United Bans Popular Pets From Cargo Holds

United Bans Many Popular Dog And Cat Breeds From Cargo Holds After Pet Deaths

  • United will only accept dogs and cats in its PetSafe program.
  • The airline will ban certain short-nosed breeds from its cargo holds.
  • The airline had been grappling with several of animal deaths and mix-ups.

Following several high-profile pet deaths and mishaps, United Airlines has revealed a more stringent pet transportation policy.

The U.S. carrier said that it will only accept dogs and cats ― and no other type of animal ― in its cargo holds beginning June 18. Dozens of snub-nosed and strong-jawed dog and cat breeds will also be banned from flying in the airline’s PetSafe program, which applies to animals traveling in the cargo compartment.

Passengers can still bring small pets, including many of the breeds banned in cargo, into the cabin if the animal’s carrier fits under the seat without obstructing passengers from exiting.

The new policy doesn’t address service animals and emotional support animals. It also appears to effectively ban some fully grown large breeds, including Mastiffs and some bulldogs, since they won’t be allowed in the cargo hold and would appear to not fit under a seat in the cabin.

As part of the announcement of its new pet policy, United Airlines said it is teaming up with American Humane, a 141-year-old animal welfare group, to improve its pet travel policies, including possible changes to staff training and other requirements for passengers traveling with pets.

Among the pets the new policy bans from transporting in the cargo hold are dozens of breeds of dogs and cats, including Boston Terriers, boxers, pugs and Pekingese dogs, and Persian and Himalayan cats. The program will accept only dogs and cats; no other animal will be allowed in the cargo hold area.

United also said it would stop transporting animals between May 1 and Sept. 30 for travel to and from Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix and Tucson because of the extreme heat in those destinations during summer months.


United transports more animals in cargo than other airlines, but also reported an above-average number of injuries and deaths among animals in its custody. In 2017, 1.3 out of every 10,000 animals the carrier transported in cargo holds died, according to the Transportation Department, compared with 0.47 out of every 10,000 across all airlines that reported data.

One possible factor: United had been willing to accept some animals other airlines didn’t. Some, like JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines, only transport pets customers can bring in the cabin. Others, like American Airlines, limit travel during extreme temperatures and don’t let passengers check certain breeds thought to be susceptible to breathing problems.

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