Fly With A Service Dog (US and abroad) - Pre-Flight Preparation


Airlines will ask the service dog teams to present some form of identification and papers that attest to completed service dog training as part of the onboarding process. Our school is often requested to confirm completed service dog training via email, phone, and verification letters. Unlike fake service dog registration services, our platform requires video recordings as proof that the service dogs working with us are properly trained and have excellent public manners. We test the service dog handlers as well through written exams. We do not issue a certificate for completed service dog training unless we can confidently confirm to any housing agency, landlord, HOA, business owner, and airline that:

  • 1) the service dogs who have worked with us are not likely to cause any harm;
  • 2) the fully-trained animals are not likely to cause sanitary incidents;
  • 3) the certified dogs can walk calmly on a leash;
  • 4) the canines will behave properly during travel.

Airline Regulations for Service Dogs

The service animal policies of airlines closely adhere to the laws and regulations of the countries where they are based and operate. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs are allowed to accompany their owners in public places, including on airplanes. This includes the right to fly with your service dog in-cabin at no extra cost. Equivalent rights are granted to UK citizens under the Equality Act 2010 and you can fly with a certified self-trained service dog. This is confirmed in the the guidance paper by the UK Equality Commission. Canadian air passengers are subject to the Canada Transportation Act and are allowed to travel with their service dogs in the cabin free of charge. However, the Canada Transportation Act does not permit the boarding of self-trained service animals, we have explained why on Air Canada Service Dog Policy.

Alaska Airlines has posted its service dog policy on this page. Alaska Airlines will accept service dogs who are trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability. A maximum of two service dogs will be accepted per air passenger. You will need to buy a second seat if you have a second service dog. Please note that you will need to file a DOT travel form through the Open Doors Organization. Service dogs accepted in the passenger cabin have to be at least 6 months old and they should fit under the seat in front of you and stay there for the entire flight. Brachycephalic (short-nosed) dogs are not accepted for air travel as they are considered to face a high risk of respiratory problems.

American Airlines has posted its service dog policy on this page. The definition adopted by the airline reads: “A service animal is defined as a dog that’s individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability...” The passengers will be expected to be able to explain what services and tasks their service dogs fulfill to the airline team members. Please note, service animals in training, emotional support animals, and comfort animals may travel as pets, not as service animals. Only service dogs with an approved CDC Dog Import Permit, or that meet CDC U.S. vaccination and microchip requirements may fly on American when entering the US. If you have a flight over 8 hours in your itinerary, the Department of Transportation Service Animal Relief Attestation Sanitation Form is also required stating your animal won’t need to relieve itself or can do so in a way that doesn’t create a health or sanitation issue.

The passengers flying domestically, to and from the US will have to submit a completed DOT form at least 48 hours before departure. Once you’ve submitted your form and it’s been approved, they will send you an email with your Service Animal ID (SVAN ID). Your SVAN ID will expire after 1 year from the date of signature or when the animal’s vaccination expires, whichever is first. Handlers with a Service Dog Pass ID (SDP ID) can enjoy a more seamless travel experience thanks to our partnership with K9s For Warriors and Service Dog Pass. You can add an SDP ID instead of an American-issued Service Animal ID (SVAN ID) when booking travel with them and be approved without submitting forms.

British Airways has posted its service dog policy on this page. Please, note that service dogs are called assistance dogs in most European countries. For your service dog to travel with you in the cabin on British Airways, your service dog must be individually trained in specific tasks to assist you with your disability or medical condition, have had behavioral training, and show appropriate behavior in public and onboard an aircraft, and wear an identifying jacket/vest/harness. Due to entry regulations into the UK, you will need to ensure that you have contacted and received approval from the UK animal reception center at least 72 hours before your flight.

You must have a pre-approval letter to arrive or transit through Heathrow airport. Passengers traveling with a service dog are advised to arrive on weekdays if possible, due to limited weekend capacity. Self-trained service dogs are accepted for flights from the US to the UK. For more details, please see this page. Please, make sure to check the requirements of the airline for traveling with service animals within Europe, as certification by an ADI member may be needed. If you will be traveling to the London Gatwick Airport please contact the local animal care center, there are more details on this page this page.

Delta Airlines has posted its service dog policy on this page. Delta accepts only trained service animals that are dogs. Customers traveling with one or more service dogs must complete the required DOT form(s). Delta is known to request medical letters that prescribe the use of a service dog from their passengers and ask for papers that confirm completed service dog training since they have encountered problems in the past as stated here. Service animals have to be at least 6 months old and fit within the footprint of the seat in front of you during your flight. The service animals have to be fully vaccinated.

JetBlue Airlines has posted its service dog policy on this page. JetBlue requires all service animals to be under the control of the handler at all times—in the airport and on the plane—and harnessed, leashed, or otherwise tethered. Service animals in training are not accepted for travel on JetBlue. All service animals must remain on the floor unless the animal is small enough to fit fully on the traveler's lap without touching any part of the seat, tray table, or nearby travelers. If you are traveling with a large service animal or two service animals, your animal(s) must fit within the footprint of the seat(s) you have purchased. You will need to file a DOT form for your service dog at least 72 hours before departure.

United Airlines has posted its service dog policy on this page. Service animals are accepted in the cabin free of charge for qualified individuals with a disability. A service animal is a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is over the age of 4 months and the animal has received individual training to work for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability. If you are flying domestically, in and out of the US you will need to file a DOT form for your service animal at least 24 hours before departure. Please, keep in mind that the service dogs in the passenger cabin have to stay on the floor underneath the seats. Service dogs training to assist disabled travelers can fly with their trainers for free.

SkyWest Airlines does not appear to have a page dedicated to service dogs. The airline is partnering with Delta, United, and American Airlines and generally adheres to the same rules as stated here. Service dog users and handlers are allowed to have only one service dog with them. The service animals have to fit within the foot space of the passenger and they should not interfere with the space of other passengers. Air travelers will need to show a USDA health certificate for their service dogs and present a complete US DOT form at the gate. Please note that ADA-accessible lavatories are not available on the aircraft operated by the airline.

Spirit Airlines has posted its service dog policy on this page. Passengers who use service dogs need to complete the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Service Animal Air Transportation Form on the page here and send it via the application here at least 48 hours in advance of the flight. Spirit Airlines adheres to the following definition of a service dog: “A dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including psychiatric service animals. Animal species other than dogs, emotional support animals, comfort animals, companionship animals, therapy animals, and service animals in training are not considered service animals to travel onboard our aircraft as such.” The service dogs accepted on Spirit Airlines flights have to stay within the foot space you are allotted. The dogs cannot extend into another passenger’s foot space. If you believe your dog needs more space than one seat allows, you are welcome to purchase either an additional seat/reservation or upgrade to one of the Big Front Seats.

WestJet has posted its service dog policy on this page. WestJet is a Canadian airline, that only accepts dogs who provide services to individuals with disabilities. Service dogs must have been trained to do specific work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability.

  • • For domestic, international, and Caribbean flights, the airline requires service dogs to be individually trained by an organization or person specializing in service dog training.
  • • If the itinerary includes a flight to or from the U.S., the airline will accept two service dogs for a person with a disability. In this case, service dog handlers must fill out a U.S. DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form.

Please note that you may need to file your medical information in advance if you will be using WestJet. For more information, please refer to this page.

While there is a federal law in Canada that typically permits only the transport of service dogs trained through recognized dog training schools, the airline may make exceptions for self-trained service dogs on flights between Canada and the U.S. More details on this can be found in the Air Canada Service Dog Policy.

If you want to bring a self-trained service dog into Canada please contact the airline agents in advance.

The airline advises service dog handlers to ensure that their dogs meet the entrance and import regulations and the destination-specific restrictions for all countries on the itinerary, including transit ones if any.

The airline specifically states that service dogs are not accepted on flights to or from:

  • • Barbados, Bridgetown, Jamaica, Montego Bay, and Kingston.
  • • WestJet has also posted a list on the website, which includes specific countries requiring pre-approval for service animals to be accepted.
  • • WestJet accepts service dogs in training free of charge, with a maximum of one dog in training per handler or trainer for flights on WestJet or WestJet Encore, provided that the flight is operated on WestJet aircraft.
  • • Please note that the airline is not required to provide this service under Canadian regulations. Therefore, service dogs in training will only be accepted if enough space is available in the aircraft cabin at the time the request was made.
  • • Service dogs in training will be considered pets, which is why the limitations on pet acceptance in the cabin must also be taken into account.
  • • Service dogs in training are not allowed to accompany unaccompanied minors.

Air Transat has posted its service dog policy on this page. Air Transat is another Canada-based airline that will, on the request of a person with a disability, accept a service dog for transport, and permit the animal to accompany the person on board. The service dog must have been individually trained by an organization or person specializing in service dog training, be at least 6 months old, and, performs a task to assist a person with a disability with a need related to their disability. The airline requires at least 48 hours notice to review documents and arrange seating and additional space. The airline accepts self-trained service dogs only for flights to and from the US as stated in their policy. You still need to file a U.S. DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form. The airline may require a medical letter that attests to your need for a service animal and ask to see identification for your service dog like an ID card or a pet passport.

Volaris Airlines has posted its service dog policy on this page. This is a low-cost air carrier based in Mexico City (the capital of Mexico). The airline is known to accept self-trained service dogs from the US for flights to Mexico and back. The service animals on board travel for free and they have to fit under the seats of the passengers. Since the airline is very cost-effective the space available to service animals may be rather small so if you want to book a flight with them please check the size and weight restrictions in advance of purchasing a ticket. The airline staff is known to transfer service dog teams to the best seats when special needs passengers arrive so please notify the airline about your service animal at least 48 hours before your departure. The airline will require a vaccination record that shows the dog has received a rabies vaccination at least 30 days before the flight; you will need to show a health certificate (an original and a copy) that says your dog is healthy. If your return flight is more than 5 days later than the original flight you will need to obtain and present a new health certificate for your service dog, please keep that in mind. Passengers traveling from the US to Mexico and back are not required to show a health certificate for their service dogs. The dogs will be checked by the staff of SENAICA at the airport before boarding. The airline requires the passengers to sign the Volaris pet transportation form that is provided at the airport. In addition to that, you need to present a complete US DOT Service Animal Transportation Form.

You can find the service dog policy of Southwest Airlines on their official website here. The airline accepts fully trained service dogs, which are animals that are “individually trained to perform tasks or work for a person with a physical and/or mental disability. Dogs are the only trained service animals we accept onboard”. Dogs, other than service animals, will not be accepted in the passenger cabin for free.

If you intend to fly with a service dog, it is recommended that you notify the airline in advance. Click the page linked above to find detailed information on how to make a reservation and add a service dog to your booking.

On the day of departure, you will need to show a completed DOT form .at the ticket counter or gate. It is important to remember that the date on the form must be either the date you purchased your ticket or a date after that. The form will be rejected if it is incomplete or missing.

Handlers should check the laws and requirements for traveling with a service animal at each location on the route. The airline also advises service dog handlers to review the information for flying with a service dog to and from Puerto Rico, Hawaii and international locations.

Rights and Protections for Service Dog Owners

Please note that self-training a pet dog to become a service dog is a relatively new concept and it is yet to be adopted widely by the international community. Hence, service dog handlers and users of self-trained service animals should be aware of certain limitations. Countries like the US, the UK, some provinces in Canada, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, Brazil, and Mexico accept fully owner-trained service dogs and they have public access rights. France, Germany, Austria, and Spain permit the use of self-trained service dogs as long as the service animals have been trained with the aid of a local dog trainer, they have passed a government-approved test and they have papers issued by the local healthcare ministry. Countries like Portugal and Italy do not grant any public access rights and protections to self-trained service dogs. If you will be flying abroad, please make sure to check the service dog laws and animal import regulations in advance.

Generally, service dog teams are protected by the law when it comes to public transportation, housing, use of rented properties, air travel, and access to business venues that are open to the public. Business owners and staff are required to provide the same service and accommodation to service dog handlers, users, and their trained canines. Air passengers who use service dogs should know that their seats will not be upgraded if they bring large service dogs. Service dog teams have the same rights as any other flight passenger and your airline can not deny service to you without a very good explanation. If you are seated next to a person with a dog allergy you can be moved to another seat but not denied service.

Breed, Size, and Weight Restrictions for Air Travel

According to an article at 21 types of passenger aircraft flew between North America and Europe in 2021. If you are looking to travel with a service dog in North America or leave for another destination please talk to your airline about the size limitations of the seats. Please keep in mind that the service dogs will have to fit under the seats in front of their users/handlers. As mentioned earlier there are many types of aircraft in operation and you should check the size limitations before booking a flight with your service dog. Otherwise, you may have to wait to be transferred to a flight where there is sufficient space for your service animal. You may be asked to pay a fee for the flight transfer so please check the size specifics for your flight well in advance.

Some countries like the United Kingdom have breeds that are banned for import. According to the official information at the breeds Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro are not permitted for use, breeding, sale, transfer of ownership, importing and exporting. If you have a service dog that is one of these breeds you may need to go through a behavior test with the UK government so they can determine if they should add your canine to the Index of Exempted Dogs and grant you public access rights. The test is done by the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Please note that airlines have weight restrictions for the animal that will be accepted on board. Generally, most airlines will accept no more than 5 service dogs in the passenger cabins. There may be exceptions to this if the aircraft is sufficiently large. The majority of airlines mentioned in this article are not likely to accept service dogs that are over 26 lbs/12 kg in weight. If you have a big and heavy service dog which may be the case for people with mobility problems the dogs may have the only option of traveling in the climate-controlled cargo hold in a kennel. We understand that this is not ideal but airlines may be unable to accommodate most mobility aid service dogs so please keep this in mind. We encourage you to check the breed, size, and weight restrictions for service animals with airlines before booking a flight.

Denial of Boarding Troubleshooting

We will list the most common reasons to deny boarding to a service dog team below. Please, read through this part carefully.

Incorrectly filed papers.

As mundane as it may sound, incorrectly filed papers will be a valid reason for any airline to deny boarding to any service dog. If you book a flight, please try to check the necessary travel forms and papers at least one or two weeks in advance of your departure. This way you should have plenty of time to obtain a health certificate from a veterinarian for your dog, make sure the rabies vaccination is recent enough, check your medical letter, make sure your dog is microchipped and you can file all necessary forms on time. Most airlines will require the necessary travel documents to be submitted at least 48 hours before departure and some may need them as early as 72 hours before the flight.

Please note that if you have trained your service dog yourself you should put your name and phone number on all forms requiring trainer organization information. The students who have finished an online service dog training course with our school should type in their name and their phone number on their travel forms as well. In addition, our graduate students can add the name of their assigned tutor, and our phone number. Our dog training school is happy to confirm any details about our programs and certified service dog teams. We offer verification letters for a nominal fee to graduate students and teams currently undergoing training. Our verification letters can assist with negotiating boarding with airlines, trains, and training in public locations.

Your dog is too young and does not have the necessary vaccinations.

Most airlines do not permit the boarding of animals that are younger than 6 months and some even refuse to board animals under 1 year of age due to safety concerns. Please make sure your service animal is old enough to fly and has a proper safety check and a health certificate from a government-approved veterinarian. Dogs that are missing rabies vaccination will not be permitted on any flights and dogs coming from countries with high rabies risk are not allowed on flights. Some countries will require the service dog teams to file animal import forms that are separate from your standard flight booking form.

The flight does not have space for more service animals.

As mentioned earlier, many airlines will accept up to 5 service dogs per flight and some may allow more if the aircraft allows for that. Please, keep in mind if the aircraft is already booked by other service dog teams there may not be enough room for you and you may have to wait for another flight. Try to send your service dog application as early as possible to have greater chances of having your service dog with you on board the flight you need.

Your dog is of a banned breed.

Service dog handlers/users that utilize service animals and are denied boarding on a flight should look into any banned breeds in the country they will be visiting. As mentioned earlier, there are countries where certain dog breeds are banned because they are considered potentially dangerous to the safety of people and other animals. Please, make sure to check this in advance of booking a flight. Your airline will not be able to transport a dog of a banned breed to a country where the dog is not allowed.

Verification by Open Doors failed.

Many airlines like Alaska Airlines rely on the services of third-party organizations like Open Doors to handle requests for travel by service dog teams. The same organization is employed by companies in the hospitality industry in North America and service dog teams are likely to be familiar with them. Open Doors is responsible for checking the service dog teams for completed training, and medical requirements and collecting passenger data that is part of the booking process for flights. The organization uses service dog forms that are very similar to the one posted by the US Department of Transportation on its website. Please, make sure you have your veterinarian records in order and you can explain what services your dog provides which are directly related to your disability. Once your application is approved you will be provided with a unique Service Animal ID that you need to send to your airline so they accept your team for the flight. The Service Animal ID by Open Doors is valid for 1 year and you can use it on other flights enabled by Open Doors. You will need to renew the ID at some point, please keep that in mind.

Most applications rejected by Open Doors tend to be incorrectly filled out. We have to mention that some people misrepresent their animals as service animals which causes airline staff to be doubtful and mistrusting at times and legitimate service dog teams need to be at their best when traveling. If you have invested time and work into shaping your canine into a reliable service animal please be open about the tasks your dog has mastered and make sure your dog is not afraid of loud noises, moving vehicles, or crowds. Service dogs must have excellent public manners, and be confident and calm.

The laws in the destination country do not permit self-trained service dogs.

The self-trained service dog teams should be keenly aware that some countries may either not permit the use of self-trained service dogs or they might not even have laws for service dogs. Self-trained service dogs who are leaving the US for another country may have to adhere to the pet import rules of the destination country. Self-trained service dogs may only be granted public access rights after they pass a public access test or a more in-depth government-issued certification test with the local authorities. This is the case with countries like Austria, France, and Germany. On the other hand, countries like the Netherlands, Brazil, and Mexico are very pet friendly, and visiting self-trained service dog teams have public access rights. Of course, we recommend your dog be fully vaccinated, microchipped, have an ID card that says it is a service dog and can demonstrate excellent public manners. Please, make sure to carry an original medical letter that prescribes the use of a service dog along with a few copies to spare. We recommend you have the medical letter translated into the official language of the country you will be vising along with any vaccination records. That way you can quickly reassure the local authorities you have a safe and trained service dog and you can prove your medical need for a service dog.

Air Travel Training

It is important to train your service dog to navigate the airport environment. This includes training your dog to walk calmly on a leash, remain focused in busy and noisy environments, and go through security screenings calmly. Contact your airline to find out if they offer any airport training programs for service dogs and if they have early boarding opportunities for people with special needs. Make sure your dog is comfortable with being handled by a stranger for a few minutes under your supervision. Service dogs should not be afraid of physical contact with strangers and noisy environments.

Your service dog should be trained to remain calm and well-behaved during the flight. This includes staying in the allotted space under the seat in front of you, remaining quiet, and not disturbing other passengers. No lunging, jumping, whining, and begging for food should be demonstrated by dogs presented as service animals.

It is important to prepare your dog for the experience of takeoff and landing, which can be stressful for some animals. You may want to play audio recordings from the Internet at home to accustom your dog to loud sounds associated with the airport. You can play these audio recordings while your dog is eating or playing but at a lower volume at first and then gradually increase the volume to more real-life levels as your dog shows he/she is comfortable.

In conclusion, flying with a service dog requires careful preparation and knowledge of airline regulations, documentation, and laws that protect people with disabilities. By following the guidelines outlined on this page, you can ensure a smooth and comfortable journey for both you and your service dog. Remember to always advocate for your rights as a service dog owner and don't hesitate to seek assistance if needed.