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The Ultimate Guide for Traveling with your Dog in the Cabin

The Ultimate Guide for Traveling with your Dog in the Cabin

How to Travel with your Dog in the Cabin

Disclaimer: The process requirements for travelling with your dog in the cabin may change, but as of today, I have listed all the options to help guide you thru the process.

The most common question that I am asked is how I can travel internationally with Sophie in the cabin in 2022. Originally, Sophie was a registered Emotional Support Animal (ESA), but in 2021 I went through the process of having her registered as a Service Dog. This is because passengers started to abuse this by so the Department of Transportation was forced to ban ESA from the U.S. carrier flights.

This guide is to help assist you in the process, whether your dog is a registered Emotional Support Dog, a non-registered Emotional Support, or Service Dog, in making sure your best friend flies safely in the cabin with you and not below in dreaded cargo.


Waiting on a connection flight from Colombia to Brazil at Tucomen International Airport in Panama

Recommended Airlines

I recommend the 3 airlines below because of my own personal experiences. They make the process easy and fast. They have also always been very helpful, welcoming when I arrive, and among the 3 of them they cover all Latin America.

  1.  Avianca - Based in Colombia
  2.  Copa - Based in Panama
  3.  LATAM - Based in Brazil/Chile


Breed Size Restrictions

for Non-Service Dog or Emotional Support Dogs (ESA)

If you have a smaller breed dog that meets the size requirements of fitting into a carrier under your seat then consider yourself lucky, because none of what I am about to write will pertain to you. With smaller breeds, you will only need to get your dog's international health certificate from your vet, pay an airline fee, purchase an airline approved carrier, and bring your dog with you into the cabin as if he/she were a carry-on. Since it is an international flight then they most likely will require you fill out a type of animal exportation form and pay a small fee. It is important for you that before you book your ticket it is important to check with the specific airline requirements because they might vary.

If your dog is medium to larger sized dog, such as a Vizsla, then this has recently become a bit trickier. That is unless you are willing to risk your dog's life by placing it in cargo, which personally, I would avoid at all costs. Depending on your destination registering your best friend as an ESA will be the easiest way to ensure they are allowed to fly in the cabin with you.


Traveling with an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

On January 11, 2021 the United States Department of Transportation banned Emotional Support Animals on all U.S. carrier flights. First, it is important to note that this ban only pertains to U.S. carrier flights and not all carriers, however, this ban will create limitations on your travel plans depending on a few factors, with the first one being your destination. Once you are outside of the US the restrictions change per country, so your most important flight will be the one exiting the United States. There are 3 Latin American countries that still recognize ESA dogs without question, and those are Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. You can fly to and from these 3 countries without any issues with an ESA, so if your plan is to visit one of these 3 countries then the process is quite simple. If your plan is to visit another country outside of those 3 or bounce from one country to another, as I do, then it becomes a little trickier. In order to visit other countries, you will first need to fly to Mexico, Colombia, or Brazil, and then book a separate flight to your final destination. If your plan is to continue bouncing from one country to the next, then you will always need to return to one of those 3 countries before continuing to your next destination each time. Those 3 countries are my favorite, so it's never been an issue for us.

Traveling internationally with an ESA you will need the following:

  1. Online ESA Registration. There are number of different companies that offer this. Personally, I have used Service Dog Certifications to register Sophie first as an ESAN and then next as a Service Dog. The prices for this start at $32.99. You can either order a very basic ESA vest for your dog on their website or you can head over to Amazon to find some more fashionable options.
  2. Letter from a therapist - Now that your dog has their registration, in order to fly in the cabin, you will also need a letter from a therapist. Service Dog Certifications offer this service on their website, but in my opinion, it lacks credibility. It would be better to obtain this letter from a therapist that you already use. The letter will only be valid for 1 year, which you will then need to get another one.
  3. Document/Form Submission - Once you have booked your airline flight you will need to submit the registration and letter from your therapist to the airline for approval. Most airlines will also have you fill out a form and bring copies of it with you at the time of check-in. Make sure to make copies of the documents and of your passport.
  4. International Health Certificate - The final step is to visit your veterinarian for your dog to have a health checkup and obtain an International Health Certificate. Ask your veterinarian if they are certified to be able to send this form to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for you. If they are not, then you will need to schedule time to do this yourself. Depending on where you live there might not be a USDA office close to you, so it is better if your veterinarian offers this service. You will have a window of time to do these things before your flight. Typically, it ranges from 2-14 days. You will need to book your airline ticket before, so that you can provide the flight information to the veterinarian because they will need to include that in the Health Certificate.


Traveling with a Registered Service Dog

The process to travel with a Service Dog is not much more work than with an Emotional Support Dog. If you have not read Sophie's Guide on Becoming a Registered Service Dog, then I encourage you to do so. If you and your dog qualify, then it is well worth the few extra steps. Once registered, the only additional requirements are to submit the DOT Service Animal Transportation form to the airline for approval.