Pet-toting travelers, take note -- not all airlines are prepared to give your furry companion first-class treatment. Some carriers do better than others when it comes to puppy (or parrot, cat and gerbil) love, and Petfinder.com has decided on a jet-setter's best bets for traveling with a pet this year.
In ascending order, here are the site's top five reviews for the most pet-friendly airlines of 2009:
5. United Airlines – Non-Discriminating
United Airlines loves animals of all kinds. They accept small cats, dogs and birds in the cabin; rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs as checked baggage and other animals including parrots, cockatiels and ferrets, in United Cargo. (Shipping by cargo is for items, like some pets, that you cannot check as baggage. Your pet may or may not be on the aircraft with you). If you have a short-nosed dog, check your date of flight, as some breeds and mixes are not allowed in cargo or as checked baggage from June 1 through September 30 of each year.
4. American Airlines – Zoo Trusted
American Airlines’ animal-trained staff has assisted in transporting animals from popular zoos in cargo. While they only allow a limited number of pets in the cabin, they ask pet parents to make special notes for their animal companions flying in cargo and promise to abide by all requests.
3. Airtran – Budget-Friendly
Airtran will not let you break the bank to fly with your pet beside you (well technically, under your seat). It is currently the least expensive airline to fly with your small pet; just $69 each way.
2. JetBlue Airways – Full-Service Pet Love
JetBlue really embraced pet-toting travelers when it launched JetPaws last summer. For no additional cost, JetBlue provides a pet carrier bag tag, two TrueBlue points each way, a welcome e-mail and a free pet travel guide. However, like other airlines, JetBlue has hiked its in-cabin pet charge; one-way fees range from $75 to 100.
1. Continental – Safety-First
Continental is proud of its PetSafe program, which has a 24-hour Live Animal Desk (1-800-575-3335), tracking the pets from origin to destination. It is pricier than other programs, but the cargo area is climate-controlled, allows roomy carriers and has a designated cargo staff. Travelers using PetSafe can even earn miles. The airline also allows small cats, dogs, pet rabbits and household birds to be carried in the cabin on most domestic flights for $125 each way.
Next year's list may have a new addition: Pet Airways looks like it might top even these offerings in animal air travel.