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Flying with an in-cabin dog: Adding a dog to your plane reservation

A couple of days ago, we bought tickets on JetBlue to travel to New York City later this summer. I have to go to a conference, we both want to see some friends — five days should cover it, right? Well, it’s a six-day trip now, because after I made our on-line reservations I called back to add Chloe to my ticket (as I always do), and learned that our outgoing flight already had its full complement of in-cabin pets (all airlines, except Allegiant, have a limited number of available spaces; only four in-cabin pets are allowed on JetBlue flights). That has never happened to me before — perhaps too many people have been reading Dog Jaunt!

I was dismayed for a couple of reasons. Although it’s not a tragedy to be forced to spend an extra day in NYC, it made the trip more costly and required some schedule juggling — and the customer service rep charged me $100 per ticket to change flights to a day earlier.

A second call a day later solved half of my problems: JetBlue will not charge you a change fee if you make your change within four hours of your original booking. Be sure to ask for that perk — the first customer service rep didn’t tell me about it, and I only learned about it because I called back specifically to express my concern that I’d been charged the change fee even though there was no way to tell, on-line, that we wouldn’t be able to get Chloe on our chosen flight.

The original problem remained, though, since we still have to travel a day earlier than planned. If I had known our chosen flight was full-up on pets, I might well have opted to fly on United instead. Here’s what the JetBlue customer service rep told me to do, and it’s good advice for any airline. Either (1) call the airline just before you make your on-line reservation, confirm that there’s space for your dog, make the reservation, then call back instantly to add your dog to your ticket OR (2) make your entire reservation, including your dog’s reservation, over the phone.

I know what you’re going to say — airlines now charge you a fee for making reservations over the phone. It turns out that JetBlue doesn’t, in this situation, so when you call, tell the rep that you’re calling because you’re traveling with an in-cabin dog and remind them that you shouldn’t be charged the usual fee. If you’re working with another airline, call and explain the situation and ask if they’ll waive the fee.

Your second objection is that some airlines, including JetBlue, give you extra frequent flyer credit if you make your reservation on-line. In this situation, however, JetBlue will give you that extra credit even if you make your reservation over the phone (but remind them to, so it doesn’t get overlooked). Again, if you’re working with another airline that has a similar incentive, call first and explain the situation — they too might give you the extra credit, but if they don’t, you can factor that in to your decision-making early on.

This series of phone calls has made me even more appreciative of Continental’s system, which allows you to  stipulate that you’re traveling with an in-cabin dog when you search for flights and make reservations on-line.

7 comments

  • [email protected]

    Your last paragraph (almost) stole my comment. As I was reading your post, I kept thinking that the Jet Blue “solution” is not how Seth Godin would imagine the customer service experience. Why would any company make it sooo difficult for a customer to spend money buying its service or product? I know Jet Blue gets a lot of kudos in other areas … I guess it’s up to people flying with small dogs are willing to tolerate this bug.

  • Karen

    Hi, thank you so much for all the guidance given on this site. I just booked a Jet Blue nonstop flight from east to west coast.. I’ve never flown with her before, so I’m somewhat nervous. Has your dog ever barked on a flight?

  • Hello, Karen! Thanks for your comment! Don’t be nervous, it’s all very manageable — please poke around Dog Jaunt, especially under the tab “Taking your dog on a plane,” and then let me know if you have any questions I haven’t answered. Chloe hasn’t ever barked on a plane. She has scratched at her carrier, but only during takeoff (I now think that some sound the plane makes during the rev up and takeoff must irritate her). I have heard *of* in-cabin dogs barking, but I’ve never heard it myself. Have a talk with your vet about flying with your pup — sedatives are not generally recommended, even for in-cabin dogs, because they affect your dog’s balance and breathing, but in some cases they may make sense — a good vet will talk the issue through with you.

  • Karen

    I booked seats in the back of the 320 because I thought it would be eaiser to keep a low profile on her first flight. But I flew sans pup to Vegas this weekend, and now I’m thinking with the less roomy seats and more traffic going back and forth the restroom, maybe I should upgrade to the more legroom front seats. What do you think?

  • Hello again, Karen! I like your consideration in tucking yourself and your pup back where you’d be less irritating to other passengers (for the same reason, parents and kids are often seated at the back of the plane) BUT since you’ll have a carrier under your feet, and you’ll likely want to reach down and give your pup pats and ice cubes, etc., I strongly recommend grabbing whatever opportunities you have or can afford for extra legroom. It’s a lifesaver.

  • Kat

    Hi-
    I have a quick question that I can’t seem to find the answer to after looking through your site. When you make reservations over the phone for your dog, do you usually get some sort of email or followup confirming that the dog is traveling with you? We have yet to take our dog, Eva, on a flight with us, but we are planning our first trip and I’d like to know what to expect and request from the airlines. I guess I figure that since we have receipts confirming our reservations she should have one too.
    Thanks-
    Kat

  • Hi, Kat! That is a terrific question, and I’m surprised I’ve never gotten it before. The answer is no — I’ve never received any kind of note or follow-up confirming that Chloe has a spot on board. When I finish my phone conversation (only a couple of airlines let you make pet reservations on line), I always make a written note that I spoke to [agent’s name], added Chloe to my reservation, and either have paid for her in advance by credit card or need to pay for her at the ticket counter. It’s a bit feeble, but it’s the best I can do. So far, thankfully, we haven’t had any problems in that regard.

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