As progressive as the airline industry has been about nut allergies, it is surprising that it is so behind the times when it comes to respecting passengers with pet allergies. It is a given that service dogs have long been allowed on planes (and trains and hotels), but the incidence of clearly sighted people with small—often ill-behaved—dogs on planes is clearly on the rise. RELATED: Should Airlines Offer Kid-Free Flights?
Golden retrievers walk in the aisles, Pomeranians defecate in the galley and some pet owners even take their dogs to use the regular bathrooms. That can’t be good, yet most are classified as emotional support animals. Most airlines have weight restrictions of 20 to 25 pounds for dogs to fly in the cabin … which are not respected. Honestly, your 70-pound lab probably doesn’t want to be stuffed under your seat for that 11-hour trip to Paris, no matter how much he will miss you if you leave him with a sitter.

Airline personnel hate the growing number of emotional support animals they are seeing on flights—which have included pigs and peacocks—as well. Off the record, they have told me that these dogs bark, poop and generally run riot making a big mess that airline staff then need to clean up. Their owners rarely discipline them despite other passengers’ allergies and fear of dogs.

Passengers have even been bitten in flight and others have passed out in the aisles for unknown reasons on pet-packed flights I have been one, traveling approximately 150,000 miles a year for my job as a journalist covering food and wine. Passengers have been quick to make epi pens available to airline staff to revive ill passengers but are rarely taken up on the offer. A five-year-old developed hives from a nearby dog when on a plane with his family in 2016 as the dog owner would not move. The passengers applauded when the boy and his family deplaned.

As someone for whom dog hair can cause anaphylactic shock—meaning my throat closes—I have had to constantly navigate a minefield of anxiety animals on planes for the past decades. The airlines are of little help—which is odd as they hate the extra effort of dealing with dogs—as they often can’t see in advance when dogs are booked on the plane, have to accommodate emotional support animals until the last minute and they offer you few solutions to rebook your flight or change your seat.

As a result, I call the airlines multiple times to ask about pets; check in early and often change flights—and arrive hours and days late–to avoid emotional support animals. These are all things I don’t think should fall on the shoulders of the allergic passenger, be that allergy to nuts or dogs.

Is it not time that the airlines try to limit the amount of emotional support dogs on planes and work with those who are allergic to them? Severe allergies pose as much of a physical danger to the human body—if not more—as emotional stress. Isn’t it time for airlines to create a handful of pet-free flights on well-traveled routes and start respecting the concerns of passengers with pet allergies?


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18 Comments On "Is It Time For Airlines to Offer Pet-Free Flights?"
  1. Giovanna Yennetti|

    I agree with you 100%, and I can’t imagine that airlines are still allowing this practice. I, too, in my frequent travels, have been compromised by having to share my seat with all sorts of dogs, including a mastiff, which also defecated on my shoes! I’ve also been kept awake all night by a yapping chihuahua.

    What is so wrong with having your dog travel in a safe cargo area? In the “old”days, that is how I transported my pets when I was living between Europe and the US, and they survived just fine.

    To be clear, I am an animal lover, having had numerous dogs and cats over my lifetime. This passenger abuse has to stop.

  2. Jerry D'Agosto|

    I totally agree with the previous comment. Bringing pets aboard should not be allowed. Comfort pets designation is a joke. Some passengers believe they are privileged and have a right to bring their animals aboard. If you need one to comfort you on a flight stay home and figure out another way of traveling. It is bad enough to be crammed into a fully loaded airliner and try to be comfortable without having to endure an animal in the cabin. And, shame on the airlines for allowing this situation. Put the pets in the cargo hold as suggested. I believe the airline stands to earn a few more bucks. Eh?

  3. mlim|

    Unsanitary is unsanitary whether it is human or animal. Animals are more difficult to control so their behavior makes life more difficult for those who wish for travel without pets in seats or on laps. Comfort pets only for those who travel with the pet. For all others it is discomfort.
    Please restrict animals and bring sanity back to air travel

  4. Karin R|

    As a psychotherapist, people ask me all the time to designate their animal as emotional support. It is NEVER for a good reason so I always decline. Now you can simply buy them on the internet

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Good for you

  5. Mona|

    I agree no pets on a flight. I have severe animal allergies that this time around put me in the hospital and i have family in the Midwest who wants me to come visit but im afraid. My last flight they had a german shepherd on there and I didn’t know until i started having an allergic reaction. I’m so glad I had Benadryl with me i had to take it constantly and i was so embarrassed because the fire dept came on board to escort me off to make sure my throat had not closed up and to see if i need to go to the hospital. I hope they will have flights that are animal free for people like us who just want to fly without worrying about an animal encounter.

  6. Earl B.|

    The obvious answer is to ship the pets in their crates in the cargo hold, which is what people did for years until there was a spate of instances a few years ago where pets died due to poor care by the airlines. One shouldn’t have to risk the life of their pet to get from Chicago to L.A.

    But I REALLY don’t want to fly sitting next to a dog (or cat or chicken) either. We should (1) abolish the “emotional support” baloney, (2) makes folks buy a seat for their pet at regular human fares, (3) require the pet to remain in their carrier for the full flight, and (4) designate the last two or three rows in coach as the designated seating spaces for those flying with pets.

  7. Larry|

    A dog crapped on my Delta flight today. Stunk up the cabin for the last 1/3 of the flight. Delta refused to do anything about it.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Do you have photos or videos? Will make for a good post

  8. Tony Di Gioia|

    The emotional support tag for pets is such a farce that is constantly being abused. I doubt that the airlines even verify a document stating the legal purpose of the animal as a “comfort animal”. Many pet owners feel privileged and ignore rules. Back in the sensible days, I transported my pets so many times to Europe in the baggage area that they were qualified for frequent flyer miles. If a passenger is that stressed they shouldn’t be traveling in the first place.

  9. Sage|

    Perhaps you people should not be flying on commercial airlines. Perhaps if you are such sensitive frequent flyers you need to buy a share in NetJets, charter a plane, buy your own small jet or ask to fly on the company plane. You could take Amtrak as far as possible & then rent a car. Or you could just drive. I also have disabilities that can make commercial flights difficult. I can also go into shock from certain allergies. That is on me not the rest of the world. You are the type of pretentious whiners that make travel difficult. I would a thousand times rather be surrounded by animals on a flight than people like you, regardless of What they do. And to the author, Liza, however would we get by without your opinion on wine? 🤣

  10. Jackie|

    No pets on flights! I was on a flight and the women next to me had a golden retriever, not a puppy mind you. She said he won’t bother you he will lay right here. Well on top of of feet because I had no other place for them. I was furious, finally I told the flight attendant she needed to do something about this. She finally found someone to switch seats with dog and owner. I have a lot of allergies and this set me off. NO PETS ALLOWED!!!

  11. Debbie|

    I would rather sit next to a 145 pound Great Dane than some passengers. I know pets that are better behaved than passengers. You talk of pet allergies. The statistics on people with dog allergies is about 1 in 100,000 people. Most people are allergic to cats. And, if you don’t touch them or breath in their dander they don’t affect you. If you’re sitting next to someone with a cat in a carrier ask to be reseated. And, as a past flight attendant I’ve seen some of the worst behavior from passengers. People puking on themselves or others, or the seats. People passing gas, stinking up the plane. So, no I don’t think pets should be denied boarding whether they’re service dogs or not. And, flying them in cargo is not an option any longer because they are not taken care of properly. And, it’s not just a “spate” of incidences.

  12. MS Barile|

    NO pets on flights!! Please leave your pets with a doggy day are or have a person in to feed the cats. I love animals, however they do not belong on an airplane. I don’t want to have an allergy attack because of them. Have some consideration for your fellow travelers. It is very unhygienic to be around critters in a flight for hours. I can’t believe how self centers most people are.

  13. Liz|

    Yes, I believe dogs should fly free. Dogs don’t ask for anything but to be with their parents or owners. I rather have a dog anytime than human. If airports would not let people drink before getting on the planes, flying might be a little nicer. If they do drink, they should have a stamp on their hand, let the on or not. You don’t get this out of a dog.

  14. B. Rational|

    Emotional support animals are no longer allowed on flights. The FAA only allows service dogs and animals kept in carriers under the seat. Any other animal is technically illegal. People that bring their pets on airplanes, but lie about them being legitimate service animals, need to be fined and bared from flying again for a few years. Same thing for people that let their animals out of their carriers on the airplane. That would fix the problem pretty fast. Also, service animals need to be registered and licensed. That way it’s that much harder to fake.

  15. Lindsay|

    severe allergy sufferer here. Hospital level. I haven’t been able to fly for 12 years because of the animals. They bring a Hazmat crew for a peanut, but dirty dogs and cats are just allowed on? Come on. They wont change the rules until someone sues them. Little do they know how hard they can monetize pet free planes. It’s ridiculous.

  16. Don|

    planes are for humans. dogs were flown in cargo for decades so why do you think dogs are now more important than humans? if dog owners want to fly with their pets then they should purchase private jets and fly or drive. Dogs should never be able to inconvenience people and affect their f health on flights.

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