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Reader’s report: Phoenix to Madrid on American and Iberia with Louie the Bichon

Long ago, reader Ana asked if I had any suggestions for airlines that fly from Phoenix to Madrid and have planes that allow in-cabin dogs under their Business Class seats. Nothing came to mind (all I could do was warn her that often the higher-grade seats don’t accommodate pets, since the under-seat space is occupied by electronics boxes for fancy features), and I asked her to let me know what she learned.

She kindly wrote back with details about her trip. She and her husband and their pup Louie, a 14 lb. Bichon Frisée, opted to take an American flight (Economy class) from Phoenix to Miami, and then an Iberia flight (Business Plus) from Miami to Madrid. “My concern from the beginning was whether or not I would be allowed to take a pet in business class if there was a lie-flat seat because several airlines do not allow pets in business unless they are completely UNDER the seat in front.  In the end, we chose Iberia because the seats in business class just reclined.”

Their American flight was “a non-event,” Ana told me. She didn’t mention what kind of plane she was on, but given her itinerary, I suspect it was a 737-800. “I had the middle seat in economy and my husband had the aisle. Our bichon slept through the 4 hour flight and although there wasn’t much room at my feet neither the flight attendants nor fellow passengers seemed to notice we had a dog.”

Photo by Iberia (pictured lady is a model)

Photo by Iberia (pictured lady is a model)

The trip became more exciting when they boarded their Iberia flight (in all likelihood, an Airbus 340) and were “VERY surprised to discover that Iberia Business Plus has completely lie-flat seats!” I’ll let Ana take over:

“The seat in front of me was three feet away and there was no space to put anything UNDER the seat. I put the dog carrier in front of me on the floor, and I had a window seat so I felt he was somewhat protected from sliding around during the flight. The flight attendants were attentive and friendly and again, no one questioned me or even realized I was traveling with a dog. I’m not sure if this was unusual or if Iberia is just very relaxed about ‘securing’ luggage, bags, dog carriers, etc. On the one hand, if this had been a bumpy flight, the dog carrier would have been able to slide around into the aisle. But on the other hand I was thrilled to have tons of room and a truly ‘first class’ experience on Iberia Business Plus.”

When they arrived, “No one in Madrid asked to see any papers or the dog. After months of worry and planning, when I took Louie outside to go potty, I’m not sure which of us was more relieved! :)”

Ana ended with a charming story about traveling by train in France with Louie:

“At one point during our trip we took a train from Biarritz to Paris. Although I dutifully carried our bichon in his carrier, I panicked when the train attendant approached me with a stern look. ‘Madame!’ he said, ‘S’il vous plait, take your dog out of the carrier. Your dog can’t be comfortable and I’m sure he’d rather be on your lap looking out the window.’ (Lord, I love France!)”

Amen to that, Ana. Thanks so much for letting us know how the trip went — I’ve been curious about Iberia for a while, but had no expectation of traveling on it myself anytime soon. I’m adding this post to Dog Jaunt’s ongoing series recording under-seat plane measurements.