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Flying with an in-cabin pet: Under-seat space available on a Delta MD-88 (First Class section)

I can’t remember the last time I traveled First Class. Could it have been 30 years ago? Could it have been never? I chose to make First Class reservations on our Delta flight from New York to Tampa because I had the right number of miles, and because Delta’s Economy seat pitch is so evil that after our last flight my husband and I vowed never to fly on the dratted airline again. Why not blow all of our remaining miles on one Delta flight that would allow my 6’4″ husband to put his knees directly in front of him?

So once again I crawled around with my measuring tape, and here’s what I learned. On a Delta MD-88, the First Class cabin has two seats on each side of the aisle. Under each pair of seats, there are three spaces — a vast shared space, and two separate, tiny spaces on either side. The shared space is 31.5″ wide and 19″ deep (measured from the rail behind the heels of the person in front of you to the imaginary line extending down from your own seat-back pocket). The lowest height of the under-seat space — a thick bar running from left to right — varied from 8.25″ to 9″ tall. That bar is positioned about 9″ in from the front (closest to you) of the under-seat space. One exception: The 6 inches of the shared space closest to the aisle do not have the bar, and were easily 11″ tall. The entire under-seat space, in fact, is easily 11″ tall, except that that bar runs across it.

The narrow space closest to the aisle is 9.75″ wide, and, again, 19″ deep. About 9″ into the under-seat space, it’s 10″ tall, but behind that (deeper under the seat), the space is easily 12″ tall. The space closest to the window is so narrow that I didn’t even notice it until I looked at the picture I took — it’s wide enough to stick one leg into, or a small purse, but that’s it.

Our best choice was to put Chloe’s carrier left-to-right in the large shared space, and here’s a picture:

Chloe’s large SturdiBag, oriented left-to-right — and I was very glad indeed that it had not only a flexible top but also sloped “shoulders”

Be cautious with First Class seats, Team Dog Jaunt! On many planes, the under-seat spaces in First Class are nearly solid with electronics boxes, and there isn’t enough room left over for a Teacup Pomeranian, much less a pet Chloe’s size. Presumably, a ticketing agent who knows you’re traveling with an in-cabin pet wouldn’t give you a First Class seat in those circumstances, but it’s worth confirming, and then re-confirming, that your seat has open space underneath it.

This post is part of an ongoing series recording under-seat measurements of the various planes we fly on. Keep in mind that most domestic and international airlines have rules about the maximum size of in-cabin pet carriers they allow on board (see Dog Jaunt’s handy charts under the “Taking your pet on a plane” tab above).


  • Marci

    I totally agree. I flew Delta in March and sent you some pictures of Layla squished under the section directly ahead of my seat (window). Below the seat in front of me is where the life jackets were kept and I was forced to squish the top of her bag down. In the end it didn’t matter because Layla slept the whole time. I had a lovely seat mate who offered the shared space but for some reason it didn’t occur to me to put Layla there. I think I wanted to keep her out of sight and with the least amount of distractions as possible. In the event you do NOT have a friendly seat-mate, it is very squished (we used a small Sturdi Bag) I will fly with Layla again in the future and it will be with Delta (yes, even though their fee is through the roof!!!) but I don’t think we will do first class again. It sounds like there is more room in coach.

  • Holy moly, Marci, somehow your lovely e-mail and pictures got de-starred and I didn’t post them! I’ll fix that. It sounds like you were on a 757, while I was on an MD-88 — that may account for the slightly better experience we had. Thanks so much for poking me — I’ll get to work.

  • Nicole

    I found your site while researching flights with cats as carry-on’s. I’m also taking an MD series Delta flight, two actually. I’m not going first class, but I did have a Delta rep confirm that my carrier (an Argo Petagon) will fit under the seat in front of me. (Luckily I picked my own seat to avoid getting saddled with a bulk head seat.) However, flights don’t go direct from my departure to my destination. I ended up with a layover (only 35 minutes! Yikes!) and I’m not sure how layovers will go with my cat. I realize you had a pup, but have you ever flown with your pet on a two-trip flight? Was it O.K.?

  • Hi, Nicole! We travel to odd bits of the country, so we do two-flight trips a great deal. You want either a really long layover, so you have time to get out through security to the pet relief area and back in without stressing, or a really short layover, so it feels (to your pet) like just a really long flight. A 35-minute layover is an excellent example of the latter, and you guys should be fine. A cat (well, our cats, for sure!) has no use for a pet relief area anyway, so with a cat I’d rather just keeping blasting on to my destination, and a litterbox.

  • Scott

    I’ll be travelling with two dogs. I have booked two seats in 1st class (on a Delta MD-88) to accomodate the fact that I will be travelling alone. I have two hard-sided dog carriers, both of which are 11 inches in height, 13 inches wide, and 19 inches long. Can you advise whether or not these carriers will fit under the seats in front of my two?

  • Scott

    Disregard my question, I have opted to not use the hard-sided carriers, instead have purchased two GOB carriers with Delta logos on at an extremely reasonable price (less than $35 each). Thank you for this website, it is extremely informative and has made me feel much more comfortable (and less stressed) about my upcoming trip.

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