American Airlines Relaxes Policy on Traveling with Pets and Carry-On Bags

American Airlines has updated its on-board pet policy, which now allows passengers to take a full-sized carry-on bag in the cabin along with their furry friend.

Previously, American Airlines passengers who wanted their pet to accompany them in the cabin could only bring a small cabin bag that could fit under the seat in front of them or pay a $35 fee for a full-sized carry-on bag. But now, as of March 28, passengers flying with their pets can opt for the larger cabin bag without paying the additional fee.

However, they are still only permitted to take just one bag on-board along with their pet—either a small personal item, such as a handbag, or a larger bag that fits in the overhead cabin.

Photo: Courtesy of CDC / Unsplash

If passengers want to bring both a personal item and overhead cabin bag, then their pet must go in the hold, and they are still required to pay a $150 pet fee regardless.

The carrier’s previous policy had drawn criticism from pet owners, who claimed it was unfair to be charged the $35 fee for a standard-sized cabin bag on top of the $150 pet fee.

“It was always frustrating that the dog counted as the carry-on even though I was paying the extra (pet) fee that was sometimes more than the ticket for me,” commented renowned travel blogger Gary Leff.

A spokesperson for American Airlines confirmed the policy update: “We made the change to provide a more convenient and comfortable experience to customers whose pets fly American.”

American’s pet policy is limited to cats and dogs meeting certain breed, size, and vaccination requirements. It applies only to flights within the 48 contiguous U.S. states, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and certain U.S. Virgin Islands. Travelers are not permitted to bring carry-on pets on flights to Hawaii, Jamaica, South America, or transatlantic or transpacific flights.

Photo: American Airlines gates. Courtesy of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

Fully-trained service animals, such as guide dogs for visually impaired passengers or emotional support animals for passengers with a qualified disability such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can travel in the cabin on select flights free of charge.

To add a carry-on pet to your next flight with American Airlines, you must find your booked itinerary on the airline’s website or mobile app, then select ‘Add carry-on pets’ from the Special Services options. You then need to review and agree to the requirements, confirm the flight and the pet you’ll be traveling with, and then pay the fee at the American Airlines ticket counter at the airport once your pet and kennel have been confirmed to meet the requirements.

During the flight, pets must stay within their kennel at all times, while they must also be placed in a dedicated animal compartment near the front of the plane during taxi, take-off, landing, and turbulence.

Each major airline in the U.S., including United, Delta, Alaska, JetBlue, and Southwest has its own varying policy regarding carry-on pets for domestic and certain international flights, which you can view on their individual websites.