs well ahead of time!
Can I Buy A Plane Ticket For My Large Dog?
You typically can’t buy a plane ticket for your large dog ahead of time as you buy yours, at least not on commercial flights.
Instead, you pay for your dog’s flight when you drop them off at the airline counter along with your baggage.
But when you’re booking a flight for yourself and your pup, it’s best to call the airline and talk to them about your travel plans with your large dog.
You’ll also want to reconfirm your pup’s flight 48 hours before your travel day.
That way, you’ll be able to avoid potential last minute surprises at the airline counter!
How Much Does It Cost To Fly A Large Dog On A Plane?
Flying with large dogs is affordable with prices ranging between $100-600, depending on your final destination and how many layovers are included.
Service animals fly free of charge with all airlines.
Flying With A Large Dog Internationally
While flying with a big dog internationally comes with a few more requirements than domestic flights do, it’s not rocket science!
We flew our 38 lb dog Wally internationally from Dulles Airport in the States to Frankfurt Airport in Germany back in March 2021, right in the midst of the COVID pandemic.
Fun fact: Wally didn’t have to quarantine, but WE did (for 14 days)! How about that?!
We flew Lufthansa, a popular German airline because it was the only airline that flew dogs cargo from the US to Germany during the pandemic.
Although we personally don’t consider Wally large by any means, Lufthansa did because he weighs more than 20 lbs, so he had to board the cargo area for around $250.
So we put the wire dog crate up and switched it out for his travel crate, and Wally had no problem curling up in it on travel day!
Requirements For International Flights With Large Dogs
Just like for domestic flights within the US, your large pup will have to be in good health.
You’ll need proof of that in an international health certificate not older than 10 days that includes:
- Your pup’s international microchip number (consists of 15 digits)
- Up-to-date rabies vaccination certificate
This health certificate needs to be issued by a vet who’s USDA-accredited.
The rabies certificate needs to be signed in blue ink, which is really important and something they DO check for at customs!
Tip: Always check for potential breed restrictions in the country prior to making plans of flying with large dogs!
Germany, for example, has a few breed restrictions and doesn’t allow American Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers as well as a few other dog breeds deemed “dangerous”.
Non Stop Night Flights Are Best For Flying A Large Dog Internationally
Here’s a tip: If you can manage to hop on a direct nighttime flight with your pup, do it!
Direct flights translate into the shortest amount of time spent at the airport and in the air, and nighttime flights make it easier for your pup to sleep because they cater to your dog’s sleeping routine.
So although we used to live in NC, we took a rental up to D.C. and boarded the plane for the 9 hour flight there. And although Frankfurt, Germany wasn’t our final destination in Germany either, we took a rental from there to our new home near Stuttgart.
Thankfully, Wally loves car rides so taking this route was a no-brainer for us when we planned this trip.
If you’d prefer the assistance of Professional Pet Shippers, check out IPATA (International Pet and Animal Transportation Association).
However, this service isn’t cheap, so that’s something to be aware of when you plan your international trip with large dogs.
So, can you fly with a large dog? Yes, but there are a few caveats to be aware of.
While Service Dogs are always allowed on planes and fly free, remember that flying with a large Service Dog is different from flying with a large pet dog.
Flights that allow large dogs in-cabin are going to be operated by semi-private or private airlines like JSX or Aero and come at a fairly high price point.
Commercial airlines that fly large dogs in cargo such as United, Delta & Air Canada are much more affordable.
However, they all have their own pet policies for flying with a large dog in cargo, so remember to check in with the respective airline for breed-specific requirements they may have.
But regardless of the airline you’re flying with, your large pup will need to be at least 8 weeks old, healthy, up to date on their rabies vaccination and microchipped if they’re traveling internationally.
Last but not least, make sure to start your dog’s travel crate training as early as possible to reduce the overall stress on travel day.
Do you have any experience flying with large dogs? Let us know in the comment section!
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