Written by Frances Chaves
Airlines determine their own policies and exceptions to allowing service dogs in training (SDIT) to travel in the cabin. The only assurance of smooth travel with your SDIT is to call the airline and confirm their policy – preferably in writing that you can present at the gate. Policies vary widely and may be the whim of whomever picks up the phone. Insist on someone in authority to FAX their signed permission for your particular circumstances.
Service dog puppy raisers travel by air with their SDIT for different reasons. Sometimes the dogs are being delivered to their forever owners; other times they are traveling to receive additional training. At Growing Up Guide Pup, we often bring our puppies to exhibitions and conferences. Traveling in the cabin – not in a crate in cargo – gives the SDIT valuable experience as well as benefits their mental health.
Here is a summary – with links – to some major airlines’ written policies regarding air travel with SDITs:
- Alaska Airlines: Sometimes allows SDIT to travel in the cabin under certain conditions:
- The dog travels with its trainer who must be able to identify the new owner’s name and home city
- The trainer provides documentation with official letterhead stating that the dog has successfully completed the first stage of its training
- Space in the cabin must be confirmed ahead of time
- SDIT may travel free of charge if travel is wholly in the U.S.; an official health certificate is provided; the trainer traveling with the animal provides their official ID card identifying them as a trainer
- American Airlines: Has no written policy regarding service animals in training
- Delta Air Lines: In most circumstances, a service or support animal in training does not meet qualifications for a trained animal and cannot ride in the cabin. Exceptions to this rule:
- The SDIT is traveling with a professional trainer en route to the owner.
- The SDIT is already a trained service or support animal, and is traveling with a certified trainer for additional training
- JetBlue: Does not accept service animals in training on flights
- Norwegian Airlines: Accommodates SDIT inside the cabin
- Spirit Airlines: Has no written policy regarding service animals in training
- Southwest Airlines: Has no written policy regarding service animals in training
- United Airlines: Permits trainers to bring one SDIT onboard free of charge. The dog must sit on the ground and cannot occupy a seat
- Virgin Atlantic Airways: Has no written policy regarding service animals in training
We will update this page if policies change per request from the airlines or if we are notified of any changes and we can confirm it after August 2018.
Remember, even if the airline agrees when you book your flight to accommodate your SDIT, get it in writing!