What to Know Before Flying United With Pet Cargo

The vast majority of passengers only have the option of bringing their pet as size-restricted carry-on luggage.
Carissa Rawson
By Carissa Rawson 

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Heading out on a vacation sounds good, doesn’t it? After all, there’s not much else like sipping a daiquiri on the beach. But there’s an extra step to take before traveling when you’ve got pets at home. Do you opt for a pet sitter, find a doggy hotel or bring your furry friend along with you?

Plenty of airlines allow you to travel with pets, whether that’s in the cabin or as cargo. Let’s take a look at United Airlines’ pet cargo policy, its in-cabin options and how flying pets with United compares to other airlines.

The United Airlines pet policy

United Airlines does not currently allow pets to fly in cargo, unless you qualify for an exception with the U.S. military or foreign service. These are the limited circumstances in which it’s possible to travel with a pet in cargo on United:

  • Active duty U.S. military traveling on permanent change of station orders can fly pet cats and dogs between Honolulu and Guam.

  • Foreign Service Personnel traveling on current reassignment have the same privileges.

Prior to 2018, United Airlines operated its PetSafe program, which allowed customers to bring their pets along as cargo on eligible flights.

However, the program has been completely suspended since then. To date, United has opted not to resume operations.

» Learn more: How to fly with a dog

United in-cabin pet options

Since United doesn’t operate its PetSafe program anymore, your options are pretty limited when it comes to traveling with your pet. It’s still possible to travel with a pet in cabin as a piece of carry-on luggage under the seat in front of you, if they meet the specific requirements:

  • You can only travel with cats and dogs.

  • Animals must be able to fit comfortably inside their kennel, which cannot exceed a certain size.

  • Kittens and puppies must be at least two months old (for domestic flights) or four months old (for international flights).

  • Pets cannot travel with unaccompanied minors.

  • You must travel with your pet.

  • Traveling with an in-cabin pet is limited to certain destinations and certain cabins.

United charges $125 each way to bring your pet along with you in the cabin, although you’ll be on the hook for an additional $125 if your layover is long. Domestic layovers of more than four hours and international layovers of more than 24 hours will charge this extra fee.

How flying with pets on United compares to other airlines

When it comes to pet-friendly airlines, United falls to the bottom of the list. According to a recent NerdWallet analysis, United scored a dismal 1.5 out of 5 on pet-friendliness, mostly because of the number of pet-related complaints the airline experienced over a period of four years.

The bottom line

United suspended the ability to fly with your pet in cargo in 2018 after a number of high-profile incidents. Since then, it has failed to revamp the PetSafe program, leaving United customers out of luck when it comes to their larger four-legged friends. But those whose pets can fit under the seat can still take advantage of flying with their animals inside the cabin.

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