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Flying With a Dog under the Airplane Seat: The Ultimate Guide

Have you been wondering about flying with a dog under the airplane seat? I’ve got you covered!

Flying for the first time with your dog? How exciting! It can also be nerve-wracking trying to figure out what the airline rules are.

Then there’s the whole question of how your dog is going to act on the flight. Of course, we’re all aiming for the perfect travel companion…but come on. Even as I type this, my precious dog is barking my ear off at the neighbor making a ruckus outside. So I am well aware that things don’t always go as planned with our dogs. What can we do to make the trip a good one?

My dogs are used to traveling with us, and they generally do well in their crates and carriers. That has made the journey easier whether it was flying across the US or across continents. My biggest tip is to take time to prepare before the travel day. Since you are here, you are well on your way!

Here’s a guide for traveling with your dog under the airplane seat.

Flying With A Dog Under Your Airplane Seat

General Etiquette

The airline requires your dog to stay under the seat in front of you. Sometimes neighboring passengers might be allergic or even afraid of dogs. Others will ask to see what kind of cuteness is hiding inside the crate. So it is best not to try to take your dog out of the carrier until you land. You know you will have had a successful flight if you overhear, “Oh wow! I didn’t even know there was a dog there!” Then if the neighbor asks, you can show off your fantastic travel companion.

Try to keep your dog from barking or whining during the flight. Read Dog Whining on a Plane? 10 tips (+1 bonus) to Prepare for a Stress-free Flight for a thorough explanation of how to accomplish this. This is one of those situations where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure Help your dog stay calm during chaotic and unfamiliar places with desensitization and practice.

Some things that might help your dog and fellow travelers:

  • Board early (if allowed by the airline)
  • Have a fresh and clean dog – pets can be denied for being stinky
  • Avoid surprise behaviors by keeping your dog inside its container
  • Keep the carrier on the floor, in front of the assigned seat, not on the seats and not in the aisles.
  • Buy your neighbors a drink if your dog is having a hard time.
Dog carrier open during the flight is not allowed
Keep your pup safely tucked away inside their carrier during the flight
Banner encouraging people to tell their story. Two dogs in the photo

How big can a dog be to fly in The cabin?

If you don’t have a pet yet, this guide will help you pick the best breed for air travel.


Your dog needs to be able to stand up, turn around, sit erect, and lie in a natural position while inside its carrier.

The carrier will be required to fit under the seat in front of you for take-off and landing.

Some airlines or flight attendants will require your pet to stay under the seat for the entire journey. Others allow for a little more flexibility in putting the crate on your lap once you reach altitude.

You don’t want to jam your medium-sized pup under the seat if they truly don’t fit.

🐶 Thinking of getting a dog? Take our quiz to help you select the best breed for your travel style

Which airline is best for turning a blind eye to a dog that is just a teensy bit too big according to the strict rules?

I’m in a number of groups and forums that discuss traveling with pets, so that helps me look at a lot of data points beyond my own experience. A common question is, “Which airline is best for turning a blind eye to a dog that is just a teensy bit too big according to the strict rules?”

Medium sized dog is lying next to an airline approved carrier.  He might be too large to fit under the cabin seat

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like there is a clear winner. In the exact same thread of conversation, one person will say the airline didn’t even acknowledge they had a dog. The very next person talking about the same airline says they were turned away at the gate for the dog’s ears touching the top of the crate (which is too strict an interpretation of the regulations).


It seems to depend a little more on the personality, experience, and mood of the individual employee than an overall best airline. So, your best bet for not losing sleep is to try to follow the regulations as closely as possible and pick an airline whose rules fit your circumstances best.

One suggestion people were recently talking about in the forums is to bring your dog in the large carrier size but pack the medium size with you. If any airline officials say anything, you can switch to the smaller carrier if needed.

Pro Tip: If you have a slightly larger dog, check out this backpack. The orientation makes it better for dogs with longer legs

Airline weight allowances

The general rule of thumb is the dog + the carrier need to weigh less than 8 kg (18 lbs). However, there are many variations among the airlines.

The dog plus the carrier need to weigh less than 8 kg (18 lbs)
The dog + the carrier need to weigh less than 8 kg (18 lbs)
  • Commercial Airline with the heaviest weight allowance – Spirit Airlines 40 pounds (18.14 kg)
  • Commercial Airline with no weight allowance specified – Southwest Airlines

Even though the weight limits are expanded, the carrier size is still limited, so the extra weight is especially helpful to small but stockier dogs such as a pug.

Airline carrier size

Figuring this out can be quite a headache. While the carrier generally needs to be small enough to fit under the seat, there are small differences for each airline. Some allow more length, others allow more height, and others allow more width.

Below are the steps I follow when figuring it all out. However, if you want a chart that pulls a lot of this information together, I have created one. It is definitely a lot of information, but if you want to compare the information at a glance, I can send it to you!

Look up what routes fly to your intended destination. Then go to their pet requirements and see which one might work best for your dog. For example, if you have a dachshund (wiener dog), you might want the airline with the longer crate allowances.

Many airlines also allow hard crates as well, but I’ve honestly never seen one used in the cabin, so I’ll only include soft-sided carriers here. The dimensions for hard crates especially for height are shorter because they can’t squish to fit under the seat.

Dog's nose is sticking out of his airline approved carrier
Katie B. Brody’s border terrier is checking things out at the airport
Carrier sizes on major US domestic airlines
  • Delta/ American/ United – maximum soft carrier size 18″ L x 11″ W x 11″ H
  • Jet Blue – maximum soft carrier size 17″ L x 12.5″ W x 8.5″ H
  • Southwest Airlines – maximum soft carrier size 18.5” L x 13.5” W x 9.5” H
  • Spirit Airlines maximum soft carrier size 18″ L x 14W x 9 ”H

As you can see, you might be allowed to take a heavy dog on Spirit, but that dog will have to be rather short to fit in the 9-inch height limit.

Carrier sizes on major International airlines
  • Air France/ KLM – maximum soft carrier size 18″ L x 11″ W x 9″ H
  • Lufthansa – maximum soft carrier size 22″ L x 16″ W x 9″ H
  • Air Canada– maximum soft carrier size 21.5″ L x 15.5 W x 10.5″H
Domestic and international alternatives for dogs too big to fit under the seat

It might be possible to find a carrier local to your region that provides services that meet your needs. They tend to be significantly more expensive, but it might be worth it if you can find them.

JSX , for example, has several routes in Texas, California, Nevada, and Arizona and they allow dogs up to 79 lbs to fly in the cabin. For larger dogs, a separate seat must be purchased specifically for your dog.

✈️ Use my referral code when you make a JSX account to get $20 off your first flight – VAK10E

La Compagnie is an all-business class airline that can get you from New Jersey to Paris or Italy with a medium size dog in the cabin.

Countries that don’t allow pets to arrive in the cabin

There are some countries such as the UK that are rabies-free. The UK has very strict pet immigration requirements. The only way to fly a pet into the UK is through cargo. You can’t fly even a tiny yorkie into Heathrow Airport in the cabin.

Other very popular airlines such as Singapore Air and Emirates don’t provide services for in-cabin pets.

Pets in Premium Airline Cabins

The time when most people want extra room to spread out are those ten-plus hour flights. Unfortunately, The expectation is that the carrier fits under the seat in front of you. Since that’s not how the premium seats work for long-haul flights, many airlines only allow pets in the cabin of economy flights.

For domestic flights, most airlines will allow pets in the roomier seats towards the front of the plane that are called business or first class.

For intercontinental flights however, I could only find LATAM which allowed pets on premium economy, and Air Canada allows pets in some lie flat business flights, but it is based on the airplane model. The specialized all-business class airline La Compagnie does allow pets in lie-flat seats.

For the most part, if you want to fly with your pet in-cabin there are not very many upgrade options for intercontinental flights.

Premium cabin seats are not available for pet owners since the carrier can't be stowed under the seat in front

Health Requirements & Restrictions

If you want to know more about specific country requirements, and what community members have to say about traveling with pets,

Check out our ever-growing Countries page to learn more about your destination.

The information includes health requirements and what paperwork you need to prepare.

Pretty much everywhere you go, you will need to prove your pet is up to date on its rabies vaccine. Other requirements will vary.

For those of you who have a snub-nosed dog such as a French bulldog or a pug, you have the fewest options available. These types of dogs are called brachycephalic breeds. Their flat noses cause breathing problems that are made more difficult when flying.

Many airlines stopped allowing the snub-nosed breeds in excess baggage. They also have stricter regulations around flying in warmer temperatures. It is still possible to fly with these breeds in the cabin of many airlines. If you have one of these breeds, you will want to research your options very carefully.

Emotional Support Pets and Service Dogs

According to the regulations revised in 2020 by the Department of Transportation, 

Definition of a Service Dog

A dog that’s individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.

Service dog wearing his vest is allowed to accompany his owner on a flight regardless of his size
Emotional Support Animals

Most major US-based airlines have eliminated the emotional support animals (ESA) program. ESA are no longer considered to be service animals and fly by the same regulations as other pets. There are a few international airlines that still allow ESAs, but they tend to be for smaller pets.

How It Works

Even big dogs can fly free in the cabin with the person they are trained to serve. 

The ADA adds, For evidence that an animal is a service animal, air carriers may ask to see identification cards, written documentation, presence of harnesses or tags, and ask the questions they are legally allowed to ask.

Dog Breeds That Fit under an Airplane Seat

I tend to think of my 23-pound border terrier as a small dog. I think most people would agree, but not according to airline regulations. Even though there are a few airlines such as Southwest and Spirit where he meets the weight requirements, he can’t fit in any of the acceptable carriers.

That means for a breed to be allowed in the cabin, we are really only looking at tea-cup and small dogs. If your dog is on the big side of being a small or a medium dog, you will want to head over to my post on flying with big dogs even if no one would ever consider your dog to be “big” under normal circumstances.

Some people are willing to risk it if their dog is just over the size limits. In the forums I belong to, I’ve seen a number of dogs that don’t quite meet the requirements get through. I’ve also seen plenty of people who flew with their dogs 10+ times get turned away on the 11th time. It’s up to you to decide if you want to take that risk. Make sure you have a backup plan if you do.

How will French bulldogs, chihuahuas, corgis, dachshunds, and Maltese poodles do under the airplane seat?

Best Pet-Friendly Airlines

I’ve definitely googled, “best airlines for dogs” before. There are some posts out there, but few are very up-to-date and others are not particularly thorough. Unfortunately, there is not one simple answer to this question. The answer really depends more on the options available based on where you are trying to go as well as how well the airline policies match your dog’s characteristics.

  • Southwest Airlines – For dogs that are heavy but small in size
  • Delta/ American/ United – All three of these airlines allow 11 inches of height, so they would be better for dogs with longer legs
  • Air Canada– For both regional and international flights, they have some of the lowest prices
  • Alaska Airlines / Jet Blue / United – These airlines allow you to purchase a second seat for a second pet, so if you have two dogs or a dog and a cat, one of these airlines might be a good option.

Finding The Airline Pet Policy

It’s actually pretty easy to find the pet policy for each airline if you start with Google instead of the airline.

Type the name of the airline + “pet policy” into the search bar. The first result will usually be exactly what you are looking for.

Some airline pages are organized better than others. I often have to click on multiple links within the site to find the details I’m looking for. After reviewing many of the pages carefully, I still have some questions that I would probably have to call to get answered.

I wanted to have a cheat sheet that I could glance at quickly while reviewing my flight details, so I created a very basic Google spreadsheet of some of the top domestic and international carriers to compare sizes, prices, and a number of other requirements.

If you would like to have to use my cheat sheet, I can send it to you!

Best Airline Pet Carriers

Which airplane carriers will work for dogs on 1 through 10-hour flights?

There are so many details to figure out when planning a trip with your dog. Figuring out things like what size dog carrier fits under airplane seat can add to that feeling of being overwhelmed. While there are many choices out there. If you want to just cross this off your to-do list, pick one of the recommendations below.

Best Overall Soft Carrier- Sherpa® Original Deluxe™ Airline Approved Pet Carrier

Norwich terrier in an airline approved Sherpa pet carrier
Denver is relaxing inside of the Sherpa (M) we flew him home in from the breeder

This is an incredibly popular crate with over 10K positive reviews on Amazon.

Its popularity boils down to 3 main factors: 1) it is airline approved. 2) It is very reasonably priced at less than $40. 3) While no frills, it is a sturdy bag that will last for years and many trips.

The medium size (17″L x 11″W x 10.5″H) fits many of the airline dimension requirements. While the large size is just over the limits, it is an example of where it just puts its toes over the line, so some people might be willing to risk it to provide a little more space for their furry companion.

You can also squish it to a flatter shape to store in a closet when not in use.

Best multi-purpose soft carrier for smaller dogs – Sleepypod Air

Norwich terrier in a Sleepypod dog carrier that fits under the seat on the plane.
Denver uses this crate in the car, but we could take it on the plane too

This carrier is my top recommendation for smaller dogs traveling in cars. It is crash test rated and has a number of safety features that will keep your pet securely in place in the event of an accident. For me, that peace of mind when driving was worth the hefty price tag of $199.

Its dimensions at 22”L x 10.5”W x 10”H (reduces to 16”L x 10.5”W x 10”H) make it a good fit for many airlines as well. It is on the narrower side, so it fits smaller or thinner dogs better than the sturdier breeds.

I would probably not spend that much money on a carrier just for flying, but if you want one bag that your dog can be familiar with and can go from car to plane, this is an excellent choice.

This is the carrier we used for our terrier on our cross-country road trip

Best expandable airplane carrier – Mr. Peanut -Tahoe Expandable Backpack

Travel days can mean your dog is cooped up for a number of hours. Your dogs are supposed to stay in their carriers while in the airport as well as on the plane. It is nice if you would like to provide a little more room for your pups to spread out.

At Mr. Peanut Tahoe Expandable Backpack is a little larger than the standard airline, but since it is soft sided, the width can be squished to fit many of the airline’s requirements.

This is the backpack we used to fly our terrier from the US to Italy. We liked that it works on the plane, but we can also use it on busses and trains too. See my video review.

Flying With Your Dog In Cabin Vs Cargo

Read the full guide to the options for flying under the plane in Flying With A Big Dog: Travel Tips For Ease & Safety

Many people use the word cargo to mean the dog is flying under the plane. There are actually two different ways a dog flies under the plane.

Flying with your dog in cargo

Your pet flies in the pressurized, temperature-controlled cargo area of the plane. The pet has its own ticket and can even fly independently of its owner.

Pomeranian is resting inside his dog crate preparing to fly cargo. His crate has a bowl and water feeder attached


  • The airline employees are usually well-trained to handle animals
  • Depending on the airport and facilities, pets may be given more attention during layovers
  • You could set up your new home before a family member ships them a week later
  • Allows for more options including dogs that don’t meet size or breed requirements


  • You will be separated from your pet for the duration of the journey
  • This is usually the most expensive of the 3 main methods
  • Sometimes you need to hire a pet cargo company which adds more to the cost
  • You may have to go to a nearby location outside of the main terminal for pick-up and drop-off

Flying with your dog as excess baggage

Your pet also flies in a pressurized and temperature-controlled area of the plane. However, this time their journey is directly tied to yours. They will fly on the same plane as you and be collected in the luggage area of the airport.

One method for dogs to fly is in excess baggage. This dog is lying inside a suitcase


  • Drop off and pick up are inside the main airport terminal
  • It is a reasonable price even for international flights
  • There are many options for international flights


  • You will be separated from your pet for the duration of the journey
  • Layovers can be tricky if they are too long or too short
  • There are not very many options for this method on domestic US flights.
  • There are often breed restrictions, especially for snub-nosed dogs

Flying with your dog in-cabin

Your pet flies with you in the cabin of the flight you are on. It goes in a carrier that slides under the seat in front of you

Dog crate stowed under the airplane seat in front of the owner


  • This is most people’s preferred method to travel with their pets since they can be with their pets the entire time
  • During layovers, you can take your pet out of its carrier for bathroom relief or to get some water
  • You and your pet can provide comfort to each other along the journey
  • It is the most affordable method


  • Most dogs, even ones that you normally think of as small, don’t meet the requirements, so it may not be an option
  • It is a bit more cumbersome to carry them through the airport and manage the bag while you use the restroom, board, etc.
  • The pet carrier replaces your carry-on, so you have to check your luggage if you want to bring much stuff
  • Not usually allowed in premium cabins on long-haul flights

How much dog food do I need for my trip?
Dog Food Calculator

Image of a dog and a calculator

Dog Food Calculator for Your Trip

Total Dog Food:

*If you are leaving your home country, double check the regulations about bringing food in especially meat products


Still have more questions? Here’s a bit more information about flying with dogs – big and small.

Can a 30-pound dog fit under an airplane seat?

Medium dog can't fit inside airline approved carrier
Sam is 23 pounds and doesn’t fit in the Sherpa carrier

Yes and no. Many dogs can be compact but heavy. If that is your dog, and they fit inside the carrier, then there are a number of options for airlines to fly with. My 23-pound terrier doesn’t fit in the under-seat carriers, so we have to figure out another option for him. You may be in a similar situation to us, and your dog will not fit under an airplane seat.

How do you fly with a dog that doesn’t fit under the seat?

There are actually two ways a dog flies under the plane. One is as excess baggage and the other is as cargo.

Consider alternative flying options such as chartered flights or specialty airlines if you have extra funds and the route works for your destination.

There’s a full guide to the options for flying under the plane in Flying With A Big Dog: Travel Tips For Ease & Safety

How much does it cost to put a dog under a plane?

Domestic excess baggage costs range from $100-$150 each way depending on the airline. International is $225-$450 each way price varies by airline and route.

For cargo, The price is often not shared up front since it varies by weight, crate size, distance, and if a shipping company is used.  Customers can expect to pay anywhere from $400+ for US domestic flights and $1000 up to $6000 for international.

There’s a full guide to the options for flying under the plane in Flying With A Big Dog: Travel Tips For Ease & Safety

Can I buy a seat for my dog on an airplane?

Dog looking out airplane window. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed to sit on the airplane seats

Alaska Airlines and Jet Blue both allow passengers to buy an extra seat if they are a solo traveler who is flying with two in-cabin pets. Most airlines will only allow one in-cabin pet per passenger, so this can be a good option. The second pet still has to fit under the seat. It doesn’t actually get its own chair.

Many commercial airlines don’t allow passengers to buy a second seat. There are a few specialty airlines such as JSX , where you can buy a seat even for a medium-large dog, but those options tend to be more costly and with limited routes.

Are there any other restrictions I should know about?

Pet carriers are not allowed on exit rows or bulkhead seats, so if you are buying your seat ahead of time (which I recommend), avoid those spaces.

Sometimes airlines block off the highest travel seasons from pet travel. An example is Alaska Airlines doesn’t accept pets during the winter holiday season.

Airlines limit the number of pets on any given flight. Even though they don’t always require you to book ahead of time, you should, or you might be out of luck when you show up at the airport.

Does my pet carrier count as my carry-on?

Unfortunately, most airlines count your pet carrier as a replacement for your carry-on bag (aka suitcase). Most airlines will still allow a personal item. Other airlines will allow you to have a carry-on OR a personal item. Check the rules of the airline you choose when making your reservation.

small dog in carrier at airport with luggage
Katie B. Brody’s border terrier is resting on the top of the wheeled bag to make wrangling all the luggage more manageable

Can I bring home my new puppy in the plane cabin?

Yes, puppies are allowed in all airlines that allow dogs in-cabin after 16 weeks. Some airlines require the puppy to be 12 weeks.

Many US domestic airlines will allow puppies to fly at 8 weeks within the US. Since many people who want to fly with a puppy are picking it up from a breeder, ask your breeder for an airline recommendation.

If you are flying internationally, the regulations for age are set by the country you are arriving in not just the airline.

Puppies usually haven’t been toilet trained, so they are likely to pee or poop in their crate. You will want to prepare for that inevitability.

Conclusion: Flying With A Dog Under The Airplane Seat

Hopefully, this guide helps you prepare for your flight and get you and your dog ready. With a little work ahead of time, your dog should be able to relax, settle into their crate and be a good fellow traveler for you and everyone you are flying with. We wish you and your precious pup well on your next journey and beyond.

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