United Airlines Pet Policy: Everything You Need to Know

United Airlines Pet Policy: Everything You Need to Know

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Updated on May 20, 2024
Written by Brenda Mejia

fact checked by Stephane Bandeira

Heading off on an adventure with your pet aboard United Airlines? You’ll want to get familiar with the United Airlines Pet Policy to make sure both you and your furry buddy have a hassle-free flight. It’s packed with all the must-knows—from fees to how to prep your pet’s travel kit—so you’re both ready to fly the friendly skies.

Knowing the ins and outs of the policy can save you from last-minute surprises. Whether you’re jetting across the country or globe-trotting, United has clear rules on how your pets can accompany you. By keeping these tips in mind, you’re setting the stage for a smooth and enjoyable travel experience with your favorite companion.

United Airlines Pet Travel Rules

Traveling with your furry friend on United Airlines? Here’s what you need to know:

If you’re bringing a pet, it must travel in either a hard-sided or soft-sided carrier that fits under the seat in front of you. Service animals are the only exception, and they can travel without a carrier.

While pets have no weight or breed restrictions, they must adhere to specific carrier dimensions.

  • Hard-sided carriers must have a height of 9 inches, a length of 17.5 inches, and a width of 12 inches.
  • Soft-sided carriers should have a height of 11 inches, length of 18 inches, and width of 11 inches.

United Airlines doesn’t allow pets in cargo except under rare circumstances, such as for active duty U.S. military personnel on permanent change of station orders traveling between Honolulu and Guam or for Foreign Service Personnel on current reassignment.

The PetSafe program, which allowed pets to travel as cargo, has been suspended since 2018.

TL;DR: Pets must travel in carriers that fit under the seat. No cargo travel except for specific military or foreign service circumstances. The PetSafe program has been suspended since 2018.

United Airlines Fees for Pet Travels

If you purchased your ticket before April 26, 2024, there’s a fee of $125 each way for bringing your pet along. This means your pet can ride with you, making your journey together smoother.

However, if you have a layover that extends more than four hours on domestic flights or 24 hours on international flights, there’s an extra $125 fee per stop.

Unfortunately, travel credits can’t cover these specific fees. Keeping that in mind, you’ll want to plan your payment.

For those booking their tickets on or after April 26, 2024, the fee for pet travel is $150 each way. This updated fee structure reflects the ongoing commitment to providing a comfortable and safe journey for both you and your pet.

Reviewing your travel itinerary and budget for these costs is always a good idea. It ensures a hassle-free experience when flying with your beloved companion.

Remember: Traveling with pets might come with extra costs. But the joy of having them by your side is worth every penny!

ESAs are Exempt from Pet Fees for Housing

According to the FHA, Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs are exempt from any pet fees, deposits or pet rents.

Learn More about Pet Fees

United Airlines Standards for ESA and Service Animals

United Airlines sets standards for emotional support animals (ESAs) and service animals. Kennels must have enough space for the animal to fit and adhere to specific dimensions. 

Only cats and dogs are permitted for in-cabin travel. They must be at least two months old for domestic flights and four months old for international flights.

Additionally, pets cannot travel with unaccompanied minors. Additionally, in-cabin pet travel is restricted to certain destinations and cabin classes.

United Airlines and the ACAA

Under the framework of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), United Airlines ensures compliance by accommodating passengers with disabilities. It includes those who rely on emotional support animals (ESAs) and a service animal like a service dog. 

The airline strictly adheres to guidelines that prevent discrimination based on disabilities. It allows for the inclusion of service dogs on flights.

United Express allows dogs trained to perform tasks for those with disabilities. It ensures these vital companions can travel with their owners.

The airline’s policies have evolved over time to align with ACAA regulations, focusing particularly on service animals. 

Allowed Support Animals

When traveling with support animals on United Airlines, it’s important to know which types of animals are permitted and under what conditions they can travel.

Below is a detailed table that outlines the types of support animals allowed, where they can travel (in-cabin or cargo), along with the associated fees and requirements.

Animal

Permitted on

Fees

Dogs In-cabin $150 each way (in-cabin)
Cats In-cabin $150 each way (in-cabin)
Rabbits Cargo Varies by destination
Hamsters Cargo Varies by destination

Note: The fees listed are typical for in-cabin travel. Fees for cargo travel depend on the destination and the specific arrangements required. Cats and dogs are generally allowed in the cabin if they meet the carrier requirements and are not on the restricted breeds list. Other small pets like kittens, puppies, rabbits, and birds may need to travel in the climate-controlled cargo hold, depending on their size and the airline’s regulations.

Breed Restrictions on United Airlines

United Airlines has specific breed restrictions for pets allowed on their flights. It is due to safety and health concerns associated with certain breeds.

The breeds that United Airlines will no longer transport include several cat or dog varieties that may face increased health risks during air travel.

Dog Breeds

  • Affenpinscher
  • American Bully
  • American Pit Bull Terrier/Pit Bull
  • American Staffordshire Terrier/”Amstaff”
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Bulldogs (American, English, French, Old English Bulldogges, Shorty Bulldogs, Spanish Alano/Spanish Bulldog/Alano Espanol)
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chow Chow
  • English Toy Spaniel/Prince Charles Spaniel
  • Japanese Chin/Japanese Spaniel
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Mastiffs (including but not limited to American, Boerboel, Bullmastiff, Ca de Bou, Cane Corso, Dogo Argentino, Dogue de Bordeaux, English Mastiff, Fila Brasileiro, Indian Mastiff, Kangal, Neapolitan, Pakistani Mastiff, Pyrenean, Presa Canario, Spanish Mastiff, Tibetan, Tosa)
  • Pekingese
  • Pugs (Dutch, Japanese)
  • Shar-Pei/Chinese Shar-Pei
  • Shih-Tzu
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier/”Staffys”
  • Tibetan Spaniel

Cat Breeds

  • Burmese
  • Exotic Shorthair
  • Himalayan
  • Persian

Allowed Cat Breeds in Cabin

For pets in cabin like cats that are allowed in the cabin, United Airlines generally permits those that are not listed in the restricted breeds. Typically, this includes most domesticated cat breeds that do not face the same health risks as the restricted breeds during flights.

Allowed Dog Breeds in Cabin

Similarly, for dogs, the allowed breeds include those not specifically listed in the restricted category. This typically encompasses a wide range of dog breeds that are less prone to health issues related to air travel, ensuring a safer and more comfortable journey for these animals.

United Airlines ESA Requirements

Traveling with an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) on United Airlines requires understanding their specific requirements and regulations to ensure a smooth journey. These guidelines are designed to help passengers with ESAs navigate the process from booking to boarding with ease.

Allowances

  • Documentation: Passengers must provide current documentation from a licensed mental health professional stating the need for the ESA.
  • Behavior Standards: ESAs must be well-behaved and under control at all times in the airport and on the aircraft.
  • Cabin Access: ESAs can travel in the cabin at no additional charge.
  • Seating Accommodation: Passengers with ESAs can request reasonable accommodation in seating, provided the animal does not obstruct the exit row or other areas.

Restrictions

  • Breed and Size: United Airlines may restrict certain breeds or sizes of animals if they pose a safety or health risk.
  • Number of ESAs: Passengers may be limited in the number of ESAs they can bring on board.
  • Advance Notice: Travelers must notify United Airlines and submit all required documentation at least 48 hours before their flight.
  • Crate Requirements: Depending on the animal, United may require that ESAs be contained in a crate for the duration of the flight.

United Airlines Traveler Pro Tips for ESAs and Service Animals

When planning to travel with an ESA or service animal on United Airlines, there are several pro tips that pet owners should keep in mind to ensure a hassle-free experience:

  • Early Preparation: Start the preparation process well in advance. Ensure you have all necessary documentation ready and submitted to United Airlines before your travel date. This includes any required health certificates or letters from mental health professionals.
  • Check Latest Policies: Always check the most recent policies on United’s website before your existing trip, as rules regarding ESAs and service animals can change.
  • Behavior Training: Ensure your animal is well-trained and can handle the stress of traveling. This includes being comfortable in crowded environments and remaining calm during the flight.
  • Pet Relief Areas: Familiarize yourself with the locations of pet relief areas in the airports you’ll be using. Most major airports have designated areas where your animal can relieve itself.
  • Crate Comfort: If your ESA needs to be in a crate, ensure it’s comfortable and familiar with the crate before the journey. This can help reduce stress.
  • Direct Flights: Whenever possible, book direct flights to minimize the stress on your animal and reduce the complexity of managing multiple flights.

By following these tips, you and your ESA or service animal can have a smoother and more enjoyable travel experience with United Airlines.

Required Forms and Documents for ESAs

When traveling with Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) or Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) on United Airlines, passengers are required to provide specific documentation to ensure compliance with airline policies and federal regulations.

ESA Letter or PSD Letter

Traveling with an ESA or PSD on United Airlines can significantly impact fees, permits, and restrictions, primarily by providing an ESA or PSD Letter. 

An ESA Letter issued by a licensed mental health professional states the need for an emotional support animal to help mitigate the owner’s psychological or emotional disability. This letter exempts the owner from pet fees and allows the animal to travel in the cabin without extra charges. 

In contrast, a PSD Letter pertains specifically to service dogs trained to perform tasks for individuals with psychiatric disabilities. The rights afforded by a PSD are broader under the Americans with Disabilities Act, allowing these animals in more public areas and not just in airline cabins or housing. 

Obtaining either letter requires certification from a healthcare provider attesting to the individual’s need for the animal due to their disability.

Behavior Form

United Airlines requires a Behavior Form to ensure that ESAs and PSDs are well-behaved and can safely interact with the public and other animals. This form typically confirms that the animal has not displayed aggressive behaviors and can remain under control in a busy environment such as an airport or airplane. 

ESA Pet offers to assist in acquiring this form as part of their ESA Letter service packages. The Behavior Form is crucial as it helps the airline maintain safety and comfort for all passengers.

Health Form

A Health Form is also mandatory for ESAs and PSDs flying on United Airlines. This form generally includes details about the animal’s recent vaccinations, overall health status, and fitness to travel. A veterinarian must sign the form, indicating that the animal is free from diseases that could pose a risk to others.

ESA Pet assists in obtaining these health forms during the ESA Letter acquisition process, ensuring that all paperwork is complete and up to date before travel.

Getting an Official ESA Letter and Additional Documentation

The process to acquire an ESA letter through ESA Pet is designed to be straightforward and consists of three main steps:

Step 1: Initial Quick Assessment

You’ll begin by completing a quick online questionnaire offered by ESA Pet. This survey contains several important questions regarding your mental health, which you can fill out confidentially. This step aims to gather initial information to assist the evaluating mental health professionals in understanding your situation better.

Step 2: Consultation with a Mental Health Professional

Once you complete the initial assessment and your payment is processed, ESA Pet will arrange a consultation with a licensed mental health professional in your state. This expert will conduct a more detailed evaluation of your mental and emotional condition to ascertain whether an emotional support animal could benefit you.

Step 3: Receiving Your ESA Letter

If the mental health professional determines that an ESA could aid your treatment, they will issue an ESA letter for you. This letter, which confirms the need for your emotional support animal, will be sent to you digitally by ESA Pet within three business days of the approval.

Get your Official ESA Letter Consultation from a licensed therapist.

Get ESA Letter Now

Prepping the ESA to Fly

When planning to travel with an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), preparing adequately is essential to ensure a smooth and stress-free journey for you and your pet. Here are some best practices:

  1. Training: Ensure your ESA is well-trained to handle public settings and large crowds, which you’ll likely encounter at the airport and on the plane.
  2. Health Check: Visit your vet for a check-up before traveling to ensure your ESA is healthy and fit for travel. Make sure all vaccinations are up to date.
  3. Familiarization with the Pet Carrier: If your ESA isn’t used to a pet carrier, familiarize them with it to reduce anxiety during the flight.
  4. Exercise Before the Flight: A well-exercised animal is typically calmer. Try to let your ESA have some exercise before heading to the airport.
  5. Comfort Items: Bring items familiar to your ESA, like a favorite blanket or toy, to help soothe and comfort them during the flight.
  6. Hydration and Feeding: Feed your ESA a light meal a few hours before the flight, and bring a collapsible water dish to keep them hydrated.

United Airlines Pet Policy FAQ

Does United Airlines Allow Pets?

Yes. United Airlines allows pets to travel. They can fly in the cabin, as checked baggage, or as cargo, depending on their size and the travel requirements.

How Strict Is United With Pet Carriers?

United Airlines is quite strict with pet carriers. They must be leak-proof, ventilated, and large enough for the pet to stand, turn around, and lie comfortably. The carrier must also fit under the seat before you if traveling in the cabin.

How Much Does It Cost to Fly With a Dog?

The cost of flying with a dog on United Airlines depends on the travel method. For in-cabin travel, it typically costs around $125 each way. Prices can vary for cargo or checked baggage options.

How Do I Add a Pet to My Flight?

To add a pet to your flight on United Airlines, contact United’s customer service or add your pet through the airline’s website while booking your ticket. It’s advisable to do this well in advance, as there are limits to the number of pets allowed in the cabin.

Wrapping Up United Airlines Pet Policy

So, that’s a wrap on the United pet policy! If you’re planning to fly with your furry friend, knowing this policy inside out can really smooth out your travel experience.

Whether your pet is cozying up under the seat in front of you or traveling as checked baggage, understanding the carrier rules, cost details, and the required paperwork ahead of time is key.

Just remember to touch base with United before your trip to catch any updates or changes to the policy. With a little preparation, you and your pet will be all set for a great adventure in the skies!

Contact ESA Pet for Personalized Assistance