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Taking an in-cabin dog to Hawaii: Breaking news from Alaska Airlines

I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this excited about a piece of dog travel news. I opened an update for Alaska Airline’s “Traveling with Pets” policy, and read that as of today, August 15, 2011, Alaska “will accept cats and dogs only for travel to and from Hawaii” (emphasis in the original). I kept reading, waiting for the inevitable sentence saying that in-cabin pets are not allowed, and it never appeared — so I called the airline, and asked about in-cabin pets, and was told, repeatedly, that dogs and cats would be allowed to travel in-cabin to Hawaii. They would, of course, have to meet Alaska’s normal requirements for in-cabin pets, and they would have to meet Hawaii’s stringent quarantine requirements — the airline provides helpful links to quarantine information, and please see this Dog Jaunt post about shortening your dog’s quarantine time to a few hours.

The customer service rep I spoke to was bemused by my excitement — I think she started to understand why I was so giddy when I told her that until now, the only way to take an in-cabin dog to Hawaii, short of joining a private flying club, was to fly through Incheon on Korean Air, but I didn’t get the sense that Alaska would be making a big noise about this change in policy.

24 comments

  • Amy@GoPetFriendly

    This is great news! For people relocating or traveling with smaller pets, the obstacles of getting to Hawaii were overwhelming. I’m glad this airline is making it a little easier.

  • Dino

    Talked with Hawaii quarantine office. They said the dog (with an owner is an option) has to be brought to quarantine office at the airport by the airline employee. Make sure to arrange Alaska Airline employee at arriving airport will be available for that. Hope other airline will follow Alaska’s decision!!!

  • Thanks so much for the information, Dino! I’m so looking forward to hearing from Alaska passengers who try this out — your info will certainly help them figure out the process.

  • Hanna at Dog Products

    Kudos to Alaska Airlines and since they are always competing on so many levels, maybe this move will result in other airlines following suit. I hope that’s the case.

    I travel quite a bit (for business as well as pleasure) and knowing that I’ve got an option to taking my little guys along is a tremendous relief. However, I would like to hear from those who actually tried it out because policies often don’t translate quite so well in actual practice.

  • Seana

    OH my gosh! I just found this on your website, being a “newbie” and I can’t tell you (or maybe you KNOW) how THRILLED this makes me! My dad and stepmom live in Hawaii and since I got my dogs, who I won’t leave but also won’t have put into cargo (NO WAY!!!), I haven’t been able to go visit them! I know all the regulations prior to flying as I have a friend who takes his dog there frequently (he said the first time is the most tedious procedure, but after that it wasn’t so bad), but there’s just absolutely no way I’d put my dog(s) into cargo for a 5 hour flight. This is SUCH fabulous news!!! Your site is so helpful! Thank you!

  • Hi, Seana! Please take an Alaska flight to Hawaii and LET ME KNOW how it goes — I’m desperate to find out, but there are no Hawaii trips on the horizon for us…. (And thank you — welcome to Dog Jaunt!)

  • Ken

    Apparently, only one pet per flight is allowed in the cabin. I called the airline today and that is what I was told.

  • Jen

    Im planning on bringing my dogs to Hawaii for my wedding and would like to know updates on a person that has actually done this. THIS IS AWESOME!

  • kay

    I spoke to an Alaskan Airlines Rep yesterday June 11, 2012. A passenger can travel with 2 pets, one pet would go under the seat in front of you, the other would have to go under the next seat infront of you, that passenger would have to put their carry on in the above compartment. So hope you have friendly co-passengers 🙂 5 pets are allowed on each flight, each pet in it’s own carrier. Carriers must be of metal hardware, no soft sided carriers

  • I’m adding this comment with the permission of its author, reader Bentree’s Momma, who’s organizing a trip where she and her pup fly to Honolulu and then on to Guam:

    “Hello, because of your hard work and willingness to share your info I found that Alaska Airlines allows in-cabin pets (1 in business, 1 in economy) on flights to Honolulu!!! I was so stressed! We are relocating to the island of Guam, which like Hawaii, is rabies free and has strict quarantine rules. That was the easy part. Though my dog has traveled once on United’s (formerly Continental’s) Petsafe program, I couldn’t get a straight answer in the several calls I made to United, which made me more anxious. Plus, that was a short 3 hour flight. I was really trying to avoid having my dog go through cargo again, on a trans-Pacific flight. Because I thought all airlines did not allow in-cabin pets to Honolulu, I thought about transiting in Narita, but I couldn’t get a reassuring answer from Delta nor United as to if he could go in-cabin all the way, or if at all. Or what the procedure was if I had to switch from in-cabin to cargo in Narita. (Starting from Los Angeles) Every representative gave me a different answer and I never heard from the Japan quarantine office in Narita. Soooooo… after a sleepless night, I found your blog post regarding Alaska’s new policy. AND.. the fare and pet fee were so inexpensive! Though I still will need to send my dog by cargo to our final destination, having him in-cabin for the first leg was a compromise that put me a little at ease. We will spend a little less than 24 hours in Honolulu, so I haven’t decided yet if I will take him out of the quarantine office or just have him stay at the Humane Society’s Animalport which takes care of pets in transit. I believe I might save some money by paying their fee vs. paying the direct release fee of $165. Either way, at least my dog has a break in between the two long legs of our journey.”

    She added in a later message: “I spoke with a couple of folks in Honolulu who helped clarify what happens at the HNL airport as well as what my options are. A few days ago, I spoke with Stacey at the Animal Quarantine office at the airport. She was very patient with my questions. Their website is very clear as well. http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/ai/aqs/animal-quarantine-information-page/
    Today, I spoke with Dallas who staffs the Animalport run by the Hawaiian Humane Society. She was very sweet and very informative as to what happens when pets transit through HNL airport. They provide care and crate services for animals that will be at the airport for 24 hours or less before continuing onto their next flight. They can be reached at (808) 479-1308. I get the sense that they really care what happens to your pets when passing through. They also check on your pet before they are placed on their next flight. They are not affiliated with any airline, and is run by the Hawaii Humane Society. So even if an airline has a pet “program,’ it looks like the animalport is the one who receives the pet, checks on it, then prepares it before the airline employees re-load.
    FYI, the animal port charges $75 but United Airlines was quoting $110 for my dog to overnight in transit. They have runs where the pet will hang out. They can also place the kennel/crate inside the run to give the pet the option of using it. They also have smaller kennels for smaller pets and cats. Runs are double fenced to give space between the pets. They are all indoors since they have not gone through quarantine. It just sounds like they thought about the comfort and safety of the pets, especially because flying can be very stressful.
    If you call their office, you have an the option of leaving a message or calling other numbers depending on time of day/day. Today, Dallas noticed I called(caller ID) and called me back! Amazing!!! She, Stacey and the Alaska Airlines representative who booked my dog’s reservation were all amazing!”

  • Sri

    Wish me luck I am travelling from Oakland to Honolulu on Alaska. I have one of the extra large SturdiBag. It is partitioned, but I unzipped the partition so it would be one big space. I have two poodles that I am taking with me on Alaska. One is a Toy and the Other one is a miniature. I have all the papers for these dogs. My Finance’ was taking them to Maui but she was unaware of the Neighbor Island Inspection Permit and the dogs were denied boarding last week.

    Alaska Airlines has a clause in the pet policy that if the dogs are of the same species and fit in one carrier then you can take them. I just hope they don’t say the Sturdibag is too big. I have a backup smaller bag but I think it would be uncomfortable for the dogs.

    Since I am travelling by myself it may be a bit unnerving to go through security with two dogs especially since the little one is a bit over active.

    I am having my Fiance meet me in Honolulu since we need to take Hawaiian Airlines (boo) to Maui and they will not let me take two pets, so she has to come meet me.

    I will post what happens…keeping my fingers crossed.

  • Sri

    As promised I am letting everyone know about my trip to Honolulu with the two dogs. I had all the paperwork with me to take to the Animal Quarantine in Honolulu ( I did not submit ahead of time as they request in the 5 Day or Less checklist, since they told me I could just bring the paperwork with me).

    As stated in my earlier comment I was taking two poodles one Miniature called Bubbles (12lbs) and the other one a toy poodle called Coco. I bought the Sturdibag Extra Large Pet Carrier which does not conform to most airline regulations for under the seat. I got it at Amazon. This Pet carrier has a inner zipper wall to divide the back into two for each pet (however it was a bit cramped for the bigger dog but perfect for the little one). These dog’s hate being in any kind of enclosure.

    I arrived at Oakland Airport with an hour and half to spare. I walked the dogs around the parking area and let them do their business. Being an MVP member on Alaska Airlines I was upgraded the previous night to First class, when I went to the counter and showed them the two dogs and the bag I was going to carry them in, they did not have an issue with it. They only charged me $100 for the pet carrier even though I was having two pets since its priced per per carrier. They looked at the paperwork briefly but read a long list of disclaimers stating it wont’ be their fault if the dogs were not allowed into Hawaii.
    I must mention I had a backup plan in case they would not let both dogs in the carrier. I had a friend wait nearby with a hard case to send the little one in the cargo hold.

    At security I had to pick up both dogs and walk through the detector. I then had the difficult task of getting them into the carrier and believe me, they put up quite a fight and i had to pacify them with treats.

    When I boarded the plane, the gate agent did not even realize I had pets in the bag. Once in the plane the only place under the seat in first class was between the two seats (this was mentioned in one of the postings on this site), the person next to me was very nice and did not mind. The flight attendant was very insistent that I push the carrier all the way under the seat before take off. I was able to squeeze the bag under the seat and made sure that the dogs were not being overly squished. Once we were up in the air I was able to pull the bag out and have them near my feet. The 5 hour flight just seemed to take longer ..and the dogs were getting restless.

    After landing, as I exited the plane there were people from Animal Quarantine waiting with a piece of paper that had my name on it and another person’s name. They took the dogs from me and told me to meet them at Animal quarantine.

    The Animal Quarantine place is kinda out of the way, it took about 20 minutes to get there by walk and you had to be buzzed in, there was a morose guy acting annoyed that I had not submitted the paper work ahead of time…he charged my credit card the $165 fee per pet and in another 20 minutes the pets arrived still in the bag and he just handed them to us.

    We took the dogs out and let them walk around the grassy area and picked up after them. They were so glad to be out…not realizing they would be back in the carrier for the short trip to Maui. Hawaiian Airlines people in Honolulu are so short staffed and generally unfriendly. I had my friend meet me in Honolulu since we had to have two people to take two pets in cabin (no exceptions). So we had to pay again for the Pets ($38 per pet) to take them in the cabin with us. I had two separate carriers for each dog. We made it to Maui without incident.

    I have to say that I was getting stressed out days before the flight due to the unknowns, but it seemed to have gone by relatively smooth…thanks to Alaska Airlines.

    Pet lovers should really thank this airline for taking the extra trouble of transporting pets to Hawaii even in spite of the extra paper work. Hawaiian Airlines on the other hand does not transport pets TO Hawaii from the mainland (they only do within islands and from Hawaii to the Mainland) which is a great disservice considering they are based in Hawaii, for this reason I will never do business with them and I encourage other pet lovers to shun Hawaiian Airlines.

  • Sri, thank you SO MUCH for your comment! You’re the first person to report back, and like you say, it seems like it went relatively smoothly. Knowing that it did makes it so much more likely that we’ll follow in your footsteps.

  • lynda taylor

    I am flying with my 19.5 year old cat on board wonderful incredible Alaska airlines to Oahu this Jan 2. then on to Lihue, Kauai with NO problems, papers or charges.. Am in first class which is minimal cost and there can be 5 other pets in coach. So 6 total on one plane. I am concerned about Honolulu Q they are overly strict & really are not very helpful. Show how tough they are I guess. But I have done all the necessary work and checked it 3 times over. Hope this helps with the person who thinks they have to take 2 different planes. Go ALASKA!

  • Sri

    You only have to take two different planes if you are connecting in Honolulu. Alaska does not stop over in Honolulu and continue on. and they don’t have inter island flights. So if you do have to fly into Honolulu you have to take an inter island flight, so I don’t see how you can avoid taking two different planes.

    The only exception is if you do the paperwork well in advance and follow the Neighbor Island inspection program, then you can bypass Honolulu.

    The reason why I had to go through Honolulu is due to time constraints and the fact we were not aware of the Neighbor Island additional paperwork to go directly to the smaller islands. In addition I was taking 2 pets in cabin which is normally not allowed for one person. I was able to use their exception which said if the pets are the same species and can fit in one bag you could do it.

  • Sharyn

    What about large service dogs? Do I have to buy her her own seat? She definitely cannot be carried, or fit under the seat! Lab/Shepherd mix. 110 lbs.

  • Hi, Sharyn — I don’t have a service dog myself, so I’m not versed in the rules. The really big service dogs I see are typically in the bulkhead seats, sitting or lying at their peoples’ feet. Call a couple of Alaska customer service reps and get the answer from them (I say a couple, so you can reassure yourself that you’ve gotten the same answer twice!).

  • Reader Monique left this comment on another post, but it seemed so useful here that I’ve copied it: “Hi Mary-Alice!
    Bella (my yorkie) and I have made it to Oahu! ? The Sturdibag definitely fit on the planes we were on. We flew delta on the first leg, though the flight attendant there was pretty skeptical about the bag fitting. We took a 6-day layover in Seattle and then continued our flight to Honolulu on Alaska BOEING 737-900ER. I sat in the absolute back row and the in the seat space was so big and roomy. I highly recommend Alaska for those who are first time travelers with pets. The lady at the ticket counter was extremely friendly and helpful as well. As far as the procedures go upon landing, you would’ve filled out Department of Agriculture form which is required for every entry into HI. You will fill out the necessary information and declare your dog on the form. Then, upon deplaning, let the flight attendant at the door know you have a dog and she/he will lead you to someone from the DOA who will be waiting right outside the aircraft door. They will take your personal info (name, address, phone number) and your pet and bring them to the airport facility that holds animals. It is best/easiest to have a friend traveling with you so one of you can get/watch your luggage as the other person goes to the facility. The quarantine holding facility is about a 10-15 minute walk from the baggage claim and a little tricky to get to as it is not along the main street. However, if you follow the two green “animal quarantine facility” signs, you should find it with no problem. The facility is small and you need to ring the doorbell outside and wait a few minutes before they are able to open the door for you. They’ll ask you for your ID and if you did your homework before arriving and have all the paperwork ready, you need only to fill out your name, contact info and sign a small slip of paper. Within minutes, Bella was back in my care ? I highly recommend doing all the paperwork beforehand and submitting the health certificate beforehand also (even though the DOA allows you to bring it in). It has been a stressful several months pre-planning and vet visits and filling out papers, but it is SO worth it. Bella is adjusting well to my family and seems to be very happy here. I hope this helps for anyone traveling to HI with their pets in the future! ?”

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