Sonny big white dog face
Photograph ©2006 by B. Cohen.

Delta Air Lines to No Longer Accept Pets as Checked Baggage

ffective as of Tuesday, March 1, 2016, Delta Air Lines will no longer accept pets as checked baggage; but in the meantime, you will still be able to travel with a pet as checked baggage through Monday, February 29, 2016. Also, representatives of Delta Air Lines will contact customers with bookings after March 1, 2016 which are known to include pets as checked bags.

Exceptions and alternatives to this new policy include:

  • Allowable pets will continue to be transported in all cabins of service on aircraft operated by Delta Air Lines — except Delta One
  • Pets may also be shipped as freight through Delta Cargo for travel within the United States
  • Members of the military with active transfer orders will be allowed to transport a pet as checked baggage
  • Delta will continue to accept service and emotional support animals which comply with federal regulations and include proper documentation


Pets which are transported via Delta Cargo are supposedly monitored closely by customer service teams during their travel. While at airports, pets are handled in temperature-controlled holding areas and vans. Also, Delta Cargo enlists professional kenneling services if overnight stays are required.

Possible Reasons for No Pets as Checked Baggage

Although the exact reasons were not officially publicly disclosed by Delta Air Lines, the change in policy may be an effort to reduce liability on the part of Delta Air Lines — as pets have been lost in the past — and possibly to also increase revenue…

…or perhaps the new policy was a reaction to the reports of this massive dog being boarded onto an airplane operated by American Airlines — with some help, of course.

Could this policy be to keep the airplane clean and not cause an emergency landing due to unexpected and excessive dog excrement, as reportedly occurred on an aircraft operating as US Airways flight 598 from Los Angeles to Philadelphia on Wednesday, May 28, 2014? Flight attendants supposedly ran out of paper towels while attempting to clean up a second mess left in the aisle by the large dog, which reportedly defecated three times during the flight — resulting in some passengers becoming ill, causing the diversion of the flight to Kansas City.

Let us concentrate on the first two reasons…

Loss of Pets

Although it has not been a rampant problem with Delta Air Lines, the implementation of this new policy could be to mitigate — or even eliminate — the loss of pets before, during or after flights. After all, even losing one pet is one pet too many to lose — especially if you happen to be the owner of that pet.

Here are four examples over the years of when pets were reportedly lost by Delta Air Lines:

  • A dog reportedly escaped from its kennel in November of 2014 at Los Angeles International Airport “on its own” while it was aboard an airplane operated by Delta Air Lines whose destination was Tampa.
  • Crew members of Delta Air Lines reportedly lost a cat back in January of 2011 when they were loading it onto an airplane in Egypt back in when it reportedly escaped its enclosure, causing its owner to be outraged.
  • A dog was lost in May of 2010 when it was supposed to be on a flight from Atlanta to Puerto Vallarta but it reportedly escaped, causing its owner to vow to never fly as a passenger on flights operated by Delta Air Lines ever again.
  • FlyerTalk member Chugach reported that a dog which was boarded in Anchorage never made it to its destination in Buffalo back in November of 2007.

Increased Revenue

The change in policy could also be a way to increase revenue. The current policy allows for dogs, cats and household birds to travel with you in the cabin for a one-way fee, collected at check in, to/from the following destinations:

  • United States and Canada: $125.00 USD/CAD
  • Virgin Islands: $125.00 USD/CAD
  • Puerto Rico: $125.00 USD/CAD
  • Outside the United States: $200.00 USD/CAD/EUR
  • Brazil: $75.00 USD

CAD amount will be charged exit Canada, and EUR amount will be charged exit Europe. Fees established by the contract of carriage in effect at the time of ticket issuance will apply.

Household birds are only permitted to travel on domestic flights within the United States.

Shipping warm-blooded animals through Delta Cargo

can cost anywhere from $193.00 to as much as $1,481.18 — not including tax or other terminal fees — within the 50 United States and Puerto Rico.

Exporting warm-blooded animals outside of the United States through Delta Cargo starts at a minimum of $400.00 and can be as high as $800.00 — but can cost as much as $41.00 per kilogram, which can add to the cost for larger animals — not including tax or any other applicable charges or fees.

Either way, options of shipping pets through Delta Cargo will cost you more money. Other tariffs and rates are found here.

Guidelines For Pets Shipped Through Delta Cargo

Delta Air Lines has guidance for customers traveling with pets posted on its official Internet web site

; but if you choose to ship a pet through Delta Cargo, you should note that:

  • A separate booking from their flight itinerary is required. Additional fees and charges may apply.
  • A pet shipped domestically via Delta Cargo cannot be booked until 14 days prior to departure.
  • Pets are not guaranteed to be shipped on the same flight or flight schedule as you.
  • Shipping a pet requires dropping it off at a Delta Cargo location at least three hours before departure time at a location separate from when you check in for your flight.
  • Picking up a pet will also occur at a Delta Cargo location.
  • Delta Cargo will only accept international pet shipments from approved members of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association to assist with your transportation requirements.


After having reported extensively on service animals and emotional support animals — there are distinct differences between the two designations; and links to the articles are listed below — I predict that this policy will only cause more people to attempt to register their pets as “emotional support animals” in order to avoid paying the increased costs of transporting a pet.


Additionally, FlyerTalk members are discussing this topic as well.

Airlines have as much right to profit from transporting animals as they do from transporting humans; but I believe that the airlines should work with governments to resolve the issue of emotional support animals — whose designation virtually has no governance or oversight — versus bonafide service animals, as current regulations from the federal government of the United States leave a gaping loophole seemingly fraught with abuse by passengers who defraud airlines by “registering” their pets as “emotional support animals” for the sole purpose of transporting their pets free of charge.

For additional information and details, please refer to the aforementioned list of linked articles.

Photograph ©2006 by B. Cohen.


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