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Guaranteed On Board Program from American Airlines and Sherpa

Under this program, recently launched by Sherpa Pet Group and American Airlines, if your dog fits in one of three Sherpa carriers approved by American and you correctly fill out the Guaranteed On Board form “you can be sure that your pet and its carrier are compliant with American’s rules and regulations. Should you be denied boarding due to your carrier, Sherpa Pet Group will refund the cost of your American Airlines flight and your pet travel expenses – GUARANTEED!”

It’s meant to take the guesswork out of choosing an in-cabin pet carrier, and that’s a nice idea. Am I the only one to notice that two of the three approved carriers don’t actually comply with American’s posted maximum measurements for in-cabin carriers (19″ long x 13″ wide x 9″ high)? The new American Airlines-branded medium Duffle is only a half inch taller than the stated maximum, but the medium Sherpa Original Deluxe is 1.5″ taller than American’s maximum allowed height. The point is really moot, because the carriers are flexible enough that the discrepancy doesn’t make a practical difference, but it goes to show that even a move like this doesn’t remove all the guesswork.

However, according to Sherpa, similar agreements exist with Airtran, Alaska, Continental, Delta, Northwest and Southwest. The company emphasizes that “only NWA accepts carriers in small, medium, and large; all other airlines accept only small and medium sizes.” First on the list of “airline-compliant” Sherpa carriers is Sherpa’s Original Deluxe Bag, with the following measurements: 16″L x 9.5″H x 10″W (Small), 18″L x 10.5″H x 11″W (Medium), and 20″L x 11.5″H x 11.7″W (Large).

Now take a look at Dog Jaunt’s handy guide to the major U.S. airlines’ in-cabin pet policiesEven the small-sized Sherpa carrier is officially too large for all of the listed airlines except Delta, which will tell you the maximum allowed dimensions for your particular flight only when you call Reservations. [Southwest doesn’t publish maximum dimensions, but its published underseat measurements are 19″L x 14″W x 8.25″H (window seat), 19″L x 19″W x 8.25″H (middle seat) and 19″L x 14″W x 8.25″H (aisle seat). At 9.5″ high, the small Original Deluxe carrier is too tall for Southwest.]

Can it really be that all of these airlines also guarantee boarding with the medium-sized Original Deluxe Bag? And that Northwest accepts the large size? Officially, the large-sized Original Deluxe Bag is 3 inches longer and 3.5 inches taller than Northwest allows. Based on personal experience, moreover, I can tell you that any carrier over 19″ long will not fit under an airplane seat.

Does this mean that someone with an equally non-compliant carrier can point to these guaranteed-okay dimensions and argue successfully that their carrier should also be allowed on board? Does the Guaranteed On Board program, in short, actually remove the guesswork — or raise more questions?


  • HEMI


    Has anyone flown Southwest Airlines lately leaving from Detroit, Michigan? I want to know if anyone had problems with checking in your dog or with the large Sturdi Bag getting through and fitting under the seat? This will be Hemi’s first time flying any help I can get will be appreciated. He is 12 inches tall and about 12lbs or so — he is a fox toy terrier — will the large bag be okay to pass through all the checks in Detroit? The Southwest airline people are very nice on the phone, but does anyone know how they are in the airport?

  • Hello, Hemi’s mom — I expect you’ll have no trouble at all, but I haven’t flown into or out of Detroit. I’ve put your comment up in the hope that a fellow Michigander will see it!

  • Gertie

    Great post. I was noticing the same thing in my attempts to find a carrier acceptable for AirTran, since I want the carrier to be as roomy as possible without fear of being rejected by the airline (or a cranky flight attendant, which I have read is sometimes the case).

    I have to think the best place to start would be to call the specific airline and ask about this GOB program and Sherpa carriers in particular. I plan to do so Monday!

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