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Carrier on lap during flight or not? Second thoughts

A while ago, I wrote a post about whether you can or cannot bring your dog’s carrier out from under the seat during flight and rest it on your lap. All airlines agree that your dog must stay completely in her carrier, but some appear to allow you to hold the carrier on your lap except during takeoff and landing.

It was a popular post, so I know that a bunch of you like having your dog’s carrier on your lap whenever it’s permitted. I do too. However, I’m having second thoughts about it, and here’s why. Chloe’s carrier is at the upper end — size-wise — of what’s acceptable. Putting her carrier on my lap is feasible, if I’m very, very careful to keep my arms out of my neighbors’ personal spaces, but it’s awkward and I suspect it discourages my inboard neighbors from asking to step out into the aisle.

That’s important, because I think when you’re traveling with an in-cabin pet you should be as low-impact as possible, but an even more important point is that a carrier in your lap may become a projectile in turbulence. I’ve just read a handful of stories about injuries suffered by flight attendants, and it occurred to me that Chloe’s carrier wouldn’t provide her much protection during a similar event.

Clinching the deal, for me, is my new belief that Chloe doesn’t really need my arm stuck in her carrier for comfort. I think she knows I’m nearby without the arm, and that what I’m really doing is comforting myself, at her possible expense and at the expense of my neighbors’ comfort. I’ll think twice about bringing her carrier out from under my legs, in future.


  • Amanda

    During my recent flights I kept my dog under the seat the whole time, except during one flight where I had an entire row of seats to myself. During that flight, I placed him in front of one of the seats so that his carrier was completely extended. Being the first time he’s traveled, I realized that he was actually quieter the less attention I paid to him. The one time I stuck my hand in his carrier he started to whine, but when I left him alone he was quiet.

    How I got an entire row of seats during holiday travels? Luck, I guess. It was great for both me and him.

    One little tip I came up with… when I was connecting through Atlanta with him for one of my flights they had a family bathroom which was a private bathroom (not just a stall). I took him in there, put down a puppy pad and let him walk around a bit. My time in between flights wasn’t long enough to take him to the relief-area (Atlanta supposedly has a small dog park) and this seemed like a good alternative. Probably not allowed, but worked well in a pinch. I’m sure people with babies would cringe, but who lets their baby crawl around on the bathroom floor, anyway?

  • I agree, Amanda — I think I just wake Chloe up when I stick my hand in with her. I love the family bathroom tip! Had your dog ever used pads before? Chloe hasn’t, so I wonder if I’d need to give her a trial run first…. I wrote a post earlier about using a similar technique in a plane bathroom, on long-haul flights (and only if a dog’s need is really pressing), but I hadn’t thought about an airport bathroom.

  • molly the wine dog

    I really like what you said about being “low impact” when flying with a dog. Flying is such a hassle. If a dog owner becomes a nuisance it’s just like flying next to a baby – you bring on everyone’s scorn. There’s enough to worry about in flight – being “low impact” is good advice for every traveler – doggy or otherwise. cheers to you. Molly.

  • GoPetFriendly

    I like your balance between caring for your pet and concern for other passengers comfort. It’s a win-win that will make it easier for people to fly with their pets and for other people to accept people who fly with their pets.

  • Cheers, Molly! and thanks, GoPetFriendly! I’m always shocked by the virulence of some people’s objections to in-cabin dogs, and it seems to me that if owners just took a small step like making sure their dogs are entirely within their carriers in the airport and during flight (as the rules require), a lot of that anger would lose its focus.

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