Key Takeaways

  • Dogs are allowed in airports but they should remain in their carrier while passing through public areas.
  • Pet relief areas are designed for dogs and other pets to walk around or use the restroom while inside the airport.
  • Denver and Los Angeles have two of the most pet friendly airports.

This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

One of the most common questions we get is about dogs and airports. Years ago, this may have seemed crazy but policies are rapidly changing.

Dogs are allowed at airports if you follow the rules correctly. Keep the dog inside the pet carrier during your time in the airport. If you want to take your dog out of the carrier, keep it on a leash and walk the dog to the pet relief area where they are allowed to roam freely.

If you are a frequent traveler, chances are you’ve asked yourself this question. It can be difficult to keep up with changing airport regulations, and it's important to know the answer before bringing your pup on vacation. This guide will help you understand where and when dogs are allowed in airports and provide tips for ensuring that your furry friend has an enjoyable airline experience.

Table of contents


Are Dogs Allowed At Airports?

When it comes to traveling with our furry friends, most pet parents often ask the same question about whether their dog is approved for air travel. The answer is yes – but some restrictions and regulations must be followed.

Depending on the size and breed of your pup and which airline you’re flying with, your four-legged traveler might not be able to come along for the ride. Most airports also require dogs to remain inside their carrier kennel while in the airport.

Dogs are allowed in airports. But flying with them is another story. Every airline enforces a different set of rules based on flight capacity, flight duration, pet size, etc. We’ll explain all of this to you below.

What Are The Rules For Dogs at Airports?

In general, small leashed or contained dogs are typically allowed in airports. However, airlines may have additional regulations regarding pets onboard their aircraft.

In case of large dogs or other breeds deemed dangerous by airlines, they must travel via cargo instead of sitting with their owner during flights. Here are the rules to follow while in the airport with a dog.

Dogs Should Be In A Handheld Carrier

Pet owners should always keep the dog inside the handheld carrier while in the airport. We recommend a regular food and water schedule for non-service animals inside their carriers too.

The only time a dog should come outside their carrier is to pass through security. The carrier will go through the x ray machine in the security line, but the pet will not.

Dogs Should Be Leashed Outside The Carrier

Anytime a dog is outside of their carrier, they should be on a leash. This happens in the security line while waiting to pass through the metal detector.

While you wait for the carry-on bag and other travel gear to pass through the x ray machine, keep the dog close by and on a leash. Some airports also require owners to present a health certificate here.

Dogs Should Be Carried Through Security

Just about every international airport will ask dog owners to carry their dogs through security. This is a safer way for pets traveling because they avoid any issues with guests around them in the line.

Are Dogs Allowed On Planes?

It depends mostly on airlines’ individual pet policies – although some companies have implemented specific rules surrounding traveling with pets across countries/areas based on official health requirements within those places.

We decided to explain the rules for the most popular airlines in the United States. Below you can find the rules for dogs on planes for American Airlines, Delta, Southwest, United, etc.

American Airlines

All dogs must be at least eight weeks old to fly with American Airlines. Dogs must travel in an approved kennel that fits under the seat and is able to be secured with a seat belt.

The dog may not exceed 20 pounds (including pet carrier). No aggressive breeds are allowed. Fully-trained service dogs can fly in the cabin of the plane at no additional charge and without a pet carrier.

If the dog is too big, it must fly with American Airlines Cargo. Right now, Americans only use this service dog active-duty U.S. Military and U.S. State Department Foreign Service pets.

For those who do get their dogs approved, they can only fly on flights under 12 hours. This includes 49 US states (excluding Hawaii), Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, St. Croix, and St. Thomas.


All dogs on Delta flights need to be at least 10 weeks of age to fly domestically and 16 weeks of age for international flights. Dogs must travel in approved pet carriers that fit under the seat in front of you and can securely close without additional support from outside sources.

The maximum dimensions for the dogs plus carrier may not exceed 18” x 11” x 11”. Dogs must remain in the kennel with the door locked and secured inside the Delta boarding area too.


Dogs are allowed to travel on Southwest Airlines flights as either a pet that must remain in their carrier and be stowed under the seat for the duration of the flight. All dogs must have current rabies vaccination certificates be clean, odorless and well-behaved.

Pets are allowed on the flight on a first come first serve basis. They have a limited pet capacity and they can only travel on flights within the United States.


On United Airlines, the rules for traveling with a dog depend on what type of flight you are taking and the size of your pet. Animals that weigh 20 pounds or less are allowed to travel with their owners in the cabin (one pet per customer) as long as they remain in an approved carrier under the seat for takeoff.

Pets that exceed 20 pounds must be transported in climate-controlled cargo compartments. All pets must have valid health certificates and updated vaccinations to be accepted for air travel.

What Are Service Animal Pet Relief Areas?

In recent years, airports worldwide have been taking extra steps to accommodate passengers traveling with service animals. A pet relief area is a designated spot inside or outside an airport terminal where pets can take care of their business in a safe and comfortable manner.

The idea behind having pet relief areas in airports is to give travelers with service animals an opportunity to ensure their animal’s needs are taken care of before boarding their flight.

This is also so other passengers don’t have to be subjected to any unpleasant smells or messes from traveling service animals.

These areas also help provide peace of mind for passengers traveling with a service animal by allowing them the chance to get everything done ahead of time before they board the plane.

Traveling With Service Animals

Service dogs are always allowed in both the airport terminal and on planes without any additional fees associated with them (as long as they follow all applicable laws and regulations).

Different rules may apply when it comes to transporting service animals from country to country, though. So double-check what kind of documents you need before taking Fido abroad.

Traveling With an Emotional Support Animal

Emotional support animals do not require training like service animals. Therefore they’re usually accepted in areas where other pets aren't (e.g., airplane cabins).

However, some airlines may still treat ESAs differently than service dogs and more like regular pets. So make sure to contact them directly for more information about policies concerning ESAs before booking a flight for Fluffy.

Additionally, many airports require paperwork such as vaccination certificates before allowing certain breeds into their facilities; so make sure you check with your airline or airport ahead of time.

Traveling With Other Pets

Small cats and dogs are generally allowed in airports as long as they remain on a leash or in an approved carrier during their stay. Many airlines also allow caged birds on planes.

Depending on the airline, larger pets may need to travel via cargo instead of sitting with their owners during flights. Some airports also require paperwork like vaccination certificates before allowing certain breeds into their facilities.

What Are The Most Pet Friendly Airports?

There are some airports that make life easier for pet owners. They have a pet relief area, easier restrictions, and some even have a pet drinking fountain. The two most friendly we have found are the Denver and Los Angeles airports.

Denver International Airport

Service dogs and other animals are allowed inside this airport. It’s also widely considered to be one of the most pet friendly with special private restrooms for pets.

Dogs can also visit the Paradise 4 Paws pet resort. The rules are less strict about pet carriers or a visual and physical inspection too.

Los Angeles International Airport

This international airport is another great option for pets. They have 11 pet relief areas in total. They can be located before and after security. A dog walk to one of the outdoor pet areas is possible too.