Air Canada Pet Policy: We Flew With Them

voler avec son chien avec Air Canada

Flying with a pet in cabin can be super stressful, especially if it’s the first time for you…and things don’t go well. It was the first time we flew with Mocsing. She was only 7 months old and we were discovering what it was like to travel with a dog. Brand new dog owners flying with a tiny sassy dog…Let’s just say that we were scared. And as it turns out, we were right to be. The experience with Air Canada was not a good one. We filed a complaint with them as we landed. The staff provides a high quality service. It’s important to say that right off the bat.

What is Air Canada’s Pet Policy?

Pet travel is stressful. It’s even more stressful when you have to ship your dog in cargo without being on the flight yourself. If you have to travel with your animal aboard Air Canada, here are the things you have to know.

Does Air Canada Allow Pets in Cabin?

After searching online, we found out that Air Canada does accept dogs. The pet policy is clear: animals can fly in cabin or in the cargo hold. This is applicable to Air Canada Rouge, Air Canada Express and Air Canada flights. You can travel with your pet on both.

  • The dog must be at least 12 weeks old.
  • You can’t travel with more than 2 animals.
  • Winter and summer cargo travels for dogs may be halted when the outside temperature is above 29.5 °C or if temperatures are too cold for animals.
  • Pet transport is not allowed for snub nosed dogs. They cannot travel aboard the cargo hold for health reasons.
  • The flight cannot be operated by an Air Canada partner. It has to be an Air Canada flight for dogs to travel in cabin.
  • You must use Air Canada Pet Cargo for specific destinations like Hawaii.

Here’s the official Air Canada pets in cabin travel policy.  

Flying With a Dog in Cabin Aboard Air Canada: Our Review

We wanted to fly with our little dachshund with us in the cabin in September 2018. We booked a flight from Montreal (YUL) to Barcelona. Apparently, Air Canada Rouge (not the same thing as Air Canada) was one of the few companies offering this service at the time we booked.

The experience was not one we will repeat. We’re sharing our review and the pros and cons of choosing Air Canada to transport your dog. Side note: we had a great experience flying aboard with Swiss and Austrian and used the same pet carry on.

Great Staff Makes a Difference

Huge pro: in-flight and ground staff are incredible. On the first flight, we had a few situations (someone almost died before takeoff) that could have turned this flight into an utter nightmare. The flight attendants were real heroes and got everything under control. It was really impressive. Bottom line: if you ever have a problem while aboard an Air Canada flight, that cabin crew has your back.

Attractive Prices and Destinations

Prices are really attractive, especially on Air Canada Rouge. This coupled with the fact that the airline has a wide region of flight destinations when your departure airport is in Canada…it makes it a great option for many Canadians traveling with their pets.

These nameless flight attendants helped save a man’s life and then were kind enough to give Momo a cuddle when the danger was over. We’re keeping them anonymous because we did’t want to intrude into their privacy.

Air Canada Flight Reservation With a Dog

We have great prices and great destinations. But beyond that, you should know that the whole process to reserve your travel with doggo in tow is going to be complex and long. We couldn’t choose our seats because if you reserve with a dog…you can’t do that for some reason. We ended up with the toilets on the other side of the isle. Between the heavy foot traffic, the smells, the lack of space in that last row (it’s famous for that), it was not a fun experience for our dog. She was stressed AF. Trying to check in online? Yeah, forget about that too if you travel with a dog. We ended up in some pretty long check-in lines while at the airport with everybody in the line wanted to get the dog’s attention. Not a fun time when you travel with a young hyper dog.

Careful About Seating With Air Canada Rouge

We were seated in a middle row with a family in front of us. The 2 little toddlers kept being put repeatedly on the floor. The parents were told by flight attendants multiple times not to do that. We asked them nicely as well. NOPE. Toddlers kept moving the dog’s bag while crying for the dog. Let me make that clear: our terrorized dog kept being shaken in the dog bad by little hands she didn’t know and shrill cries. FOR SEVEN 7 STRAIGHT. We cannot open the bag, take the dog out or even take the bag out of the situation (with dog in it). Forbidden. We tried to soothe our stressed out dog and were admonished for opening the bad and trying to pet the dog. We get it. We totally do, rules are rules. However, what kind of nightmare situation is this? We didn’t pay for this. We paid for proper care of our dog during her travel: aka just making sure that she has a safe space during her travels. Toddlers and small dogs do not mix, especially in planes.

Would We Fly With Air Canada Again?

Air Canada did offer a discount code for a future flight as a gesture. The staff recognized that the situation was absolutely abnormal. We still have the discount code and are afraid of suffering another flight like this. To this date, the Air Canada option always pops up in our radar when we book our flights to Europe. Since we fly out a few times a year with the dog, that’s a lot of opportunities to always discuss if we’d reconsider. Five European flights later, we’re still coming to the conclusion that we would rather not repeat the experience anytime soon unless there are tangible elements that would make us reconsider.

Air Canada Pet Cabin Policies When You Fly With Your Dog

Air Canada accepts dogs and cats in cabins. These are the rules you have to follow to be able to fly with your pet in the cabin:

  • The dog must remain in the bag at all times.
  • The bag should be stowed in the seat in front of you.
  • You must have a plane ticket for your dog.
  • A dog bag is deducted from the carry-on luggage allowance. We thought that was weird as other airlines do not tend to do that (shout out to Swiss for their awesome service). l
  • The human passenger must be an adult (18+).
  • You cannot bring more than one dog aboard the cabin.
  • You cannot be in an emergency exit row.
  • You cannot fly in Economy Plus.
  • Your dog must be at least 12 weeks old.

Air Canada Emotional Support Animals

When it comes to Air Canada and emotional support animals, you must contact the airline 48 hours before the flight. You should have the proper ESA documentation.

These include contacting the airline 48 hours prior to your flight date and having the proper documentation from a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other licensed mental health professional. Air Canada only allows service dogs as emotional support animals.

What Are the Pet Carrier Dimensions for Air Canada ?

Air Canada is very specific when it comes to approved pet carriers. Pet carry on dimensions can be a nightmare. If you do not respect the policy, you dog may be refused from boarding the plane. The dimensions allowed for this one are quite standard: 23 x 40 x 55 cm (height, width and length) for a bag with rigid walls and 27 x 40 x 55 cm (height, width and length) for a bag with flexible walls. We always fly with a soft bag.

Note that the company’s Boeing 777-300ER and 777-200LR offer very limited space, so the size of the approved pet carrier is even smaller: 21 x 38 x 43 cm (height, width and length) regardless of the type of bag. So be very careful when booking your flight, because it’s a big difference. We were lucky enough to fly only on Boeing 767-300s that do not involve these restrictions.

Also note that if you fly in Business Class, here are the permitted dimensions: 28 x 21 x 41 cm (height, width and length). Again, this seriously limits the space available for your dog. Air Canada specifies that a bag with rigid walls is preferred here.

Finally, Air Canada, like most airlines, requires that:

  • The bag be large enough for your dog to get up and turn around – which can be complex in the most limiting cases listed above. Within it, your dog must also be able to lie down and must be able to enter completely
  • It must also be waterproof, solid and well ventilated
  • It can be rigid or flexible, the latter case is preferred – except in Business class.

Keep in mind that the company requires that your dog stay in his bag (closed) under the seat in front of you at all times, and counts it as carry-on luggage – something we didn’t like because it made it hard to travel without a carry on bag for one of us. It is interesting to see that the Air Canada website no longer mentions a weight limit, which is quite surprising, because when we flew with them, there was the famous limit of 8 kg bag included.

How Much Does it Cost to Get a Cabin Plan Ticket for a Dog on Air Canada?

The cost is $50 to $59 (CAD or USD if you are coming from the United States) for a flight to Canada or the United States. For international flights, the price varies between 100 and 118 dollars (CAD or USD here again).

Air Canada has recently changed its fare schedule and the fluctuations mentioned here are not clear – the company seems to apply taxes on some flights, depending on your departure.

Air Canada Cargo for Dogs

If you must ship a dog via cargo, you need to contact them directly. The online information is so sparse and confusing that we are going to recommend you call them (they say the same thing so it’s a safe bet!). Shipping an animal requires a lot of preparation. Warning: there are some destinations (Hawaii is the most notable one) that do not allow dogs to fly in cabin, we found the list of destinations here.

How Much Does it Cost to Fly a Dog on Air Canada Cargo?

Here too, the fares offered by Air Canada are quite attractive:

  • between 105 and 120.75 dollars (CAD or USD) for flights within Canada or between Canada and the United States
  • between 270 and 318.60 dollars (CAD or USD) for international flights

These price ranges are difficult to explain and Air Canada does not really provide any details about them. They seem to be based on local taxes (or maybe a lunar calendar, we’re really confused on how the prices are set).

Avec quelle cage votre chien peut voler à bord d’un avion d’Air Canada ?

The Air Canada IATA cage specifications are very strict. When it comes to which cage to use to allow your dog to fly in the hold on one of their planes:

  • It cannot exceed 292 cm (length + width + height)
  • It must not exceed 45 kg with the dog in it
  • It cannot accommodate more than 2 dogs
  • It cannot have wheels when loaded its walls must be rigid
  • It cannot be folding or wire mesh
  • The cage must protect the animal and must be well closed, solid (especially for “strong” dogs), ventilated and waterproof
  • It must allow the animal to get up, turn around and lie down without any problem.

Dogs must not be leashed in the cage. Careful: cages that do not meet these requirements will be refused by Air Canada staff.


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