News, Pets

United Airlines bans dozens of dogs and cat breeds from cargo hold under new pet travel policy

From the Los Angeles Times:
In response to the controversial death of a dog on a United Airlines flight in March, the carrier is overhauling its pet travel policy, including banning the transport of dozens of breeds of dogs and cats in the cargo compartment.

Passengers can still bring small pets, including many of the breeds banned in cargo, into the cabin if the animal’s carrier fits under the seat without obstructing passengers from exiting.

The new policy doesn’t address service animals and emotional support animals. It also appears to effectively ban some fully grown large breeds, including Mastiffs and some bulldogs, since they won’t be allowed in the cargo hold and would appear to not fit under a seat in the cabin.

As part of the announcement of its new pet policy, United Airlines said Tuesday it is teaming up with American Humane, a 141-year-old animal welfare group, to improve its pet travel policies, including possible changes to staff training and other requirements for passengers traveling with pets.

“Transporting pets introduces a variety of risks, and when United approached us we knew we had to take on the challenge of helping improve and ensure the health, safety and comfort of so many animals,” said Robin Ganzert, president and chief executive of American Humane.

The new policy to ban certain breeds begins June 18 and stems “out of concern for higher adverse health risks,” the Chicago-based airline said. Studies have suggested that pets with short or snub noses are more likely to have health problems while being transported on planes.

Among the pets the new policy bans from transporting in the cargo hold are dozens of breeds of dogs and cats, including Boston Terriers, boxers, pugs and Pekingese dogs, and Persian and Himalayan cats. The program will accept only dogs and cats; no other animal will be allowed in the cargo hold area.

United also said it would stop transporting animals between May 1 and Sept. 30 for travel to and from Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix and Tuscon because of the extreme heat in those destinations during summer months.

The airline is also limiting the number of connections a pet can be routed through on a trip and is imposing new but unspecified requirements for documentation that pet owners must provide before a reservation is confirmed.

Other airlines also place restrictions on pet travel. Delta does not accept snub-nosed or pug-nosed pets as checked baggage under any circumstances.

United temporarily halted transporting pets after the death of a 10-month-old French bulldog on March 12 on a flight from Houston to New York — a story that went viral on social media.

A flight attendant, worried that the dog’s carrier did not fit under the seat, instructed the owners to put the carrier in the overhead compartment, where the dog died during a flight of more than three hours. United Airlines defended the flight attendant, saying she did not know that the carrier contained a live dog, which the passenger has disputed.

United Airlines took more heat on its pet transport program the following day, when the airline accidentally shipped a dog to Japan instead of Kansas City, Mo. The animal was eventually reunited with its owner. A third dog was incorrectly placed on a flight to St. Louis, which prompted the airline to divert the flight to Akron, Ohio, the dog’s intended destination.

United Airlines announces collaboration with American Humane for safe animal travel

CHICAGO – United Airlines today announced it will be working with American Humane, the country’s first national humane animal organization, to improve the well-being of all pets that travel on United. American Humane has been working to improve the safety, welfare and well-being of the world’s animals for more than 140 years.

United also announced that it will resume operations for PetSafe®, the carrier’s program for cats and dogs that travel in the cargo compartment, later this summer. The airline continues to review all pet handling processes and policies, including in-cabin pet travel. United is identifying new policies, updating training and customer requirements, and implementing these changes to improve the safety of the pet travel experience. For customers looking for more up-to-date information and important tips to help them further ensure the comfort of their pets during travel, please visit

“American Humane has long been known and respected for setting the gold standard of animal welfare,” said Jan Krems, United’s vice president of cargo. “We look forward to a long-term collaboration and appreciate their expertise in helping us further improve our service on an ongoing and continual basis. As we continue our review process to ensure that we are always doing what’s right, we are committed to making significant improvements in our program and adhering to the best practices of animal comfort, well-being and travel on behalf of our customers and their pets.”

“Transporting pets introduces a variety of risks and when United approached us, we knew we had to take on the challenge of helping improve and ensure the health, safety and comfort of so many animals,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane’s president and chief executive officer. “United serves thousands of customers and their pets each day, and we saw it as our duty to come in as an independent, third party to help evaluate and further improve their PetSafe program and the in-cabin experience to ensure it offers one of the best in the industry.”


In March, United began a comprehensive review of the transportation of animals and, in May, announced it will be working with American Humane, the country’s first national humane animal organization, to improve the well-being of all pets that travel on United.

Effective June 18, 2018, United will implement several new policies and customer requirements for pet air transportation to improve the safety of the travel experience. Throughout the remainder of the year, United and American Humane will continue to make enhancements as needed to further improve the safety and care of animal transportation.

As American Humane has noted, transporting pets introduces a variety of risks. It’s critically important customers visit for (1) important tips to help them further ensure the comfort of their animals during travel and (2) full details on our improved standards, which will be updated on an ongoing basis.

Update: Effective April 3, we are allowing an exception to our suspension of new PetSafe reservations for members of the military and their spouses, and State Department Foreign Service personnel and their spouses, who wish to travel with or ship their pets out of Guam.

PetSafe® is our specially designed program for transporting cats and dogs that are not eligible to travel in the aircraft cabin. PetSafe offers airport-to-airport travel for cats and dogs traveling to approximately 300 destinations, and members of our PetSafe team are trained professionals who love animals and are dedicated to ensuring that all pets receive the best care throughout their entire journey.

PetSafe travel planning, considerations and risks
Pets are important members of the family. To ensure their safe and comfortable travel with United, be sure to review all the requirements before booking. Learn more

Ensuring a safe and comfortable journey
Follow these important guidelines to prepare your pet for travel. Learn more

Before you book
Crate selection and preparation
Help your pet travel safely and comfortably by using an approved crate that meets United’s requirements. Learn more

Pet restrictions
View limitations on international travel and certain animal breeds. Learn more

Check the current cost to ship your pet with PetSafe. Learn more

Before you go
Required documents
Plan ahead to obtain all the required documents for your pet, including health certificates and acknowledgment forms. As a first step, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) documentation guidelines for pet travel. Learn more

PetSafe drop-off and pickup information
Find the right location for dropping off and picking up your pet. Learn more

Industry-leading comfort and safety features
We prioritize the safety and well-being of cats and dogs through every step of their journey with PetSafe. We have over 80 custom designed, climate-controlled vehicles to safely transport pets in all weather conditions. As a part of our loading process, pets are placed onto the aircraft last and removed first to minimize stress. While in the air, pets remain secure and comfortable in climate-controlled, pressurized compartments, and our onsite kennels and offsite facilities accommodate pets during long connection times and before international travel.

Our program includes a dedicated PetSafe Customer Service Center that’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays, and monitored by trained staff. Each pet’s itinerary is confirmed via telephone by a PetSafe agent, who plans each route to minimize the pet’s travel time. You can book your pet’s travel up to 30 days in advance but all reservations must be made at least five (5) days prior to each pet’s departure — this allows for planning and consultation on all transportation requirements and helps ensure that pets have the best experience when traveling with us. You can also earn 500 MileagePlus award miles for each PetSafe shipment within the U.S. and 1,000 miles for all other shipments footnote*.

*This offer is subject to change. See the complete rules of the MileagePlus program.

PetSafe’s Performance Guarantee footnote**
PetSafe provides a 100% refund of the shipping charges when pets do not travel as booked, if they are dropped off by the required time and meet all acceptance criteria. To request a refund according to the Performance Guarantee, please submit a claim request form.

**No refund will be paid if the delay was caused by weather conditions, mechanical delay of aircraft, or for any other reason beyond United’s control. Performance Guarantee claims requests must be submitted within seven days of the promised time of availability.


Updated PetSafe standards

Effective June 18, 2018, these improved PetSafe standards will be updated continually and include the following:

New PetSafe Embargoes Effective June 18, 2018, United PetSafe will*:
Animals Accepted for PetSafe
  • Accept cats and dogs ONLY. NO other household pets or animals will be accepted as PetSafe
Reservation and Travel Resume
  • Allow reservations beginning June 18, 2018 for pets traveling on the same flight as their pet parent or guardian beginning July 9, 2018.
  • Allow reservations beginning July 16, 2018 for pets traveling alone for travel beginning July 30, 2018.
Breeds Not accept reservations for the following brachycephalic (or short- or snub-nosed) dogs and cats and strong-jawed dog breeds*, out of concern for higher adverse health risks:
Dog Breeds

  • Affenpinscher
  • American Bully
  • American Pit Bull Terrier/Pit Bull
  • American Staffordshire Terrier/”Amstaff”
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Bulldog
    • American Bulldog
    • English Bulldog
    • French Bulldog
    • Old English Bulldogges
    • Shorty Bulldogs
    • Spanish Alano/Spanish Bulldog/Alano Espanol
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chow Chow
  • English Toy Spaniel/Prince Charles Spaniel
  • Japanese Chin/Japanese Spaniel
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Mastiff
    • American Mastiff
    • Boerboel/South African Mastiff
    • Bullmastiff
    • Ca de Bou/Mallorquin Mastiff
    • Cane Corso/Italian Mastiff
    • Dogo Argentino/Argentinian Mastiff
    • Dogue de Bordeaux/French Mastiff
    • English Mastiff
    • Fila Brasileiro/Brazilian Mastiff/Cao de Fila
    • Indian Mastiff/Alangu
    • Kangal/Turkish Kangal
    • Neapolitan Mastiff/Mastino Napoletano
    • Pakastani Mastiff/Bully Kutta
    • Pyrenean Mastiff
    • Presa Canario/Perro de Presa Canario/Dogo Canario/Canary Mastiff
    • Spanish Mastiff / Mastin Espanol
    • Tibetan Mastiff
    • Tosa/Tosa Ken/Tosa Inu/Japanese Mastiff/Japanese Tosa
  • Pekingese
  • Pug
    • Dutch Pug
    • Japanese Pug
  • Shar-Pei/Chinese Shar-Pei
  • Shih-Tzu
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier/”Staffys”
  • Tibetan Spaniel

Cat Breeds

  • Burmese
  • Exotic Shorthair
  • Himalayan
  • Persian

* Including mixed breeds

Weather Restrictions
  • Monitor weather and assess the station capability of handling during extreme temperature or other operating conditions. United may decline acceptance or alter the routing if temperatures are outside of a safe range.
  • No longer accept reservations to and from the following airports annually between May 1 and Sept. 30, due to high temperature restrictions
    • Las Vegas (LAS)
    • Palm Springs (PSP)
    • Phoenix (PHX)
    • Tucson (TUS)
Reservation Timeframe
  • Accept pre-reservations between 30 days in advance (maximum) and five (5) days (minimum) prior to travel for customers traveling with their pets and/or for pets traveling alone
  • Require additional conditions for acceptance (see below) prior to reservation confirmation.
Additional conditions for acceptance
  • Require the customer to provide PetSafe with several pieces of information (e.g. documents, photos, crate information, etc.) before any reservation is confirmed. PetSafe Customer Service Center will be able to provide additional details of this requirement at the time of booking
Locations Served
  • Not accept any reservations to and from India and Australia at this time. To confirm service in other locations, please contact the PetSafe Customer Service Center.
Flight Segments (Connections)
  • Place limitations on the number of connecting cities in the routing. Please consult the PetSafe Customer Service Center for available routings.
International Routings
  • Require international routing to be arranged through an International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) pet shipper only. A list of IPATA members near you can be found at
  • Not accept crates taller than 30″, including the 700 series crates.
  • No longer sell or provide crates at airport facilities. All cats and dogs traveling with a PetSafe reservation must have a compliant crate, which may be purchased via in advance for acclimation and travel.

*Last updated May 1, 2018; please note embargoes and information will be updated as detailed requirements are rolled out and is subject to change at any time.

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