How to Book United Airlines Pet Travel

Note, February 9th, 2021: At this time, United has suspended their PetSafe program indefinitely. PetRelocation is monitoring the situation and will update this post as policies change. 

It's not every day that you have to book a flight for your pet, which is why this may seem like the most complicated part of your move. What should you expect when contacting the airline?

That's why we've put together this simple guide to booking domestic and international pet travel on United Airlines. Take a look below!

Booking U.S. Domestic vs. International Pet Travel

Booking your pet on a U.S. domestic flight with United is a straightforward process - you just need to make sure you have the right kennel, a rabies vaccination, and a health certificate within 10 days of travel (unless your pet will be moving to Hawaii).

However, international flight bookings become a little more complex. If you're moving to Australia, Italy, New Zealand, or Singapore, United requires that you hire a professional pet-shipping company to help due to quarantine and other import requirements.

Also, if you're traveling with your pet to the United Kingdom, Ireland, or Micronesia (including Guam), your pet is required to travel unaccompanied.

Finley the cat moved to Australia on United Airlines
Finley flew on United in 2020

No matter where you're traveling to with your pet, it is important to review the import requirements for your destination. Does your destination require an import permit for your pet? If so, you might have to present the import permit number in order to book and confirm an international flight for your pet. Please make sure you follow every detail of the import rules to avoid any issues with your pet's flight booking, check-in, or clearance.

Not sure if you can handle this all on your own? We're happy to help guide you through the import requirements of your country and handle the flight booking on your behalf. Fill out our free consultation form here and one of our dedicated specialists will reach out to help build a move plan for your pet.

In-Cabin Pets

1) First, you will need to determine whether your species of pet can travel in-cabin. Small dogs, cats, rabbits, and household birds (excluding cockatoos) can travel in-cabin with United. If you have another species of pet, go to step 4.

2) Your pet will need to travel in an approved hard-shelled kennel no larger than 44 cm x 30 cm x 19 cm or in an animal travel bag (soft-sided) that expands to a recommended maximum of 46 cm x 28 cm x 28 cm. Only one pet may travel in the kennel (except birds) and your pet must be able to stand up and turn around comfortably inside the kennel. If your pet cannot fit comfortably in a carrier or kennel of this size, go to step 4.

3) Call to Book Your Flight: To make reservations by phone, please contact your country's United Customer Contact Center

Keep in mind that even though your pet will be traveling with you in the cabin, you'll still need to follow the pet import requirements for your destination country.

Pricing Structure for Pets Traveling In-Cabin

In-cabin pets can be carried in addition to a carry-on bag and are subject to a $125 USD one-way service charge. Also, if you have a stopover that is longer than 4 hours, you are subject to another $125 USD service charge.

PetSafe - Unaccompanied Pets or Pets Traveling as Cargo

United has a program dedicated to unaccompanied pet travel called PetSafe. This program ensures that every pet traveling with United unaccompanied is handled properly and safely. Not only are the cargo areas pressurized and temperature-controlled, but often times United will even have vans available at major airports to transport pets to and from aircrafts to avoid exposing them to the conditions on the tarmac as much as possible.

4) Your pet should be transported unaccompanied by United PetSafe if:

  • Your pet and kennel are too big to travel in-cabin
  • The pet is traveling to one of the many countries that require pets to arrive as manifest cargo. 

For your pet to travel unaccompanied via United PetSafe, you will need to find a travel crate that meets IATA (International Air Transport Association) standards for type and size. We have more information on what these standards are, including the best way to find the right size for your pet, on our website. A PetRelocation consultant will also be happy to guide you through this process. (see: Pet Travel Crates)

5) Call to Book Your Flight: To make reservations for your pet to fly in cargo from the United States, call the PetSafe Desk at 1-800-575-3335 or 1-832-235-1541. If you are looking to book from other countries, it is best to work with an IPATA service provider like PetRelocation to plan your pet's move.

Also, keep in mind the PetSafe Desk will expect you to be aware of your country's import requirements (sometimes, they will even require an import permit number to book your pet's flight) and ask for the following information when you book:

  • Shipper information (name, address, and telephone number)
  • Consignee information (name, address, and telephone number)
  • Travel details (departure and arrival airports, desired flight day)
  • Pet details (name, age, sex, species, breed, weight, kennel size)

Pricing Structure for PetSafe

Rates vary depending upon your origin and destination but are based on the total weight of the pet and the kennel combined. Each kennel + pet amount is charged separately (you cannot combine the weights of multiple pets and kennels to fit in a rate bracket). Also, other charges like broker fees, kenneling charges, or surcharges may apply.


United Airlines has recently put in place a number of restrictions in relation to the size and breed of pets they will fly with their PetSafe program. As of 2019, United Airlines will no longer accept pets that require a travel crate exceeding 34 inches (86 cm) tall. If your pet requires a large or custom crate, you will need to consider other airlines

United Airlines will no longer accept snub-nose pets or strong-jawed dogs. You may find a full list of dogs and cats considered snub-nose and strong-jawed on United Airline's PetSafe page. 

PetRelocation specializes in transporting pets unaccompanied, it is best to set up a pet transport consultation with us if this is at all overwhelming to you. We're happy to help!


PetRelocation Team


Air Travel, Airlines, Ask the Experts



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