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How Much Does it Cost to Take Cats On a Plane?

Category: Cat Ownership

Zachary Visconti

Zachary Visconti

Last updated: August 18, 2020
How Much Does it Cost to Take Cats On a Plane?

While flying with cats isn’t always the ideal option, it often is the only option. Even though it comes with extra costs, policies, and annoyances, many cat owners still vouch to kennel up their cats and take them on flights across their state, country, and sometimes even the world. But depending where you get your information, the trip can also be extremely costly.

The question is, how much does it really cost to take cats on a plane?

While it may seem simple enough, there are actually quite a few caveats to taking cats on a plane. Each airline has its own requirements which could include restrictions on your cat’s size or breed. Let alone your own parental concerns around diet, health, and even bathroom breaks!

In any case, if you aren’t sold on the idea of taking your cats on a flight yet, you’re in the right place - Meowtel has an excellent network of vetted, qualified cat sitters, waiting on standby to keep your cat safe while you enjoy your adventure.

And if you are sold on it, we’ve also compiled a ton of data in this article for you about how much it costs to take your cats on a flight, for which airlines, and other details you’ll need to know as you prepare for your trip! In this article, we'll cover:

  1. Preparation to travel with your cat
  2. Health documentation, carrier, international flights
  3. Traveling domestically with your cat on a plane
  4. Carry-on vs checked
  5. Cargo limits
  6. Age restrictions
  7. Locations and routes
  8. Breed exceptions
  9. Flying with your cat on each major airline carrier
  10. Traveling with cats on American Airlines
  11. Traveling with cats on Alaska Airlines
  12. Traveling with cats on Delta Airlines
  13. Traveling with cats on Frontier Airlines
  14. Traveling with cats on Hawaiian Airlines
  15. Traveling with cats on JetBlue Airlines
  16. Traveling with cats on Southwest Airlines
  17. Traveling with cats on Spirit Airlines
  18. Traveling with cats on United Airlines
  19. Booking a cat-friendly trip
  20. Travel with your cat or book a cat sitter

1. Preparation to travel with your cat

When thinking about traveling with your cat (even in a car), it’s important to contact your veterinarian and ask for their recommendations. Your cat will certainly be stressed out on a plane ride, but it can be managed in a healthy way if you do it carefully. In addition, many airlines will require immunization records and other health documents, so you can get ahead of this by contacting your vet if you're even considering flying with your cat.

1.1 Health Documentation, Carrier, and International Flights

As mentioned above, many airlines will require some kind of health documentation for your cats, and this is where it will be especially important to reach out to the airline to see what they require. Each airline also has slightly different requirements for cat carriers, so they can walk you through what’s acceptable and what isn’t - in general, carry-on cat carriers must fit safely under the seat in front of you.

Additionally, many of these rules shift and/or do not apply to international flights, so it’s even more imperative that you contact your airline and get their specific details to be sure you haven’t missed anything.

2. What you need to know about traveling domestically with your cat on a plane

As we mentioned above, to get a good perspective on traveling with your cat, you’ll want to check in with your vet, your airline, and you’ll also want to make a list of your own cat’s specific needs. Once you do that, you’re ready to book your flight with your cat!

Before you get there, be sure to check out the tables below, which include airline details on costs as well as each of the following travel policies.

2.1 Carry-on vs. Checked

While all of the airlines below include carry-on cat travel, not all of them allow you to check cats as checked bags. There are also many airlines which have different prices and location offerings for carry-on vs. checked cat travels, so be sure to see the tables below and check in with your airline.

2.2 Cargo limits

Most airlines only allow a set number of carry-on and checked kennels per flight, on a first-come, first-served basis. Each airline also has specific kennel limitations like size, and how many cats they’ll allow in each kennel (1-2).

2.3 Age restrictions

Per the USDA, 8 weeks is the minimum age for cats to be able to travel by plane. Certain airlines have stricter requirements as you’ll see below, but 8 weeks is the lowest minimum kitten age, no matter the airline. It’s hard to even fathom bringing a kitten younger than that on a plane!

2.4 Locations and routes

Not all airlines serve every city, so it's even more important to see where you're going and understand which airlines serve this route. Once you've found an airline that can accommodate your itinerary, the next step is to contact the airline and clarify your travel plans, especially since traveling with cats can potentially be a dealbreaker for them.

2.5 Breed exceptions

Most airlines list Burmese, Persian, Himalayan, and Exotic Shorthair cats as exceptions which are not allowed on flights at any time. However, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, and Spirit do not specifically list any breed exceptions on their websites, so you may be able to work out a special itinerary with them if you are a parent to one of these breeds!

3. Flying with your cat on each major airline carrier

Drumroll please…the part you cat parents have all been waiting for! Here is a breakdown of restrictions and costs to fly with your cat on each major U.S. airlines.

3.1 Traveling with cats on American Airlines

Fees & Restrictions Details
Carry-on $125/flight
Checked* $200/flight, $150/flight to and from Brazil
Flight Limit 4 kennels max
Age Restriction 8 weeks or older
Carry-On Locations North and Central American, Colombia, and the Caribbean (based on specific country)
Checked Locations* North, Central, and South America, and the Caribbean
Breed Exceptions Burmese, Persian, Himalayan, Exotic Shorthair
  • checked cats currently suspended due to COVID-19

Read more about American Airline's pet policies.

3.2 Traveling with cats on Alaska Airlines

Fees & Restrictions Details
Carry-on $100/flight
Checked $100/flight
Flight Limit Not specified
Age Restriction 8 weeks or older
Carry-On Locations Canada, US, Mexico, and Costa Rica, and Hawaii under strict regulations
Checked Locations Canada, US, Mexico, and Costa Rica, and Hawaii under strict regulations
Breed Exceptions Burmese, Persian, Himalayan, Exotic Shorthair

Read more about Alaska Airline's pet policies.

3.3 Traveling with cats on Delta Airlines

Fees & Restrictions Details
Carry-on $125/flight US, Canada, Puerto Rico, $200/flight US Virgin Islands, International
$75/flight Brazil
Checked $125/flight US, Canada, Puerto Rico, $200/flight US Virgin Islands, International
$75/flight Brazil
Flight Limit 4 main cabin, 2 first class
Age Restriction 8 weeks or older; 10 w/o for carry-on; 15 w/o from EU; 16 w/o other international locations
Carry-On Locations US, Canada, Puerto Rico, certain international locations
Checked Locations* US, Canada, Puerto Rico, certain international locations
Breed Exceptions Burmese, Persian, Himalayan, Exotic Shorthair
  • checked cats currently suspended due to COVID-19

Read more about Delta Airline's pet policies.

3.4 Traveling with cats on Frontier Airlines

Fees & Restrictions Details
Carry-on $99/flight
Checked Not available
Flight Limit Not specified
Age Restriction 8 weeks or older
Carry-On Locations US, Canada, Dominican Republic, and Mexico
Checked Locations Not available
Breed Exceptions Not specified

Read more about Frontier Airline's pet policies.

3.5 Traveling with cats on Hawaiian Airlines

Fees & Restrictions Details
Carry-on $35/flight within Hawaii, $175 to continental US
Checked $60 within Hawaii, $225 to North America; Not available into the state of Hawaii from US
Flight Limit Not specified
Age Restriction 8 weeks or older
Carry-On Locations US, Canada, Dominican Republic, and Mexico
Checked Locations Into US, Canada; Not available into the state of Hawaii from US
Breed Exceptions Burmese, Persian, Himalayan, Exotic Shorthair

Read more about Hawaiian Airline's pet policies.

3.6 Traveling with cats on JetBlue Airlines

Fees & Restrictions Details
Carry-on $125/flight
Checked Not available
Flight Limit 4 kennels
Age Restriction 8 weeks or older
Carry-On Locations Not specified; contact JetBlue
Checked Locations Not available
Breed Exceptions Not specified

Read more about JetBlue Airline's pet policies.

3.7 Traveling with cats on Southwest Airlines

Fees & Restrictions Details
Carry-on $95/flight
Checked Not available
Flight Limit 6 kennels
Age Restriction 8 weeks or older
Carry-On Locations US only
Checked Locations Not available
Breed Exceptions Not specified

Read more about Southwest Airline's pet policies.

3.7 Traveling with cats on Spirit Airlines

Fees & Restrictions Details
Carry-on $110/flight
Checked Not available
Flight Limit 4 kennels
Age Restriction 8 weeks or older
Carry-On Locations US only
Checked Locations Not available
Breed Exceptions Not specified

Read more about Southwest Airline's pet policies.

3.8 Traveling with cats on United Airlines

Fees & Restrictions Details
Carry-on $125/flight, plus extra ticket for your cat
Checked* Price dependent on animal weight; “Petsafe
Flight Limit 4 kennels
Age Restriction 16 weeks or older
Carry-On Locations North, Central, and South America, and other select international locations
Checked Locations* North, Central, and South America, and other select international locations
Breed Exceptions Burmese, Himalayan, Exotic Shorthair, Persian
  • checked cats currently suspended due to COVID-19

Read more about United Airline's pet policies.

4. Booking a cat-friendly trip

As you can see from the data compiled above, there are many nuances to traveling with your cat, and the ones we’ve shared are just the beginning! If you are planning on flying with a cat at all, be sure to contact your airline to gather any documents, specific needs, current event information, or other pertinent information which may affect whether you and your cat can make it to the destination together.

5. Travel with your cat or book a cat sitter

Don’t forget that traveling with your cat can be very stressful to them, so it should primarily be used if you have no other options. Luckily, Meowtel is full of super responsible, caring, and affordable cat sitters, so there’s no shame in leaving your furry friend behind with them if you’re in a bind. We offer drop-in visits and even overnight stays if you’re especially worried about your kitty getting lonely!

While it isn’t always possible to make your trip work with your cat, it is possible to guarantee they have a safe and good time while you’re gone. Book your kitties a Meowtel staycation today!

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Zachary Visconti

Zachary Visconti

Zachary Visconti, Santa Rosa Meowtel sitter and cat dad to Banks