woman sitting on plane

Can I Buy a Seat for my Dog on an airplane?

You’re probably like us.

We’d much rather have our dog with us in the cabin of an aircraft than underneath in the hold.  We believe this to be safer for the animals and less stressful for the owners.

Many airlines allow small pets to travel inside the cabin so long as the carrier fits underneath the seat in front.

If you’ve bought a ticket for a dog in the past, you may have noticed that this can be more expensive than buying an additional seat for a human passenger.

Which is frustrating as a dog is only taking up floor space.

The logical step would be to buy a seat for your dog on an airplane but can you do this?

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

No, you can’t buy a seat for a dog on a commercial airplane.

Some owners do purchase an additional seat and then put the carrier on it once the plane is in the air but this still only applies to dogs small enough to be allowed on board as cabin baggage.  And you’d still have to keep the dog inside its carrier throughout the flight.  We wouldn’t advise doing this because airlines only offer several spaces on each flight for pets.  If you haven’t booked yours onboard and paid the charge, then your dog could be refused boarding.

If you have a service dog or an emotional support dog (ESA), then they can sit next to you in the cabin but they’ll either be on the floor throughout the flight or on your lap.  If this applies to you, then you might find it interesting to read about this gentlemen’s experience of traveling with his ESA dog.

We’d always recommend checking with an airline before booking to ensure you have the most up-to-date information.  They’ll be better placed to tailor advice to your situation, too.

You can look into hiring a private plane or scheduling a flight but this will be expensive.

One reason why people think they can book a seat for their dog is that some airlines have special allowances for VIP dogs.  For example, American Airlines is reported to have a VIP pet policy. If you’re a celebrity or your dog is an internet star then they may be allowed to travel in the cabin because it’s good publicity for the airline. We don’t know the criteria for this or how regularly it’s practiced.

If you’re traveling from the US to Europe (or vice versa), then you could travel by ship.  Cunard’s Queen Mary II has a kennel programme where dogs and cats can safely stay on board during Trans-Atlantic crossings.  This won’t be ideal or affordable for everyone, but it does provide a way of traveling with dogs safely and pleasantly.  The dogs will be well looked after and you’ll be able to visit them, too.

Sometimes we have no option but to fly our dogs in the aircraft’s hold.  We’d encourage you to research as much as you can about an airline before booking. Airlines like Delta have a specific programme that’s designed to transport animals across the country and around the world. You may find this more reassuring than simply booking with a any airline.

But it’s important to remember that each day, thousands of pets are carried safely onto their destinations.

Tour Rader has a list of the most pet-friendly airlines available.

Why aren’t owners allowed to book a seat for a dog on an airplane?

From a dog owner’s perspective, it seems unfair that bigger dogs have to travel in the hold but it’s important to see it from the airline’s point of view as well as the other passengers.

Your dog is no doubt well trained and well behaved but that might not be the case with other dogs. 

  • A dog might be carrying fleas
  • It might go to the toilet mid-flight
  • It could be very vocal and bark loudly throughout the journey
  • It could be dangerous when anxious or confined
  • It might intimidate other passengers or crew
  • Other people on the flight may have allergies or phobias
  • It could become uncontrollable

What is the maximum size dog I can take in the aircraft cabin?

Carrier sizes vary airline-to-airline so you should always check before booking.  Here’s the American Airlines current animal policy to give you a better understanding of the type of regulations you’ll need to abide by.  You should also be aware that there some breed restrictions, too.

Can my dog sit on my lap during a flight?

Emotional support dogs may be allowed to sit on the lap of their owner during the flight but it depends on the airline.  We’d imagine that this may not always be possible during take-off and landing.  You should check with the airline. All other dogs must be kept in their carrier throughout the flight.