In light of the horrific dog death aboard a United Airlines flight earlier this week, I reached out to a United FA to see what the rulebook actually says about stowage of pets in-flight.
She provided me sections of the United eFAOM (electronic Flight Attendant Operations Manual) pertaining to pets and the stowage of carry-on bags.
Here are relevant portions, which I have transcribed directly from the manual.
5.3 ANIMALS IN CABINS
5.3.1 PET ACCEPTANCE
United accepts household animals/pets in excess if service animals for travel in the cabin on all flights, except where governmental quartile restrictions apply.
There is no limit to the number of pets allowed per cabin. Pets must be in enclosed carriers, placed in approved stowage locations. For approved stowage, see Stowage of Carry-On Baggage section.
Any questions regarding the boarding of a household animal/pet should be directed to the Customer Service Representative (CSR)
126.96.36.199 PETS IN CABIN: POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
During check-in with an agent, customers will be provided a PETC tag which must be signed by the customer and will be attached to the kennel. The signature is an acknowledgment the customer is aware of an understands the guidelines below. If the tag is missing or not visible, there is no requirement to report it.
- The pet must remain in the kennel through the flight, and the kennel must be closed
- (FAR 121.589) During taxi, takeoff and landing as well as during meal service, the pet kennel must be stowed under the seat directly in front of the customer.
- A single kennel is limited to one pet. However, two kittens or puppies under the age of ten weeks, or two household burns, are allowed in one pet kennel.
- Pet strollers are not allowed onboard
- Animals trained to perform service such as search and rescue or explosive/narcotic detection are also permitted in the cabin
5.10.2 STOWAGE OF CARRY-ON BAGGAGE
Carry-on baggage that cannot be properly stowed must be tagged by ground personnel and transported as checked baggage.
188.8.131.52 EXCLUDED CARRY-ON ITEMS
The carry-on baggage limits detailed above are exclusive of the following items:
- Pet kennel small enough to fit underneath the seat without blocking any person’s path to the main aisle of the aircraft. Must be stowed properly before the forward aircraft boarding door is closed.
The Smoking Gun?
The smoking gun above seems to be FAR 121.589, though that regulation does not actually single out pet kennel storage.
Even so, the FAA offers the following guidance on storing a pet onboard:
What are the FAA rules regarding traveling with pets in the passenger cabin?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows each airline to decide if they will allow you to travel with your pet in the passenger cabin. If an airline does allow you to bring your pet into the cabin, we consider your pet container to be carry-on baggage and you must follow all carry on baggage rules (14 CFR part 121, section 121.589):
- Your pet container must be small enough to fit underneath the seat without blocking any person’s path to the main aisle of the airplane.
- Your pet container must be stowed properly before the last passenger entry door to the airplane is closed in order for the airplane to leave the gate.
- Your pet container must remain properly stowed the entire time the airplane is moving on the airport surface, and for take off and landing.
- You must follow flight attendant instructions regarding the proper stowage of your pet container.
Additionally, U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines state—
- Pets may be shipped as cargo if unaccompanied, and many airline cargo departments employ specialists in the movement of animals. Animals must always be shipped in pressurized holds. Some airlines allow the kennel to be carried in the passenger cabin as carry-on luggage if it fits under the seat.
It may seem like common sense now that a pet cannot be stored in an overhead locker, but I never imagined that a dog would die on a 3.5 hour flight. Did you?
I have not been able to find any rule the explicitly prohibits pets from being placed in an overhead bin. But both U.S. law and the United Flight Attendant Operations Manual suggest that pets should only be stored under the seat. I also don’t see any rules stating that you cannot run your pet through an x-ray scanner…
photo courtesy: USAF (used with permission)