Traveling with a Pet? PHL’s Guide to Navigating the Skies

Sparky Liberty BellPHL Airport recently received a visit from a special four-legged friend, Sparky (you can follow Sparky on Instagram at @sparkythemaltipom)! We loved spending time with Sparky and want to ensure all of PHL’s furry friends have a great airport experience. We’ve compiled an all-encompassing guide on common questions and helpful resources for animal owners to reference the next time they emBARK (pun intended!) on a trip with their best friend.

To get insider tips on the best practices for traveling with pets, we spoke with PHL’s resident expert and Director of Access and Accessible Programs, Saron McKee.

Q. How can I determine if my pet is eligible to travel?

A: Eligibility varies by airline, so the best way to determine if your animal is cleared to fly is to check with the specific airline you will be using. At the bottom of this page you will find links to the pet policies for each of the airlines based at PHL.

Once confirmed, determine if your animal is classified as a service animal or pet. This is extremely important, as travel rules and processes differ for service animals.    

Q. What classifies a pet as a service animal?

A: A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability including a physical, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability. Under the Air Carriers Access Act, only dogs qualify as service animals; all other animals are considered pets. Airlines may ask the following questions to determine if your pet is a service animal:

  1. Is the animal required to accompany the individual because of a disability?
  2. What task or work has the animal been trained to perform?

Q. Can my pet travel in-cabin with me?

A: As of December 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a final rule about service animals. Other pets can still travel, but airline pet policies will dictate if the animal can fly in the cabin or be safely transported via the cargo hold. If traveling via cargo hold, pets will  reunite with their owners after the flight lands.

We understand that pet owners will be anxious to pick up their pet once their flight lands. The procedure for picking up your pet is relatively simple, and airline processes are evolving to further accommodate pets and their owners through introducing new pick-up methods.

Q. When will I be reunited with my pet?

A: In most cases, pets who travel via cargo hold can be picked up in the waiting area of the cargo terminal after your flight lands. However, American Airlines recently launched My Pet Cab, a “pet delivery service” that delivers passengers’ pets right to their front door. This is a great option to avoid waiting at the cargo terminal, giving passengers the flexibility to reunite with their pets in the comfort of their own home.

When asked what one piece of advice she would share with passengers preparing to travel with a pet, McKee says, “It’s important to understand that there are different laws for airports, which fall under the American Disabilities Act, and airlines which fall under the Air Carrier Access Act. To ensure a seamless and enjoyable traveling experience with your pet, I highly recommend that travelers contact the airlines ahead of time, make sure that they understand the rules of the airline they are flying with, complete any necessary paperwork before arriving at the airport, and always carry their pet’s vaccination and licensing tags .” 

Still have questions? For specific policy information about traveling with service animals through PHL, individuals can contact customer service. To learn about airline-specific rules for traveling with pets, click on the links below for more information. 

Air Canada

Alaska Airlines

American Airlines

British Airways







Sun Country



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Christine Ottow
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Heather Redfern
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