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Reader’s report: Traveling by plane with two in-cabin dogs

This was originally sent to me as an e-mail message by a reader named Carole, who lives in Spain and Turkey (but has also lived in the U.S. and other locations, and has traveled extensively, as you’ll see). I have long wanted a second Cavalier King Charles Spaniel — I’ve even chosen her name (Flora, after the heroine of Cold Comfort Farm). Until now, I’ve hesitated because my husband has long legs, and needs every inch of under-seat space he can find. After reading this post, I have more reasons to hesitate!

We have two small dogs, each 11 pounds, that we take everywhere with us. They were born in the US but later traveled by air to France, to Italy, to Turkey, to Mexico and to Spain, always in-cabin on different airlines.

The biggest problem is that the airlines do not have a standard policy. Worse, whatever policy they have they keep secret from employees! From experience we can say for sure that Turkish Airlines allows only 1 dog in the entire plane. Not just 1 pet per passenger, 1 dog per plane. In the past, my husband and I have had to take separate flights due to this restrictive policy.

Just recently an Alitalia employee in the Istanbul airport informed me (I think incorrectly) that Alitalia has the same policy, at least flying out of Istanbul to Rome: Only 1 dog/cat per flight.

Be prepared to be told one thing on the phone by airline employees, only to arrive at the airport to be told something different.

Through a bad experience with Iberia, the Spanish airline, we ended up recently paying 500 euros and enduring a 2-day delay because of wrong information given to us by Iberia employees. We learned the hard way that Iberia allows 1 pet in business class and 2 in economy. We had been told by Iberia employees in both Miami and in Istanbul that our 2 dogs were reserved on our flight from Istanbul to Madrid, no problem.

On departure day we drove 3 hours to Antalya airport, then flew to Istanbul intending to board the flight to Spain but we were denied boarding because we were holding 2 business class seats and no coach class seats were available for the next two days (only one dog was allowed in business class). We had then to find a pet-friendly hotel in Istanbul (very difficult – took several hours and about 20 phone calls) where we stayed with our dogs for 2 days awaiting an available seat in economy class.

The airline websites do not specify the allowable number of pets-in-cabin. It is true that it depends on the type of plane. It is nearly impossible to get a consistent and correct answer. Therefore, we have decided in future to travel separately, me and one dog, my husband and the other dog on separate flights. This is the only sure solution.

At the end of her message, Carole emphasized that “reservations are ALWAYS required now. If you turn up with a pet without a reservation, your pet will not be able to board with you.”

5 comments

  • sciascia

    hi, just as Carole, we travel everywhere with our 11lb dog. In his almost 12 years of life, he’s been everywhere, from Cuba to Brazil, Italy (every month) , France and many more places.
    As Carole explained, the airline employees don’t even know their own rules, and I am in the midst of am almost surreal battle with Delta.
    We travel with Delta every month from NY to Milan, always with our dog. We have reached Diamond Status, thanks to the costly business class tickets and thanks to the dog (Delta has the friendliest in cabin pet policy).
    On our last flight back to the USA, the Delta agent in Milan, told us we could have not possibly reserved an in cabin pet on that aircraft, because that plane has flat beds. We politely replied that the dog had flown that same aircraft, with those seats, many times before.
    we were so suprised, we even thought maybe they did change aircraft that day and gave her the benefit of the doubt…she told us she was going to have ask the flight crew, and the captain, to make sure it was ok.
    we kept cool. And surely enough the crew let us on board no problem.
    I was very worried though, that these same agents in Milan, would give us trouble again, since we fly so often out of Milan, and called Delta once i landed in the US, to make sure there wasn’t any change in policy.
    That’s where it became surreal: Delta said there is a restriction (no incabin pets in business class in flat bed aircrafts) but it applies only to B 777 and B767 aircrafts- not Airbus 330 which was the plane we were on. In fact Airbuses 330 don’t have flat beds, just reclining chairs.
    They admitted Milan did a mistake, and they got their aircrafts all confused.
    So at that point I asked if this information could be related to Delta in Milan, so they know not to hassle passengers like me anymore (and maybe learn how to distinguish aircrafts?) but no, they can’t do that. I mean, an email cannot be sent to their own offices???
    I’ve been trying to convince someone to send us an email, a written statement just saying “please be advised in cabin pets are allowed in business elite on Airbus 330” and nobody can do that.
    So, most likely, the overly zealous agent in Milan, will stop me again on my next flight back to jfk and I will have to pull out the printed regulation SHE didn’t bother to study better.
    Will I ever win this battle?

    🙂

  • What a great comment! Thank you so much for the helpful info about the intricacies of Delta business class — and for setting a fine example by being polite with the gate agent and having them check with the flight crew. It does sound like a battle, but given how much you travel, perhaps the Milan crews will start recognizing you and wave you through. Well, it COULD happen, right?! In the meantime, it’s a very good thing that you are patient, well-informed travelers….

  • Anne Waltham

    Hi everyone, I took my chihuahua from the uk to india on lufthansa last year. I was told everything was ok by phone. I checked the booking numerous times. When I reached heathrow the check in staff told me their computer would not accept the booking. It took 40 stressful minutes for them to sort it out. Finally it was ok. Now I am going to fly from Mumbai to Rome and return after 6 months. I have a choice of air france, alitalia, Swiss and lufthansa. Lufthansa offers the best arrival time. Chico will be flying in cabin. Any advice anyone?

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