Pets: Passengers or Cargo?

I believe pets should not travel in aircraft cabins, but I swear it’s not because I’m bitter about the time Delta gave my seat to a dog.

In fact, the dog that displaced me was not a pet but a service dog traveling with its trainer.  And while I remain indignant that Delta moved me back a row instead of bumping me into first class, I have to admit that it was reasonable to give the dog and trainer the bulkhead.

The dog was very well-behaved, too, and proved it by not reclining its seat on me. Or, rather, my seat on me.

It didn’t make me sneeze, either, because I’m not particularly allergic to furry critters. But lots of people are, and that’s why I think pets should be carried in cargo holds, away from human passengers.

Of course, service animals are another matter, and airlines recognize that. In the balance between a handicapped person’s need for a service animal and the suffering caused to an allergic passenger, it’s reasonable for the handicapped person’s needs to prevail. Besides, it’s not a conflict that’s likely to happen often because there are not, per capita, all that many service animals in this world.

But there are a whole lot of pets.

Years ago I brought a friend to Bradley to catch a flight to attend her father’s funeral. She was, of course, overwhelmed with grief. As I waited with her at the gate (that was in the old days), I spotted a woman with a cat in a carrier. 

After some negotiation with the gate agent, I got my friend’s seat moved as far as possible from the cat owner’s seat. It was a short flight, the cat was contained and my friend did not have a severe reaction. But I came away convinced that she shouldn’t have had to deal with that added stress.

I share my opinion on this with some trepidation. Every journalist, columnist and blogger knows that hell hath no fury like an angry pet owner. So before you flame me for Fluffy’s sake, please let me state for the record that I like cats and dogs well enough. Actually, I love cats and at least one dog.

I just think the comfort of human passengers should come first.

And if you want to fly with your cat or dog, allow me to mollify you with some links explaining how to do it.  (Yes, I’m trying to appease  you because I fear you. And your little dog, too.)

Airline rules on flying with pets run the gamut, from Air Canada, which recently banned pets even as checked luggage, to Midwest Airlines, which awards frequent flier benefits to pets. Many airlines fall in between, with some animals allowed in the cabin and others only in the cargo hold.

[I have no idea what happened on the flight that prompted Delta to make the passenger cabin off-limits to sugar gliders (Wikipedia: small, gliding possum native to Australia) but I’m sure glad I wasn’t on it.]

Anyway, has a handy set of links to the pet policies of all the major domestic airlines. And PetFlight keeps an eye on safety with reports of animals injuries and deaths on domestic airlines.

And please remember. I like pets. Look how well I’ve fed mine:


(As for taking her on a flight, I don’t think I could afford the overweight baggage charge.)


7 thoughts on “Pets: Passengers or Cargo?

  1. Sue

    A few comments… your desire to sit in a bulkhead row would never be thwarted by someone traveling with a pet in an approved carrier… the carrier needs to fit under the seat in front of the passenger, and there is none in the bulkhead row. You would not likely be displaced even by a handicapped person with a service dog because on many planes these days, the bulkhead row seems to also be an EXIT row, and a handicapped individual accompanied by service dog cannot be seated there due to FAA regulations.
    My experience is that people with allergies are probably more at risk due to the perfumes and colognes worn by other passengers than they will ever be because someone has a service dog or small pet in a carrier on the flight. If someone is so highly allergic to an animal, it’s simple enough for the flight attendant to seat that person far away from the animal.
    When I fly I am accompanied by a large service dog. Most passengers are not aware that he is even on the flight (unless they have seen us board) until I ask him to stand up so we can deplane. Many times the people who have seen him board come by later to ask where he went because he just sort of “disappears” while we are in flight. I usually ask for the row just behind the bulkhead row so I don’t have to walk too far to my seat. On a few occasions there have been a passenger in the bulkhead row who complained that he was “highly allergic” to dogs and who asked to be moved. In each case the flight attendants have easily accommodated those people by moving them to seating a good distance away. In each case, the attendants have also come back to tell me that there was probably no basis for the complaint, other than the person’s hope that it would get them a freebie ride in first class.
    Most folks who have sat adjacent to me and my service dog have usually commented as we were waiting to deplane that he was much quieter and more well behaved than most of the children they had encountered when they fly. Maybe kids should be flown in cargo for the comfort of the other adult passengers too?
    Air Canada recently stopped carrying pets in cargo simply because they lack cargo space and want to use the space for more profitable cargo.
    Though you say you love your cat, overfeeding her to the point of obesity does not demonstrate that sentiment. Have you considered seeing a vet for help in getting some help in improving your cat’s health?

  2. Doggies are Great

    I’m not sure if you were meaning to be sarcastic with the “I love animals” comment or not by showing that unhealthy cat’s photo, but if that really is your cat, please put her on a diet. If you really love her, you will want her to live a long and wonderful life, which won’t happen if she stays that fat. She’ll probably have a heart attack or something soon. Like the other person said, talk to the cat’s vet about getting her on a diet and exercise program.
    As for service dogs, they need the space (it used to be “extra space”, but that’s no longer true) of the bulkhead row, so it is the law that they be allowed priority (if the handler so chooses) to sit there. Same goes for people who have legs or prosthetic legs that cannot bend. When a non-disabled passenger books a bulkhead seat, they know they could be moved to a different seat on the plane if somebody who needs the bulkhead needs their seat. It isn’t a special or different privilege, but is out of need, as it is impossible or very difficult for some disabled people to sit in a non-bulkhead seat and disabled people have the right to fly just as everybody else does.
    I don’t think too much free upgrading to first class happens these days.
    Allergies are not a reason to deny access to a disabled person with a service dog. People with allergies can sit on the opposite end of the plane (or restaurant or other place), take their allergy medications, use a neck-worn air purifier, etc. Dog allergens are in every household, even those that have never had dogs in them, and there are more allergens on a dog owner’s clothes on any given day than on a service dog.
    I’m allergic to cats, too, but I don’t think they should ban small pets in carriers on the plane. They only allow up to two pets per cabin and the pets must be small enough to fit under the seat standing up, so they’re going to be small dogs, puppies, or cats – nothing bigger. And they are not to be taken out of their carrier bag either on the plane or in the airport, so their allergens aren’t going to be flying all over the place, but contained in the closed bag. (Though I have not seen this rule enforced in an airport, even for cargo pets, both types of animals which I have seen on leash before being checked in or after the flight in the baggage area – folks, obey the rules/laws and keep your pets in their carriers until you are outside!).

  3. Kate

    Hah! the cat is not obese- she’s perfectly healthy and well loved, so calm down.
    And the fear of being displaced from the bulkhead seat wasn’t a theoretical, it actually happened.
    And I have nothing against dogs and cats (in fact, i LOVE dogs and cats), but to deny that some people have very serious pet allergies is somewhat inconsiderate. Not just that, but some people have intense fears of dogs. Whether or not their fears are rational or come from a horrible personal experience with a nasty dog doesn’t matter. Such passengers wishing to be seated away from pets on a plane should be accommodated and not scoffed at by the flight attendant and dog owner.

  4. A

    I am very allergic to cats but have sat next to many on planes without any problems. Their dander isn’t all over the place because it’s not their home and they are contained at foot level. Obviously some (but not all) cat-allergic people will still have problems, but for me, I agree that people who smell like perfume or smoke are worse.

  5. Jeanne

    Oh, hey, everybody. Breathe. Two important points here:
    1) I support, without reservation, the right of service animals to ride in passenger cabins. I thought I stated that pretty clearly.
    2) I was joking about my cat, who is not obese — although she’s a bit heftier now that she’s older. She saw the vet last month and he declared her quite healthy.
    And some less important points:
    I know that human passengers can take medications and follow other steps to reduce the severity of allergic reactions. I just don’t think they should have to do this for a pet. Again, a service animal is different.
    First-class upgrades may not happen very often these days, but this event occurred several years ago. And at the time I had medallion status on Delta.

  6. Cindy Sue Causey

    Cute piece, but instinctively cringed a couple of times.. Using person first language, it’s:
    “Person with a disability”..
    “Persons with disabilities”..
    Please :: “Handicapped” is for betting on horse and dog races.. :wink, hug:

  7. Doggies

    QUOTE: “…to deny that some people have very serious pet allergies is somewhat inconsiderate. Not just that, but some people have intense fears of dogs.”
    When you are talking of a service animal (not a pet), the law says allergies and fear of dogs are not reasons to deny access to a person with their service animal. Even if that person’s allergies are to the level that it is a disability (very rare), both people must be accommodated and, as such, the person with the service animal cannot be denied access.
    Therefore, sitting away from the animal, taking medications, using personal air purifiers, and other steps can be used to relieve their allergy symptoms/attacks. If somebody who is flying has such a severe allergy that it would be a bad idea for them to fly with a service animal present, they can book a different flight (with the airline waiving the change fee, hopefully).
    (The allergic person would normally be the one to change because of many reasons, including that the service dog shouldn’t be delayed because of eating, drinking, and pottying issues and what if on the next flight there is another severely allergic person so the service animal team would have to be bumped again? Also, many disabled people have to keep to certain eating, pottying, medication, routine, etc. schedules for health reasons and plan their flights around them.)
    When you are talking of pets, it is a different story and the allergic person should take precedence. I think at least some airlines have a disclaimer saying room on the plane for their pet is not guaranteed, even after they have purchased the ticket for the pet.


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