Flying With a Large Dog

Golden Retriever

“Can My Large Dog Fly In-Cabin?”


Hi PetRelocation,

I'm desperately trying to find a way my dog can ride in the cabin of a plane to relocate to Japan.

She is 40 pounds, so “too large” by all standards I can find, but I'm hoping someone can give me an alternative (service dog, therapy dog, specific airline?). We are too scared for her to fly under the plane in cargo.




Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for contacting us! Unfortunately the short answer to your question is “probably not.” Please see more about your dog shipping options or read on for more details.

The cabin vs. cargo dilemma is a common question about pet shipping, as many pet owners are not aware of the conditions within airplane cargo holds and are afraid of transporting their pets that way. A 40-pound dog is indeed too large to travel in-cabin on most (if not all) airlines and will have to ride as cargo.

Apart from very small pets, only trained and certified service or support dogs with legitimate documentation are sometimes allowed to accompany their owners in-cabin. If your dog is not a certified assistance dog and you are simply trying to find a way around following pet air travel regulations, you will not be allowed to fly your pet in-cabin.

It sounds like you have concerns about cargo travel, but deeper research shows that flying a pet as cargo is very safe and may in fact be more comfortable for your dog. Check out this post where we address questions about flying pets as cargo and another where we disprove myths about shipping pets as cargo.

You'll see that cargo holds are pressurized and climate-controlled and aren't that different from the conditions in which human passengers fly in the cabin. Assuming you book with a pet-friendly airline (such as United) and that your dog's crate is airline-approved and appropriately-sized, your pet should ride safely and comfortably as cargo on his trip to Japan.

If you have any more questions about pet transport to Japan and are interested in hiring some assistance, be sure to contact us for a consultation. We've helped many pets travel safely via cargo and would be happy to discuss your questions and concerns.

Thanks for your question and good luck with your move!


Pet Travel Question Details:

Name: Jennifer
Number of Pets: 1
Pet Type: Dog
Pet Breed: Soft coated Wheaton/Golden retriever mix
From: United States
To: Tokyo, Japan

Want to talk to a pet transport expert about your dog shipping options? Contact us below to get started.

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PetRelocation Team


Air Travel, Airlines, Ask the Experts




United States, Japan


Add a Comment

By Gwen on July 27, 2018 at 9:59 pm

I have 2 large dogs I would like to fly from Los Angeles to Boise. Not too bad. I would think that with so many people wanting to fly with their pets there would be some alternative. Are pilots that fly small planes, (4-6) seaters (not jets), allowed to fly dogs? Does it matter whether they rent or own the plane? How could someone get in touch with a pilot of a small plane? Just seems like there would be some relatively affordable niche business one could use, Thanks

By Laura on September 19, 2018 at 4:28 pm

Hi Gwen, I have 2 Great Danes that I would like to move by small private plane. Did you ever find a solution?

By sharon finley on August 21, 2018 at 10:35 am

Hi Gwen, Please contact me at If you are still looking for transport, may have a solution for you. Regards, Sharon

By on July 30, 2018 at 9:49 am

Hi Gwen! Great suggestions. We've definitely chartered private jets for clients & their pets before; however to be completely transparent, this type of service is not considered an affordable option. You could try googling private jet companies and see if someone is able to accommodate your pets (in order to avoid our handling fees). Anyone with a private plane can fly pets domestically. In our experience finding a private jet in the LA area will be out Vannuis (VNY), Burbank (BUR), or John Wayne Airport. (SNA). Hope this helps!

By Gwen on July 30, 2018 at 11:22 am

It wouldn't be (in order to avoid your handling fees), it would be so they wouldn't have to fly in cargo. Also, I stated (not jets). I was referring to small prop planes.

By on July 30, 2018 at 11:33 am

Hi Gwen! Thanks for the clarification! Unfortunately, we do not have any contacts with small prop planes.

We do frequently help move pets via private ground transportation which would avoid cargo travel for your pets. This service includes a driver for your dogs (no other pets), which allows personalized attention. Your pups would not need to be in a crate if they are used to traveling in vehicle. If you are interested in receiving more information about this service, feel free to fill out our Arrange A Move form here and a consultant will reach out to you. Thanks again!

By Kat Pie on July 25, 2018 at 10:12 pm

United is not a pet-friendly airline! A pug puppy just died on a flight....! And I have heard that United is NOT good with live cargo.....!

By on July 26, 2018 at 2:16 pm

Hi Kat - We can definitely understand how stressful the thought is of moving your fur baby as cargo and share the same sentiment. However, when done correctly, cargo travel is very safe - and we've moved many pets (pugs included!) with United Airlines. There are other pet safe airlines in the industry besides United that we use, and each of our move plans are customized to fit the needs of our clients & their pets.

However, please know that United Airlines & American Humane recently facilitated a systematic review of their pet safe program. There were many changes to come from this review, one being the decision to not allow certain breeds such as pugs on their aircrafts as cargo anymore. Feel free to read more out more about our position on United Airlines Pet Safe Program here.

Thanks again for your comment. We believe it is very important to be a part of this conversation that pet travel is safe. Our team of experts will advise you how to make this journey as safe as possible for your pet at every step of the way!

By Kristof on June 10, 2018 at 2:00 pm

Hi,I have a 25kg senior husky whom we would like to relocate to Canada from Europe (technically many airport would do). My issue is that we adopted the dog and he has separation stress (means leaving him alone would end up quite badly). So leaving him in a box for 10+ hours would be a huge stress factor for him and I simply wouldn't risk it. Is there any suggestion how we could relocate him? Any chance to fly him in the cabin or is there any special airlines who can help me with this situation? In the worst case we will simply go by boat which is a long journey but at least we are not going to leave him alone.

By on June 11, 2018 at 10:30 am

Hi Kristof - Thanks for your question!

Each airline has their own rules & restrictions regarding in-cabin travel for pets. Typically pets larger than 8 kgs must travel in the cargo hold. That being said, we only specialize in pets traveling as "manifest cargo" or unaccompanied travel. This is extremely safe as long as your pet is healthy. They fly in climate controlled and pressurized conditions and we have the utmost concern for your pet’s safety, treating them as we would our own.

Acclimating your pet to their travel kennel is the most important first step in any pet move. If there is anything we can do to make this trip easier on you & your pup, feel free to reach out to us. Below are some great blog posts about acclimating your pup to their travel kennel, if you'd like to go the airline route:

- How to Crate Train
- Reduce Seperation Anxiety
- Training Pets to Love Their Travel Crates

Hope this helps!

By Deborah Smith on March 19, 2018 at 9:57 pm

I have an 80 lb red nose pitbull and I would like to fly to Florida to live is there a airline that I can fly my dog on

By on March 26, 2018 at 3:03 pm

Hi Deborah,

Thanks for your question! This will depend on where you’re flying to Florida from. If it is within the United States, options are going to be very limited until we know more about the United Airlines PetSafe program, which was previously the main option for this breed. If you are flying internationally you may have some more options. Lufthansa accepts pit bulls in a custom (CR-82) crate, but this will also depend on routes for the airline. For the second scenario you can find more information on booking pet travel with Lufthansa here. Hope this helps!

By Steven on March 14, 2018 at 2:19 pm

United is the worst carrier for pets. It has more then twice the deaths per 10,000 then any of its competitors. United told ABC News that it assumes full responsibility for the puppy's death. A spokesperson could not immediately say if anyone has been disciplined."This was a tragic accident that should have never occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin,” United said in a statement. "We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again."The airline has the highest rate of incidents involving animal loss, injury or death during air transportation, with 2.24 for every 10,000 animals transported by U.S. carriers, according to Department of Transportation. That's more than twice as many as competitors.

By Tristan Wright on March 14, 2018 at 12:24 pm

I bet your comment about United being pet friendly would be different now that they are responsible for the death of a puppy and there are several other instances of animal abuse.

By Sean on March 8, 2018 at 3:04 pm

Hi any suggestions if the dog is a bit unfriendly as well? I have a 40lb border collie/shiba inu mix. He is great with people and other dogs when he's in a safe familiar place (my house, the local dog park, a walk in the neighborhood, etc). But whenever he goes to the vet or has to stay in a kennel while on vacation he turns into a real growling, snarling, snapping jerk. I know for certain he would be this way to the cargo handlers and anyone else he comes in contact with during the boarding and loading/unloading process. Is his aggression an issue? Would he need to be sedated?

By on March 14, 2018 at 11:47 am

Hello Sean!

For dogs with potential aggression issues, we suggest labeling the travel crate with a note explaining that your dog is wary of strangers. If you choose an airline with a dedicated pet program in place, only trained professionals will be handling him so his personality quirks should not preclude him from completing a safe flight, but it helps to do as much as you can to notify those involved. We recommend against sedation, as it can pose serious health risks to a pet in flight. There are natural ways to help relieve anxiety before a flight, including making sure he gets plenty of exercise before he travels, and including a shirt or thin blanket that smells like home in the crate. Thanks for reaching out to us with your question!

By Kristi on December 26, 2017 at 8:48 am

We have a Boston terrier and have read that this bread could suffer in a cargo hold. Is this true?

By on December 26, 2017 at 10:42 am

Hello Kristi,

Thanks for reaching out! While you will need to take extra precautions for snub-nosed breeds, like Boston Terriers, it is not unsafe for them to fly. Please read through some of our tips and tricks for preparing snub-nosed breeds for travel here to learn how to make your dog's travels as safe as possible. Also since every dog handles traveling and stress differently, it's important to speak with your vet to determine if your dog is healthy enough to travel.

We hope this helps!

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