By Samantha Bomkamp -- AP Transportation Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — We dress them up. We feed them gourmet foods. We treat them like members of the family. So when we have to fly — whether it be on a beach vacation or to grandma's house, our pets are often a first-class priority.
Bringing animals on flights has become more commonplace in recent years, but some airlines now have strict regulations — and even stricter prices — to pack a pooch or carry a cat. But with increasing concern for the welfare of canine and feline alike, there are a growing number of options to transport pets in the friendly skies.
And some airlines can be more pet-friendly than others.
Rules for the Cabin
AirTran, Spirit and JetBlue only allow pets to fly in the cabin. That's great for animal lovers who argue that precious pets shouldn't be relegated to the cargo hold, but not so great for owners with medium or large dogs. Pups in the cabin must be able to fit (read: stand up and turn around) in a carrier small enough to slide under the seat in front of you during flight. Generally, this maxes out at about 20 pounds.
US Airways only allows pets in the cabin, but they will permit them as checked baggage for nonstop US Airways Shuttle flights between Boston, New York and Washington D.C.
Though pets are allowed in the cabin on these airlines, they set limits on the number of pets that can be onboard a flight, ranging from 3 to 7, depending on the airline and size of the jet. So it's best to book early and call the airline to tell them you're traveling with a pet as soon as possible.
JetBlue is the only U.S. airline that allows animals in the cabin on international flights. As a bonus, you'll also earn extra frequent flier points for traveling with your pet.
For pets traveling in the cabin, AirTran charges the least among big carriers at $69. Most U.S. airlines charge between $100 and $125, but bringing a pet in the cabin on Delta and Northwest flights costs $150.
Traveling as Cargo
For those traveling as checked baggage, Delta and Northwest are the most expensive at $275. The least expensive in this category are Alaska Airlines and Midwest at $100, and Frontier which prices its checked pets fees between $100 and $200.
Frontier only allows pets as checked baggage. Southwest doesn't allow pets at all, except for service animals.
In all cases, the airlines won't charge you a first or second bag fee for your dog on top of the pet fee. But some airlines will count the kennel as a piece of checked luggage, so if you have more than two bags, you might get slammed with another fee.
But aside from the fees, traveling with a pet can sometimes be a frustrating and even scary experience. Although it's rare, a handful of pets get lost or killed each year when traveling on airlines.