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Traveling with Pets: Cargo vs. Carry On vs. Baggage

Traveling with your pet on a plane can get confusing. Will they be allowed in the cabin? Are they going below deck with baggage? Can they fly alone? All of these depend on the airline, the country you’re traveling to, and the size and breed of your pet. We break down the differences between air travel in the cabin, in cargo, and in baggage, so you know which option works for you.

Pets Traveling in Cabin

Small pets can travel with you in the cabin of the plane, usually for a small fee. They’re counted as a carry-on item, and must remain in their travel bag while in the cabin. Each airline has weight, height, and length limits, and most restrict the types of pets allowed to dogs and cats.


  • Fees for traveling in cabin vary. Consult the airline.
  • You must notify the airline ahead of time that you will be traveling with a pet in cabin. Airlines limit the number of animals allowed on each flight. Be sure your pet is counted.
  • Airlines have different size requirements for the travel bag carrying your pet. Be sure yours is acceptable.
  • Weight restrictions apply. Weigh your pet while in their carrier to be sure they fall under the maximum weight. Gate agents will check when you arrive at the airport.

Pets Traveling as Cargo

Your pets travel as cargo when they’re flying solo. They’re considered cargo when you’re shipping your pet to a location, and not flying with them on the same plane. This form of transport can be super pricey, and you will need to start the process early. Your pet will still have to go through customs, and will require a kennel for transport. Many people choose to hire a company to navigate the process of shipping their pet.


  • Many airlines have breed restrictions when traveling in cargo. Be sure your pet is allowed.
  • Start the process early, and stay organized.
  • There are temperature restrictions; your pet won’t be allowed to fly on days that are super hot or extremely cold. Check with the airline and plan your transport date accordingly.
  • Be sure your kennel type and size are accepted.
  • Rates vary. Contact the airline directly for fees.

Pets Traveling as Baggage

Your pet flies as baggage when you’re on the plane and they’re in the cargo hold underneath. Most medium sized dogs, and some cats will be required to fly underneath the plane because of their size. They’re considered checked baggage, and must be contained in kennels with certain dimensions. You are expected to check in early at the airport with your pet, and pick them up when the flight has landed.


  • Check the airline’s breed restrictions before traveling.
  • There are limits to the number of pets that can travel as baggage on flights. Be sure to notify the airline as soon as possible.
  • Start the process early, and stay organized.
  • There are temperature restrictions; your pet won’t be allowed to fly on days that are super hot or extremely cold. Check with the airline and plan your transport date accordingly.
  • Be sure your kennel type and size are accepted.
  • Fees vary. Consult the airline.

Want more information on flying with your pet? Click here

We break down the difference between traveling with your pet on a plane in the cabin, in cargo, and in baggage so you know which option works for you.

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  1. I’d love to know how you fly with your two? Your article isn’t really helpful, as it’s so generic… It would be nice if you included more information on the average weight restrictions etc, as well as hints for travelling with your pets, what to consider and maybe comparisons.

    1. Hi Ashley, thanks for your comment. You’re absolutely right that this post doesn’t get into the nitty gritty of traveling with your pet. Each airline is different, with a number of factors determining the requirements you’re talking about – weight restrictions, comparisons, etc. This post is meant to be a general overview of what specific terms mean, so that travelers have a baseline from which to do research. Luckily, the specifics you’re after are available in much greater detail in our section on Flying in Cabin and Country Policies, where we lay out an airline by airline and country by country comparison. You might also explore our Flying With Your Pet page. Thanks for reading!

  2. Hi, I am about to transfer my pug from Europe to Mexico City. He is a bit bigger for in cabin carrier. Please advise if it dangerous to travel as checked in baggage. And one more question – did Boogie, with his huge flying experience ever travel in the cargo department?

    1. Check out our post about flying with pugs here. Research every airline that goes from your location to your destination, because they all have different requirements for traveling in cabin (some may have a 20lb weight limit, while others require only 15lbs, etc). I do not advise putting your pug in cargo! If he can’t fly in cabin, consider hiring a company to safely transport him.

  3. I love a good travel article! I flew with a dog several years ago and did SO much research, and this article has great info! Keep up the good work.

  4. Y said “if ur pet can’t fly in-cabin hire a company to transport him””
    Big, big mistake, ” shippers will transport in cargo, and once u deliver ur pet to them , is a death sentence.
    I research shipper and airlines for last 2 years, Better Business B
    In major cities. They all have mutipleclaims, mainly delivery. Of the pet.

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