Flying with pets over the last decade or so has gotten pretty complicated. It used to be if your pet and its carrier were small enough to fit beneath the seat in front of you they could fly in the cabin, otherwise they had to fly in cargo. But, after several pets died in cargo or escaped from it — running off down the tarmac never to be seen again — a lot of airlines cut that option from their flights.
Flying with Pets
The thing is, customer demand for flying with pets hasn't lessened. American Airlines recognized this fact, and they've had specially designed, in-cabin travel compartments for small dogs and cats created on their 17 Airbus 321 aircraft to accommodate them. There is a catch, however, these compartments are only available in first class, there are only two in number for each aircraft, and they are only available on certain routes.
These "pet cabins" are located at the head of the first class section, and as of this writing the cost is $125 one way, or $250 round trip. There is a bonus associated with this service, and that is that pets don't appear to be required to remain in their carriers. They may, however, need a harness safety belt in case or turbulence or crash landings so they're not thrown around the cabin like a projectile missile.
Flying with Service Dogs
American Airlines does allow service dogs to remain in the cabin with its owner, and the best part is they can fly with you this way free of charge. Of course, you will have to provide the airlines with the necessary paperwork showing that the animal is indeed a service dog and that they are up to date on all of their shots.
Just showing up with your pooch wearing a service vest isn't going to cut it, because too many people are taking advantage of the service dog vests when their pets are not service dogs. You'll need to notify them in advance that you're traveling with the animal, at which time you can better familiarize yourself with all of their rules and regs for flying with pets.
During the holidays, when travel is at its peak, it will be harder to travel with pets on any airlines, due to the limited number of animals allowed on planes with any carrier. Do yourself a favor and make your plans well in advance when flying with pets, otherwise you'll have to leave them behind, reschedule your trip for a later date, or drive to your destination, if feasible.
Travel Scams & Pets
Finally, it's important to note there have been some scams this year with regards to websites purporting to be the official sites of well-known carriers like Delta in connection to travel with pets. Make sure you are on an airline's official website and call to verify before giving anyone your credit card number. As they say, better safe than sorry.