Many Travelers Believe There's A No-Fly List For Dogs. Is It True?

Traveling with your pet isn't always easy. In many cases, you'll have to prepare paperwork, get your furry friend used to a crate, and pack enough food and toys to keep them satisfied throughout the trip. To make things even harder, some airlines block animals from boarding their flights, even after the seats have been booked and the pet fees have been paid.

This has led some to believe there's a no-fly list for dogs, where airlines ban Fido for vague or inconsistent reasons. According to insiders, no such list exists. Verify confirmed with the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration that there's no federal no-fly list for dogs, while at least one airline (Southwest Airlines) told the outlet that it doesn't keep a formal list of banned pets.

However, airlines are allowed to set their own rules when it comes to allowing dogs on board, and carrier agents can deny boarding when they deem it necessary. United Airlines' pet policy is often regarded as one of the strictest, and, as owners revealed to The Washington Post, its agents have threatened to permanently ban some dogs by keeping a no-fly note in the passenger's file.

Why are dogs getting blocked from boarding?

One reason some dogs might be barred — or even permanently banned — from flying with an airline is that the pet doesn't meet the requirements set by the carrier. These requirements can include size and weight restrictions, proof that the animal is healthy enough to fly, and even good behavior.

But what about the fliers who claim they complied with the rules and were still turned away? That's what happened in a viral TikTok posted by @linmarietoolit, who tried to fly on United with her six-pound dog. In the clip, another passenger can be heard saying he just flew on a United flight with his pet, only to be barred from boarding his second journey. Some commenters speculated that the flight had been overbooked and the passengers with dogs were the first to get booted off.

It's unclear if overbooked flights or another motive may be the reason some dogs are denied boarding. However, the strict rules and threats of being banned for life seem to be part of a growing consensus against pups on planes. The shift away from allowing pets to fly was somewhat supported by the Department of Transportation in 2020 when it no longer permitted emotional support dogs to fly as service animals.

Some dog breeds aren't allowed to fly

While a formal no-fly list for dogs might not exist — at least not at the federal level — some breeds may truly be on a no-fly list due to size and health concerns. For one, dogs must generally be able to fit under the seat to fly in the plane cabin, meaning you'll have to fly your pet in a cargo hold if they're a medium or large breed. Unfortunately, some airlines, such as United and Delta, no longer offer cargo hold transportation for pets. This can make traveling with a large pooch challenging.

Short-nosed dogs may also be banned from flying with certain airlines, particularly in the cargo hold. American Airlines, for instance, lists a whopping 21 breeds that aren't allowed to fly alongside checked baggage due to their short muzzles. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, snub-nosed dogs are at a greater risk of suffering from respiratory issues, which can make air travel dangerous. As the temperature and air quality inside the cargo hold change, these dogs can struggle to breathe and regulate their body temperature, leading to death in the most serious cases.