Flying with Your Pet: American Airlines Pet Policy

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 14, 2021

American Airlines Pet Policy


  • This article covers everything you need to know to fly with your pet, emotional support animal or service animal on American Airlines.
  • Psychiatric service animals and service animals fly for free.
  • Do you qualify for an emotional support animal? Find out by taking the free screening test here.
  • There is breed restriction for dogs. Breed restriction does not apply for service animals.
  • Check out the free, downloadable American Airlines ESA Policy Guide published by CertaPet.

American Airlines has a strict pet policy in place so it’s best to know ahead of time what you can and cannot do/bring when flying with your furry friend. This detailed pet guide discusses everything you need to know while flying with a pet, or Emotional Support Animal (ESA) or a Service Dog on American Airlines.

Looking for an ESA Travel Letter?

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Free Ebook: American Airlines ESA Policy Guide

Downloadable ebook.

Extremely handy at an airport.

Step-by-step checklist to make sure your emotional support animal is 100% prepared on flight day.

Flying In-Cabin with Your Pet

American Airlines does let pets into the cabin to travel with you, but with certain stipulations.

Firstly, the pets have to be either a cat or a dog. No other species of animals are allowed. Regardless of whether owners wish to take ESAs or pets into the cabin with them!

Secondly, the size of the pet matters, as both the pet and the carrier together cannot weigh more than twenty pounds. Animals larger than this, unless they are service animals, cannot travel in-cabin.

The pets must also stay in this carrier, with the door closed and under the seat during the duration of the flight. There are also certain routes that no pets are allowed in the cabin, no matter how small and contained. These routes include flights to or from Hawaii, all Transatlantic flights, and flights to Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, or Venezuela.

American Airlines Pets in Cabin

Due to the fact that the pet and carrier together must both weigh less than twenty pounds, and fit under the seat, the carrier can be no larger than 23” long, 13” wide, and 9” high. Your pet must be able to stand up, lay down, and turn around in the carrier of this size. There is also a limit of seven animals per cabin per flight, and this is first come, first serve.

Assuming you and your pet meets all of the above requirements, you will have to pay a fee of 125 dollars per pet carrier in the cabin. This fee is not a round trip and will be required each way. Curbside check-in or self-service are not allowed when traveling with a pet, so normal check-in will be required.

Flying In-Cabin with an Emotional Support Animal or a Service Animal

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Do you Qualify?

Find out if you qualify for an emotional support animal. Take our free screening test and receive an answer in 5 minutes.. 

American Airlines allows you to travel in the cabin with a service animal or emotional support animal, as long as you meet certain guidelines.

First and foremost, the pet will travel with you at no charge as long as service animal or psychiatric service animal and are able to fit either on your lap, at your feet, or under the seat, and that they will not in any way block the aisle. For safety regulation reasons, if your pet blocks the aisle in any way, you, unfortunately, will not be able to bring them into the cabin to travel with you.

Additionally, you and your pet cannot sit in the emergency exit row, due to the fact that if there is an emergency, your pet cannot agree to follow the instructions required of those seated in that row.

Before 1/11/2021: Assuming your pet meets all the above guidelines, you will then need a LMHP’s letter in order to bring your support animal. The letter must clearly state that you have a disability that is either emotional or mental, and the disorder must be officially recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Further, the LMHP’s letter must show that it would be detrimental to you to not have your emotional support animal during travel, and/or for when you arrive at your destination, and finally they need proof that they are in fact a licensed mental health professional or medical doctor, including information from their licenses such as type, date issued, and state-issued, and they must state that you are their patient.

Think you might qualify to make your pet your emotional support animal, get started here.

Documents as required by American Airlines to fly with an ESA

  1. Mental Health Professional Form (like above – ESA letter)
  2. Behavior Guidelines
  3. Veterinary Health Form
  4. Animal Sanitation During 8+ Hours Form (only required if your flight is scheduled to be over 8 hours)

All of this information will be verified, so American Airlines requires that you submit this documentation at least 48 hours before your flight, otherwise you might have to check the animal in a carrier, and they will not be allowed to travel with you as you would like them to, in the cabin.

Like in cabin travel, pets traveling in American Airlines Pet Cargo are subject to fees. For this kind of travel, the American Airlines pet fee is 175 dollars per pet carrier each way.

After 1/11/2021: According to American Airlines, “Starting February 1, 2021, only trained service animals can fly in the cabin and you’ll need to complete and submit the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Service Animal Air Transportation form before your trip. If you’re traveling with an animal that doesn’t qualify as a trained service animal, it may be transported as a pet.”

CertaPet Free Screening Test

Learn if you qualify for an ESA Travel Letter.

American Airlines Pet Cargo

*Please note the change in checked pet service. As stated by American Airlines, ”Due to increased flight changes, we’ve stopped checking pets for now. We do accept checked pets at the ticket counter for active-duty U.S. Military traveling on assignments, fees, and applicable restrictions apply.

Carry-on pets, service and emotional support animals may fly in the cabin if they meet the requirements. If your pet is too large to fit in the cabin, please contact American Airlines Cargo.”

Before 2021: Unlike Southwest Airlines, American Airlines actually allow pets in the cargo hold. Pets that do not qualify for in-cabin travel can be checked the same way you would check your baggage, and will be traveling in the pet cargo hold. Like in cabin travel, cargo travel is restricted to cats and dogs only and is first come first serve, as there is a limit to the number of pets on any given flight.

To avoid issues check in early, but also be aware that checked pets are not accepted four hours prior to your scheduled flight.

American Airlines also cares about pet safety, and because of that, no pets will be allowed to travel in cargo if there are extreme temperatures of either hot or cold. Pets also must have enough room to stand, to turn around, to sit, and to lie down in their carriers. For cargo carriers have to be very sturdy, and made of either wood, metal, plastic, or other hard and leak-proof material.

Carriers must also have plenty of ventilation, and water containers that can be refilled without opening the carrier, in case there is a delay and the animals need to be given water.

Kennels, or carriers, cannot be bigger than 40” long, 27” wide, and 30” high on a standard flight. Some flights with smaller planes must have smaller carriers. For example, the Boeing MD-80 has a smaller cargo door, and kennels cannot be larger than 29” high and 53” wide in order to fit through the doors. Any and all pet carriers cannot weigh more than 100 pounds with the combined weight of the carrier and the pet.

American Airlines Pet Policy Tips and Tricks

Whether you are using American Airlines pet travel through in cabin or through cargo, there are certain points to remember. 

The limit is also two pets per ticketed passenger for checked pets. All pet travel comes with an American airlines pet fee, although the in-cabin travel is slightly more affordable. It is advisable to always arrive early when checking in pets, but important to remember you can’t check in with pets more than four hours before your flight.

With proper preparedness, American Airlines pet policy will keep your pet safe, and make sure you, and your beloved animal, arrive safely and soundly in your destination.

Pet Policies of Other Airlines

Delta Airlines Pet Policy
Southwest Pet Policy
United Airlines Pet Policy

Free Ebook: American Airlines ESA Policy Guide

Downloadable ebook.

Extremely handy at an airport.

Step-by-step checklist to make sure your emotional support animal is 100% prepared on flight day.

How to Get an ESA Letter through CertaPet?

CertaPet is the world's no. 1 emotional support animal service and the only online service offering a 100% legal and compliant process.

Start by taking our free online 5-minute pre-screening process to see if you are a good candidate for an ESA, and if you are, we’ll connect you with a licensed mental health professional quickly and easily. You can access your letter online immediately after its issued. You can also choose to receive a physical copy of the letter send to your mailing address.

An ESA Letter from CertaPet provides:

  • Recognition that you are a patient on a case-by-case basis under a licensed mental health professional’s care for mental or emotional disabilities.
  • Verification that you are significantly limited by an individual disability, such as depression or a similar condition, affecting your mental well-being.
  • Prescription for an emotional support dog (also known as a companion dog), or other support animal, as a necessary reinforcement for your mental health within 48 business hour

Once you receive the letter, you are free to use it to live with your animal.

That’s it.

emotional support animal owners

What Clients Say About CertaPet

“I got my dog as a Valentine's Day gift from my abusive ex. When she was a puppy, I protected her from him, and she would lick away my tears when I cried. When I finally left him, I left with nothing: no clothes, no home, and more importantly no her. He refused to let me have her and the cops, despite text messages of him threatening her safety,  wouldn't let me take her. I fell apart. During that time I suffered from depression, PTSD and anxiety. I was scared of my own shadow. Months went by and finally after a long battle, I got her back! She put me back together piece by piece. My ESA is special because she literally saved me.”

- Kailee Biesenbach

“I love my cat -"Hope". She was named before I got her and she is my Hope!  The previous owner said "She may not come to you at first”. She had been trained by her previous owners needs and she had only been with her. I went into the room when I first met her. She came right up to me purring like crazy. It was love at first sight! She is the best PSTD animal ever!!! She calms me right down every time I get near her. She even knows when I need her and she will come to me when I am upset or facing a panic attack. It is an amazing connection!! We clicked right away.  It almost feels like she is human and yes she is my best friend. God always knows what we need!! Thank You for letting me share!”

- Tracy Huntington

“After high school, I felt like there was nothing left for me. I felt I was living everyday - day by day. I also moved to a new city so had no friends or family to go too. I felt so lost and depressed. Then I got my ESA dog Chip, and my whole life flipped. I had a reason to be happy, a reason to enjoy life and go out again! Certapet helped make this all happen and thank you guys so much for that!!”

- Lyssa Helton

Frequently Asked Questions about Emotional Support Animals

What is an Emotional Support Animal 'Certification'? Do I need to get my ESA 'certified'?

Are Emotional Support Animal Registration Sites Legitimate?

Do emotional support animals require training?

Does my dog need an emotional support animal vest to travel or live with me?

Is the ESA letter all I need to become an emotional support animal owner?

What happens when the airlines staff or landlord ask to see my proof that I’m an ESA owner? Are they just asking for my ESA letter?

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