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Reader’s report: American Airlines under-seat space, Miami airport pet relief area (MIA), hotel policy tip

I’m not even going to tell you how long ago reader Natalie wrote to me with this excellent report. Let’s just say that earlier this year she and Stanley, her year-and-a-half-old Cockapoo, flew on American from Boston to Key West, with a layover and a plane change in Miami. She kindly shared detailed information about some key aspects of her trip (her first-ever with Stanley!), including her check-in experience with American; the under-seat spaces on the Boeing 757 and American Eagle AT7 planes they flew on; a pet relief area at Miami International Airport (MIA); and how she handled a pet policy change at her hotel.

Check-in with American Airlines

Natalie noted that Stanley is “on the larger size for in-cabin airline travel which caused a bit of anxiety for me but we encountered no problems whatsoever during our travel. I used the large Sturdi bag per your suggestion and it was perfect. He weighs about 17 lbs so with the bag the scale at the airport read 19.5 lbs.” Please note that Stanley and carrier were put on a scale — which doesn’t often happen. In this case, all was well, since American’s maximum weight for an in-cabin pet is 20 lbs. (total — pet plus carrier).

Stanley on the beach. “My biggest concern,” Natalie wrote, “is that Stanley is tall.”

“He has very long legs so the height of the carrier was concerning. Stanley is able to turn around in the carrier, but it is tight.”

“The American Airlines check-in agent in Boston did ask to see Stanley in the carrier in addition to weighing him but we had no problems. The check-in agent did complete a form for Stanley. In Key West the check-in agent didn’t even look at or weigh Stanley so no problems there either. In both Boston and Miami I did have to show the ticket showing I had paid for Stanley’s fee.”

Under-seat space on an American 757 and American Eagle AT7

As Natalie mentioned, she bought a large SturdiBag for Stanley. “We flew Boston to Key West with a layover in Miami. Stanley’s carrier fit fine under seat in both the Boeing 757 aircraft and the much smaller American Eagle AT7. The flight attendants allowed me to keep Stanley’s carrier on my lap during much of the flight. Actually I only had to put the carrier under the seat in front of me during one segment of our journey (which I do understand is against airline safety policy) — in the other flight segments he could remain on my lap even during take off and landing.”

Pet relief area at Miami International Airport (MIA) — Terminal E

According to MIA’s website, there are pet relief areas at three areas of the airport: “MIA has animal relief areas located at the arrival level at Concourses D, E and J.  The relief areas at Concourses E and J are whimsically themed ‘doggy parks.’ All of MIA relief areas are equipped with dual surfaces and waste disposal stations.” Natalie and Stanley “used the pet relief area outside of Terminal E. It was extremely convenient and easy to get to. I attached a few pictures in case you have not seen it.”

MIA Concourse E pet relief area — looking back towards the terminal

 

 

The Concourse E pet relief area is in the center of this Google Maps view; it appears that you reach it by exiting the terminal through the doors nearest baggage claim carousels 12 & 13 and crossing the airport roadway:

The arrow points to the Concourse E pet relief area

The arrow points to the Concourse E pet relief area

Hotel pet policy change

I don’t know which Hilton/Waldorf-Astoria hotel Natalie and Stanley stayed in — there are a couple in Key West, the Casa Marina and The Reach — but Natalie’s forethought helped her handle an unexpected change in her hotel’s pet policy:

Our hotel was of course pet friendly (Hilton/Waldorf Astoria). I thankfully printed out a copy of their policy and fee at the time of booking (time stamped screen shots) because they had recently changed their policy since I booked. Since I had the print out indicating the policy at the time of booking they honored the fee that existed at the time of booking. It was a big difference — $125 per pet per stay versus $80 per day (which would have been $800!!). I recommend printing the fee/policy page to others to avoid this type of situation!

Excellent advice, which I’ll be following myself from now on. Thank you so much, Natalie, for the advice, the pictures, and for sharing the important details of how your first trip with Stanley went. I was thrilled to hear that “Overall, our first flying experience went very smoothly and everyone we encountered with American Airlines was friendly” — and even more thrilled to hear that Natalie was already planning an autumn trip to Italy, with Stanley.

4 comments

  • Amanda

    We, too, have had mostly good experiences with American Airlines, flying LA to the Bahamas. (We’re quite familiar with that great MIA pet relief area!) Though the occasional ticket agent has asked how much our dog weighs (14 lbs), nobody has ever weighed or measured him or his carrier (SturdiBag large.) We always take Dog Jaunt’s advice and stow the carrier/dog at our feet when checking in, so as not to draw attention to him.

    On one leg of last year’s trip, however, an AA ticket agent charged us $50 too much for the in-cabin pet fee. When I questioned her, she simply informed me that “the rates have gone up.” When we got home, however, and read through the receipts carefully, we realized she had charged us the more expensive “cargo pet” rate, and that the “in cabin” rates had not in fact changed. It’s been a year and a half, and we still have only received a partial refund of the $50.

    Because of this, when we traveled the same route this year, I made sure to print off and bring with me AA’s ENTIRE pet policy from their website. Good thing I did, because when we arrived at LAX to check in, the AA ticket agent insisted that in-cabin pets weren’t allowed on flights to the Bahamas! Fortunately, I was able to whip out the company’s pet policy and show her that she was wrong. But had we not had that document, I strongly believe she would have denied us boarding, or at the very least, caused us an extensive delay (and a lot of unnecessary stress!)

    Bottom line: DO NOT rely on airline employees to know their own company policies!

  • Stephanie L.

    Do you know If American airlines has changed their weight limit policy? I can’t find anything on there site that’s says they have a 20 pound weight limit with the dog and carrier combined, but on other non American airlines sites it states there is a weight limit? Here is where I found my information http://www.aa.com/i18n/travelInformation/specialAssistance/travelingWithPets.jsp?anchorEvent=false&from=Nav#Charges
    They only statement on weight I could find was in regards to 2 animals in one carry on. I have a dog who weights 19 pounds without his carrier and don’t want to

  • Hello, Stephanie — I’m so very sorry for my delay in responding to your question about AA’s possible weight maximum for in-cabin pets. No, they do not have an upper weight limit. Knowing what I do about how long it takes me to update my own site, I never rely on outside sites for details about airline policies — keep your eye firmly (and repeatedly) on the airline’s own site and you won’t be misled. I hope that helps, and I hope you and your pup are traveling comfortably together!

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