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The best pet-friendly airlines

Kokoro and Chibi are frequent flyers, and we’ve shared our tips for flying with your dog in-cabin with y’all in the past. No matter how much research you do in preparation for a trip with your pup, it can be a little nerve-wracking to perfectly plan out logistics so that the trip goes as smoothly as possible. Today, we’re sharing our favorite pet-friendly airlines that we’ve had 5 star experiences with to help you narrow down who to fly with when your pup is coming along with!

A few things to note

Kokoro and Chibi currently fly as emotional support animals, so they are permitted to be outside of a carrier in the airport (on leash). While flying in cabin, they are allowed to sit under the seat in front of us or on our laps, but never on the seat itself. If you’re flying your dog as a pet and not an ESA or service animal, they’ll have to stay inside a carrier under the seat in front of you.

Also, we have not flown with every single airline, so we cannot rule out that airlines not listed here are good options. We’ve definitely been fortunate to mostly encounter airline personnel who are big dog lovers. Especially when flying out of LAX, the check-in counter workers are typically delighted to see Kokoro and Chibi when we are in line.

It’s true that your experience can depend entirely on the mood of one person at the airport! If for some reason the airline personnel you run into are not so delighted to see your pup, just remember to treat them with kindness and understanding and your flight will go that much smoother.

1. Southwest

Southwest was the first airline we flew on with the pups and probably our favorite of all of the airlines. Here’s a quick overview on flying with your dog:

Check in: must check in at gate before security to get boarding pass
ESA verification: bring a letter from your mental health professional
ESA Boarding: pre-boarding permitted
Comfort for pets on plane: not the largest seats, but our 20 lb dogs fit under the seat in front of us along with our backpacks with no problem.

This airline is unique in that you don’t get a pre-assigned seat when you board. Instead, you get a number that determines what place in line you are to board the plane. The earlier you check in, the further up the line you are. Once you board, the seats are first come first serve, which can be a little nerve-wracking if you forgot to check in exactly 24 hours before your flight takes off. If you’re flying with your dog as a pet, use their “early bird check in” feature for an additional fee to ensure you get to board early in line.

If you are flying with an emotional support or service animal, Southwest currently has the easiest verification process. You simply need to bring a letter from your mental health professional to the check in counter and present it to the airline staff.

You also get to board with those who need special assistance, before even the A boarding group. This means it’s pretty easy to get a seat in the first row of the airplane, which has a ton of legroom.

2. JetBlue

Jet Blue is likely the most pet-friendly airline with its marketing and branding. Pets can participate in their JetPaws program and even earn points towards the airline’s TrueBlue program.

Check in: get boarding pass online, go straight to the gate
ESA verification: submit 3 forms prior to travel
ESA Boarding: no special pre-boarding
Comfort for pets on plane: pretty spacious!

We typically fly JetBlue with the dogs when we go between LA and NYC, and we’ve always had great experiences on each flight. Because of its pet-friendly nature, we’ve found that there are typically more dogs on these flights.

JetBlue does require pre-approval for emotional support animals. Your mental health professional and veterinarian must each fill out a form outlining your need for an ESA and verifying that your dog is healthy, vaccinated, and has never bitten or injured a person before. You also must sign a waiver and indicate that your dog is obedience trained and will not cause any issues while traveling — and if they do, you may be removed from the flight. These 3 forms need to be sent to JetBlue for review and approval at least 48 hours prior to departure, so make sure these forms get squared away asap!

3. Spirit Airlines

Spirit gets a lot of heat for being a budget airline, but we’ve found their staff to be very dog-friendly. It’s our favorite airline for traveling to the east coast without breaking the bank.

Check in: must check in at gate before security to get boarding pass
ESA verification: submit 3 forms prior to travel
ESA Boarding: pre-boarding permitted
Comfort for pets on plane: tiny seats, so pack light!

The flight attendants we’ve encountered have been huge dog lovers and even offered to pour the pups water.

Just like JetBlue, Spirit requires emotional support animals to be verified by filling out the airline’s forms and submitting for review and approval. We know that Spirit calls to verify with your mental health professional and veterinarian before approving your dog for travel.

4. American Airlines

Check in: get boarding pass online, go straight to the gate!
ESA verification: submit 3 forms prior to travel
ESA Boarding: pre-boarding permitted
Comfort for pets on plane: moderate, just like southwest.

Our trip to Seattle this week was the first time we’ve flown American with the dogs. We’ve always been a little wary of the major carriers like American, Delta, and United in the past, having heard stories that the flight attendants are extremely strict with pets. Luckily, our flight went smoothly!

After submitting your forms for approval, the American Airlines staff does not look at your paperwork. We were able to check in online and retrieve mobile boarding passes the day before our flight. At the airport, we went straight through security and to the gate with no problems.

If you’re flying with an ESA or service dog, you can board with those who need special assistance before general boarding, which is very nice.

As with any trip where you plan to fly with your pup, make sure to check the airline’s latest rules and regulations around flying with a dog. Most airlines have a maximum number of dogs allowed in cabin, so the earlier you make your plans, the better. These days, those rules are often quickly changing due to the increase in incidents involving emotional support animals on flights.

Always carry your pet’s paperwork and documentation with you, even if it has already been approved by the airline prior to travel. Just in case!

Don’t forget to refresh yourself on how to fly with your dog in-cabin to see if your dog’s personality and obedience training is a fit for air travel.

Feel free to send us any questions here or on Instagram if you are thinking of flying with your dog. Happy traveling!

Emily is a Los Angeles based content creator with a passion for photography, videography, and storytelling. Through @emwng, you'll find photos and videos of people, places, delicious food, and of course, her two fluffy sidekicks Kokoro and Chibi.


  • September 6, 2019

    Fantastic read, clear and full of info especially for those like us who will be soon flying to / within the US with a corgi hopefully :)

  • September 6, 2019

    Loved this!! Thank you for the differences of each airline and your experience!!

  • July 11, 2020

    This was very helpful! I think we will take JetBlue

  • May 17, 2021

    This was a verY informative read! I was just wondering though, do Dogs *have* to be ESA certified in order to fly with you in the cabin? And if so, how Did you go about getting yours certified? Thanks!

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